Student orgs have a role

By Braeden Gilchrist

IC Columnist majoring in mechanical engineering at UT

Published: Monday, August 22, 2011

Updated: Monday, August 22, 2011

If there is one piece of advice I could give someone to succeed in college, it would be to get involved on campus.

Reasons to get involved range from altruistic to self- promoting. UT offers so many organizations to get involved with, including club sports, religious groups, volunteer organizations, professional societies, Greek life--something should interest you. Getting involved is all about finding what's right for you.

In high school, I was anything but involved. I worked a lot and never took the time to join anything. I entered college with a completely different attitude. I was ambitious; I wanted to make a name for myself and build up my resume. I quickly joined anything that sounded interesting and soon found myself overwhelmed.

My evenings were packed with meetings and I was struggling to stay motivated. A friend of mine once told me to avoid joining everything, and instead find one group to really focus on passionately. What you get out of a group is proportional to what you put into it.

This was a breakthrough. While narrowing down my involvement, I found what really differentiated student organizations was the people involved in them. Fraternities are a great example of this. They all strive for self-improvement and brotherhood, but some fraternities feel more ‘right' than others. I'm always impressed with the success of rush week and its ability to match compatible people with each other in a few short meetings.

People with varied pasts are bound together by a shared vision for the organization Be open to the people that you enjoy being with because you will end up spending a lot of time together. Shared experiences create a common story that bonds you with others. The results are powerful. I've met all of my best friends from being involved in something— people I probably would not have met otherwise. It's sad when older members move on and when they lose touch.

Every semester is different. Old members move on. New members must transition into leadership and mentoring positions. I feel relationships should stand as a metric to judge any organization. I have been enormously lucky to have the friends that I do.

We weave shared narratives that bring us closer. Some classes teach the theories of your field, while student organizations offer another avenue of development. Any organization worth joining will have its opportunities for improvement.

Employers look for employees that have differentiated themselves by overcoming obstacles. It's easy to walk into an interview and talk about leadership positions held and events organized; it's harder to boil down the total value of getting involved. How do you sum up years of experiences in a few words? How can you tell stories that are only funny if you were there?

College goes by fast, so make the most of it. Student organizations build your resume, but they accomplish so much more. Whatever organizations you join, they will define your collegiate life. Take my advice, get involved.

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