Skip to main content

News and Knowledge

As a new college student, it’s normal to feel both excited and nervous for life on campus. After all, you’re surrounded by new people, and you likely don’t know most of them. This is a great opportunity to start fresh, try new things, and make friends. Making connections can make your new college campus feel more like home, but where do you begin?

Join a Club

There are so many clubs, groups, and activities happening on campus, you’re likely to find one that interests you! You can attend the student activities fairs that most colleges hold at the beginning of the year and look at flyers posted around campus to learn about new activities. It’s also important to check your college email daily, as there will be invitations to social opportunities and other college-related events.

College events can be a lot of fun. Many serve free food and sometimes there’s even free SWAG (Stuff We All Get), including t-shirts, drink cups, lanyards to wear around your neck, pens, etc. That said, these new situations can also be overwhelming, but there are two standard rules that will benefit you in any setting: be prepared and be yourself.

Be Prepared

It’s normal to feel apprehensive about trying new things. Most people are nervous when they go to places where they have never been and experience new activities. It is helpful to have a plan in place before you leave your dorm room by gathering all of the information about the event or meeting. Follow this checklist to make sure you’re prepared before leaving.

  • Where is the meeting?
  • What time should I arrive?
  • Should I eat beforehand?
  • Should I bring anything?
  • What do I want to get out of this meeting?
    • Sample questions to ask:
      • How often does the group meet?
      • What are the responsibilities of joining the club?
      • Are there expenses involved in participating?
Be Yourself

It’s important to be yourself when trying new things and meeting new people. Be sure to talk about things that you like and ask others about what they like. If you don’t have the same interests as someone else, you don’t have to pretend that you both like the same things. Chances are that the next person you talk to may have more similar interests to you.

This also means being honest with yourself, so if there are activities happening at the meeting that make you uncomfortable, it’s absolutely okay to say “No,” or to leave. Having a trusted friend with you is helpful in this type of situation. If you are comfortable with your roommate, you can ask your roommate to attend with you. You could also go with your roommate to a club or meeting they are interested in. It’s easier to attend a new event with a friend, but it’s not a requirement.

Interact with Club Members

At the meeting, there may be members of different ages and with different majors within the college. You can watch their behavior to get an idea of how people typically interact at meetings. It may be a very relaxed setting or more professional. There will probably be a lot of laughter and even some “inside jokes” from past meetings or events. Inside jokes are people reminiscing about funny or interesting things that happened at previous events. When you become a member of the group, you will learn about these things and you can ask questions to learn more, too.

Make sure you listen to what others have to say and do your best not to monopolize the conversation, even if you know a lot about the topic. If others are trying to add to the discussion, pause and hear what they have to say. You can always add a comment after others share their thoughts and opinions, too.

Social scripts and protocols vary depending on what club meeting or activity you’re attending on campus. When you attend a club or meeting, there will be upperclassmen, students who are new to the group, the students who are running the club, and returning members. It’s likely that any club you attend will have an executive board, including a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and possibly other more specialized leadership roles. At the beginning of the school year or semester, there are often openings for leadership positions. You may have the opportunity to vote for members, or even run for a position yourself. It’s important to gain experience in the club as a member before taking on a larger role in the group.

Stay Committed

Some clubs have required meetings, and some are more relaxed. If you commit to a future meeting or activity, it’s important to keep track of the commitment in a calendar on your phone or written down so you can attend the upcoming events.

The great thing about exploring the clubs on campus is that you are not obligated to join or maintain any of them. The first few weeks of school are a time of exploration, and if a club interests you, then you should continue to attend the meetings. If not, you don’t have to go back. At some point you may need to make a commitment. For example, if you are joining the video gaming club, you can probably drop in and play video games without a serious commitment. However, if you are joining the fencing club, you might need to make a significant commitment to attend the practices and fulfill the requirements — financially and timewise — before you sign up and commit to the group or activity.

So, go ahead and join a club! Try new things, meet new people, and make new friends. Most important: Don’t forget the importance of balancing academics with social experiences. Your courses and professors will teach you a lot, but if you allow yourself to try new things, some of the most valuable life lessons will be learned outside of the classroom.


This post was adapted from Finding Your Way: A College Guide for Students on the Spectrum. Click here to order or download the guide.