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Getting involved in university: in the beginning
Super Contributor
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So, you’ve just come out of high school. All the thrills and emotions that accompany the euphoria of being accepted into university are starting to die down as you settle in your first few weeks as a student.

Welcome! Now, remember all that stuff you were told in high school about mainly focusing on getting high marks in class and you’ll be fine? That doesn’t work around here. In simple terms, if you are to make the most out of your university experience, you must get involved.

If you’re not a first year, you already know that university is quite different from school. Here, it’s more about who you become in character than what you put in your head. From the moment you leave high school you must be proactive in building your character by learning and going through experiences that will shape you and indirectly increase your employment chances, and in the university space, no place offers this better than student organizations.

But with the myriad of organizations on campus trying to get you to sign up, which student organizations should you join? And how many is enough? There are at least two points that you need to look through when making your choices.

Firstly, remember, you’re trying to get yourself developed in important areas of your life, and so what matters really is more the type of organizations you join than the number. You now have to look at what you value about life and where you want to go (in terms of both personal life and career), and choose the groups that will help develop you in those areas.

Universities usually have groups ranging from sports groups, religious groups, social responsibility groups, department specific student-led project teams, political groups, awareness groups, volunteers, the list goes on. Find out which are available to you, then join accordingly.

Secondly, look at groups that offer a near-fine balancing act between giving you enough responsibility to challenge you whilst also allowing you to do the main thing you came to varsity to do – get a degree. Student organizations have the tendency to either over-use you by giving you too much responsibility, or under use you if they have many members.

On the one hand, if you’re perhaps an aspiring financier and you join a finance project team, you don’t want to end up as the student who occasionally carried boxes for three years while others did the thinking. You want to participate. On the other, you don’t want to be the student who spent so much time at the AIDS hospice helping out that they got kicked out of varsity because of bad results. So, ask about the group’s balancing act.

As you start looking, remember to aim to be useful to the groups you join. As Sivanni Pillay of Standard Bank Group IT says: “Always look to add value, otherwise it’s a waste of time, money and your life.”

Happy hunting!
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