Why you should join student societies at university
Your university experience is not complete until you’ve tried a range of weird and wonderful societies! They present the perfect opportunity to pick up a new hobby, restart an old passion, and to meet like-minded people.
However, when universities offer hundreds of societies (e.g., University of Manchester offer 400) it can seem overwhelming, but not to worry, here are some tips to help you find the right societies for you!
Firstly, use the Student Union website to explore your options. There’s something out there for everyone, from Garlic-appreciation Soc to Football. So, to narrow down your options when considering which societies to join, it’s a good idea to consider what you would like to gain from the experience.
Societies come in many different categories – sports, culture, academic, volunteering, and recreation to name a few. I’d definitely suggest opting for something you already know you enjoy, but then why not also choose something brand new and out of your comfort zone?
In terms of sport, many universities offer official university teams and also a version of Intra-mural or campus league sports teams. These differ as the university teams are selective, offer external coaching, and play matches against other universities. But if you’re not one of those chosen, or you fancy a more relaxed sporting environment, you should definitely consider playing for your halls or subjects in an intramural/ campus league team. Both options are a great opportunity to keep fit and, most importantly, to get your hands on some team stash (merchandise)!!
It's always worth considering how much time you can commit to societies. If you have a hectic timetable and a high number of contact hours, then perhaps you are only able to commit to one society? Alternatively, if you’re apprehensive about how you’ll fill your quieter days, then consider a combination. Either way, capitalise on the less busy times of year (normally the first few weeks of each semester) to figure out your preferences before you get too bogged down in work. Whilst you don’t have to stick to just one society, you want to avoid spreading yourself too thin so that it doesn’t start affecting your uni work.
Another consideration is the price of societies memberships. In many cases societies are free, or may have a one-time joining fee for which, in return, you get a membership card which can come with perks (e.g., discounts, priority for events). On the other hand, some societies that require lots of specialised equipment e.g., surfing or rowing, have higher associated costs. Going on trips or participating in competitions can be pricey. Don’t let the costs put you off all together, just keep your student budget in mind.
Lastly, consider what type of activity you’re looking for. If you’re after a regular Wednesday night social with a mixed gendered group, I’d advise checking if your university offers a society such as Mixed Lacrosse or Volleyball. Whereas, if you’d love the chance to learn about different cultures and meet people to explore the area with, perhaps consider the International Society.
Once you’ve identified your preferences, depending on what time of the academic year it is there are different ways to go about joining. As it’s currently mid-way through Semester 1, I’d recommend locating the society’s email address or social media platforms (lots have Instagram pages which are full of useful information) and contacting them to ask for the details of their next meeting. Alternatively, if you already have this information, just pop along! On the other hand, if it’s the beginning of Semester 1, make the most of the Society Fair in Freshers’ week to meet committee members and suss out each society’s vibe. It’s never too late to join a society, head along to the welcome sessions whatever year of study you’re in. It’s the perfect opportunity to broaden your circle of friends.
When it comes to attending your first society event, don’t be put-off if you can’t convince your flatmate to go with you. Whilst it’s always nice to have a familiar face around, you may find yourself less willing to start conversations with new people. So, whether you go solo or with a friend, channel your confidence into branching out and meeting other members.
Whilst societies are there for extra-curricular fun, they also look great on your CV. They’re useful as evidence of your dedication and commitment to a club and if you do end up in a committee role this can help demonstrate leadership qualities.
Finally, if you feel strongly that there’s room for a new society then why not create your own? Nottingham Trent University has a ‘Taylor Swift Appreciation Society’ and I’m surprised a Harry Styles version doesn’t exist yet!