College can be a confusing time for a lot of incoming freshman. As a first-generation college student, I really had no idea what to expect, but the idea was to be successful. I found that being successful in college has a lot to do with getting involved with the people and environment around you. This idea of being involved is not limited to being involved in certain clubs or being in a certain social group, but I do highly encourage looking into getting involved with such groups. Although we are in college to focus on school and get the degree, it is also imperative that one creates the right network for after college; because, as we all know, it’s not what you know but who you know.

So, I’ve been fortunate enough during my tenure as a student to have been involved in a fair share of groups and events on my campus. Grades has always been my number one aim, but being involved has also been a huge part of my college experience. You might be thinking,”Oh here we go, another article about going Greek or joining some cultural club,” but being involved can start smaller than that. Even though I do recommend getting involved with Greek life or joining a cultural club, getting involved could be something as small as forming a study group with your classmates, going to your professor’s office hours, or attending open mic night in your student union. Opportunities to connect and network can blind side you, but they can be some of the best things to happen to you.

As a first-time-in-college student, I didn’t have anyone to tell me how to get involved or which clubs or people could be beneficial to me. So, me meeting others in my class and talking to them about school and extracurricular activities is where it all started for me. A conversation about an assignment could quickly change to someone telling you that they are involved with such-and-such association; this conversation could lead you to attending a meeting and meeting their advisor; their advisor could happen to be a very influential person on campus or in the community and further benefit your college career. Something like this could happen and could lead to job possibilities, or you figuring out the answer to looming question,”What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I do advocate for student involvement on campus, whether it be Greek life, Student Government, an honor society, or a cultural club; join something. But do not simply join something; go in with the intent of taking a leadership position within the organization and ultimately making an impact. This mindset will help you get the most out of every organization you become a part of. So don’t simply be a member of an organization, be on the executive board. You will meet more influential people this way, such as administrators, faculty, staff, and other people who can influence your college experience and ultimately shape your future. Some of my biggest opportunities have come from faculty or professors giving me recommendations or being a reference on a job application, but you don’t meet these people unless you engage in the community around you.

As a senior I look back on my college journey and I see many places I would’ve done better, but I also see the tremendous growth that I have achieved. A majority of my growth came from interacting with those around me. Anyone in college can simply go to class and leave, but you’re cheating yourself out of a meaningful college experience. Optimizing your college experience includes the process of engaging those around you and really making an impact and leaving a legacy. Engaging others, especially your professors and administrators can open doors for you, that you may not even thought a possibility. The idea of involvement is something each student should grasp in order to optimize their college experience.