The Ultimate Guide to Campus Clubs and Organizations
Updated August 30, 2022
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Different Types of Clubs in College to Join
Getting involved in an extracurricular club could be one of the highlights of your time on campus. Whether you’re a head-of-the-class, perfect-GPA, volunteers-at-the-nursing-home-on-weekends kind of student, or a stay-out-late-on-Thursday, avoid-taking-classes-on-Friday-morning, in-it-for-the-personal-growth type of student, there’s an activity out there for you. And in many cases, that club could plug you into a national network of like-minded groups, individuals, and possibly even future employers.
On the subject of getting a job, employers today take a holistic view of potential employees. You’ll need to bring more to the table than just academic excellence. Employers hire students who truly made the most of their college career. And just to be clear, being crowned your dorm’s beer pong champ doesn’t count, even if it does impress your friends.
What does count is getting involved! Whatever your interests, most campuses have a matching club or group. Generally speaking, groups and clubs fit into one of several categories:
- Academic Clubs
- Political Clubs
- Media & Publication Groups
- Community Service & Social Justice
- Theater & The Arts
- Cultural Clubs
- Religious & Spiritual Groups
- Sports & Recreation
Academic clubs are among the most popular on campus. They are usually based on an area of study. For example, if you’re studying marketing, you may find an active marketing club within the business school on your campus. These clubs can be a great benefit to a degree-seeker, because they allow you to connect with other students in the same major and often even to network with professionals from industries in which you plan to seek employment after graduation.
Especially on larger campuses, a club or student society exists to correspond with every imaginable major or degree program. Find yours and gain critical support in pursuit of your degree.
A preprofessional club is similar to an academic club. Premed and prelaw clubs are especially popular among students studying in those areas. Many national organizations maintain branches on college campuses and can grant access to otherwise out-of-reach internship and volunteer opportunities. These clubs can also assist you in completing your medical or law school applications, and they provide networking, mentoring, and career advising.
Check out The American Medical Student Association and the Delta Delta Sigma Pre-Dental Club to learn more.
Joining a national honor society is another great move for your résumé. Membership in an honor society shows employers that you’re a high-achiever. Normally, your school’s honor society will extend an invitation to you based on your academic performance. You must meet GPA requirements, complete an application, and sit through an interview. Your qualities of leadership and character determine your selection. Belonging to your school’s honor society can provide networking and community service opportunities, and potentially even scholarships. You will also be in a group with other like-minded high-achievers.
However, not every honor society is legitimate, so watch out. If you’ve been invited to join an honor society, verify it first with The Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS). That association certifies top-notch honor societies. If the society isn’t on the ACHS website, use caution.
Check out a few of the more reputable nationwide organizations and find out if your school has a chapter:
- National Society of Leadership & Success
- National Society of Collegiate Scholars
- Alpha Kappa Delta
- The Phi Beta Kappa Society
- Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society
A political club can give you the platform to confront issues that are important to you, to support a candidate who shares your political views, or to connect with like-minded students and professors. These clubs can be especially important if you’re majoring in political science or you have aspirations for public office.
Political clubs can provide you with pathways to civic action, networks for organizing initiatives, and opportunities to connect with party leaders at the local, state, and national level. Political clubs may invite politicians or civic leaders to speak, opening the door for aspiring students to develop relationships with influencers. These relationships can also be a means to internships, campaign work, and eventual working opportunities in your party.
The College Republican National Committee is the official college-level arm of the Republican party. On campus, the CRNC works to win elections for Republican candidates and to develop future leaders for the conservative movement.
The College Democrats of America is the official youth outreach arm of the Democratic National Committee. It boasts over 100,000 student members in chapters across the nation.
The National Model United Nations guides members in understanding the United Nations and international issues, while teaching participants how to be better global citizens. The NMUN hosts annual conferences, where past keynote speakers have included past UN Secretaries-General Ban Ki-Moon, Kofi Annan, and Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Model United Nations clubs exist on campuses across the nation.
Debate clubs are another direct medium for exploring, defending, and refining your political ideas. Students who love debating are typically outspoken, informed about current events, and passionate about whatever they’re debating. Participation in a debate club affords you the opportunity to lead classmates in thought-provoking discussions, to become a more effective speaker both in the classroom and in professional settings, and can even help prepare you for a bid at public office. Indeed, of the many things which have changed dramatically in modern political discourse, debate remains a staple of the electoral process.
For tips on debating, see our articles Online College Debate Tips and 15 Logical Fallacies You Should Know Before Getting into a Debate.
You might also want to check out these political clubs and debate groups:
Media & Publication Groups
The reasons for joining a media or publication club are as varied as the possibilities these types of clubs offer. A media or publication club focuses on publishing a campus newspaper, creating a website, writing ads, or producing a campus radio, television, or movie broadcast. The skill sets required to successfully create media today are incredibly varied. You may have a passion for the written word. You may love graphic design, digital media, or photography. Whatever the case, you are likely to find your niche within a media or publication club on your campus.
If you have aspirations to be a reporter, videographer, designer, or even social media expert, a newspaper or magazine might be a great fit for you. Nearly every campus has one, with some run completely by students. Many student-run newspapers are real influencers, both on campus and in the community, enjoying circulations of well over 10,000 readers. Some have even been in print for more than 100 years.
Some of the best student-produced publications integrate fashion, art, politics, and issues impacting campus life, aiming to spark conversation while offering a proving ground for aspiring journalists.
Whether you join a media or publication club purely for the joy of it or because it matches your career ambitions, employers are pleased to see this activity on your résumé. It suggests you are driven, capable of coordinating with a team, and willing to dedicate your time and energy to a serious day-to-day commitment.
Check out a few of the leading national associations and find out if your campus has a chapter:
Community Service & Social Justice
If you are eager to make a difference on your campus, in your local neighborhood or city, or even around the world, a club focused on serving others might be the perfect match for you. There are community service clubs dedicated to children, seniors, underserved populations, animals, the environment, nature, and on and on. If you have a desire to help, the opportunity to serve likely exists on your campus. Several nationwide service groups maintain campus chapters.
Campus Relay for Life is a particularly popular club that exists to benefit cancer research, cancer patients, and families touched by cancer. You can find a Campus Relay for Life branch on over 500 high school and college campuses in 47 states.
College Mentors for Kids connects college students with elementary-age kids in need. Children are paired in one-on-one relationships with a mentor and transported to campus to participate in activities. The brilliance of this plan is that kids who would not otherwise be able to experience learning on a college campus begin to see that higher education is also possible for them.
There are nearly 500 campus chapters of Habitat for Humanity across the country, so chances are good that your campus hosts one. Campus chapters work on new home construction, neighborhood revitalization, fundraising, and advocating for fair and decent housing.
Alpha Phi Omega is the largest co-ed, collegiate, service fraternity in the United States. The fraternity provides service to the local community, campus, and the nation.
Check out a few of these notable community service and social justice groups, and see if your campus has a chapter:
- UNICEF Campus Initiative
- Green Campus Program
- Feminist Campus
- NAACP Youth & College
- The National Youth and Student Peace Coalition (NYSPC)
- Gay-Straight Alliances
There are also quite a few reputable organizations aimed at supporting students with disabilities. Whether you could benefit from this support or would like to contribute your time to such efforts, check out any of the following groups and find out if your campus has a chapter:
- Autistic Self-Advocacy Network
- Disability Rights, Education, Activism, and Mentoring (DREAM)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) Intercollegiate Leagues
- Proud2BeMe on Campus (eating disorder advocacy)
- Student Veterans of America (includes Wounded Warrior advocacy)
Theater & The Arts
Would you consider yourself a thespian? Or at least an aspiring one? Do you love Shakespeare or Arthur Miller? If the thought of appearing on Broadway makes you tingle, a club for the arts might just be the ticket for you. Does your artistic bent extend beyond the stage? Perhaps you love painting, sculpture, photography, music, or some other expressive art. There’s likely a club for that.
Theater troupes exist on many campuses and can be a fun outlet for someone with a love for theater. Most campuses will offer an array of opportunities, from experimental performance art to Broadway musical style and Shakespearean fare. If theater is a big priority for you in college, learn which kinds of performance opportunities exist before committing.
Musical groups are easy to find on many campuses as well. Maybe you adore the piccolo but aren’t looking to pursue a musical career. There may just be a woodwind group at your school that would allow you to tweet along with them. If you are pursuing a career in the arts, joining a group focused on your degree can help to expand your professional contacts as well as increase your skills in an area about which you are most passionate.
(Bard College has an amazing space for musical and theater performances. The Fisher Center for Performing Arts was featured in our article The 25 Most Amazing College Campus Buildings. This ultra-cool building has a theater that contains a smaller stage often used by students for short performances. And to learn about all the notables who found their way through the art or theater program in their school, check out 29 of the Smartest Celebrities in the World and TIL: These 2018 Oscar Nominees got Schooled.)
You might also want to consider these national organizations:
High school is often a time of trying to blend in, but college is your chance to embrace and celebrate what makes you unique.
Opportunities abound to join groups that celebrate racial, ethnic, and cultural heritages of every kind. On many campuses, clubs cater to African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, American Indian/Indigenous students, and other social identity groups. If you are an international student longing to connect with other students who speak your language or understand your cultural experiences, there’s a good chance you can find such a club on your campus.
For example, the National Black Student Union sponsors networking activities, employment drives, study abroad programs, research assistance opportunities, and other advancement programs. This group is a fantastic resource for Black students on campus.
LGBTQ communities are becoming more common on college campuses as well, but some campuses are friendlier than others. If an inclusive campus is important to you, you may want investigate further before committing to a particular school or community. Several websites list colleges with strong LGBTQ communities. See Pride.com for one such listing.
This category also includes gender-based clubs. Several national clubs cater exclusively to women. The American Association of University Women, with chapters at more than 100 colleges and universities around the world, demands equal treatment for women, takes action on women’s issues, and builds feminist communities on campus.
Other notable national groups include:
- Hispanic Association of College & Universities
- Asian Pacific Student Association
- Native American Student Affairs
- Multicultural Student Union
Religious & Spiritual Groups
Diverse college campuses bring together students from many different cultures and faiths. They also typically provide numerous opportunities for you to explore different faiths — or deepen your own faith — through study and connection with others. Religious and spiritual clubs vary from campus to campus, but larger schools usually have options for students who are Christian, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or other faith group. Some groups may include a multicultural aspect. The Asian Christian Fellowship, for instance, allows students to connect with others of their faith and culture.
Many national organizations have branches on campuses around the country. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes has a campus ministry that’s led by student athletes and sponsored by coaches. This group equips members to make an impact on their campus and in their local community.
Hillel, the largest Jewish student organization in the world, is active on over 550 campuses worldwide. Students are encouraged to learn more about the Jewish faith and make connections with other students, fostering a sense of belonging.
The Muslim Students Association serves millions of Muslim students throughout the US and Canada. It provides leadership training to help its members make a positive impact on their local campus.
Other notable organizations include:
- College Interfaith Council
- International Justice Mission
- Latter Day Saints Student Association
- Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS)
- InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF)
- The Navigators
- Chi Alpha
Sports & Recreation Clubs
College sports are a big deal on many campuses. Of course, I love March Madness just as much as anyone else (since I live in the heart of Big Blue Country — Go UK!). But those aren’t the types of clubs I’m referring to. Students who participate in recreation or sports clubs are likely to be passionate about the sport they’re pursuing, but probably aren’t playing at the NCAA level.
Campuses offers clubs and intramural activities in an enormous range of sports. Club sports are usually not regulated by the rules of the NCAA, but you may have a chance to travel to other colleges in order to compete. Club sports can “bridge the gap” between NCAA and intramurals.
The level of competition at the intramural level is generally not quite as intense. This makes intramural sports an extremely popular option if you’re just looking to play for fun. You’ll usually meet and play on your campus only, and activities will generally be unofficial.
Notable national sports clubs include the following:
- National Association of Intercollegiate Gymnastics Clubs (NAIGC)
- National Collegiate Club Golf Association
- NCVF Volleyball
- National Club Baseball Association
- National College Lacrosse League
- College Club Swimming
- NCFA College Club Football
- National Intercollegiate Running Club Association
- Tespa Esports
Traditional sports such as soccer, baseball, and volleyball are great, but what if you’re looking for a less conventional field of play? Ultimate Frisbee clubs exist on many campuses. If you want something even more exotic, Quidditch — as in the game that made Harry Potter a Hogwarts hero — is an actual sport played on college campuses, looking like a mix between rugby, dodgeball, and tag. With more than 200 teams nationwide, there may be a Quidditch team on your campus.
If sports aren’t your thing, there may be another avenue to get your recreational juices flowing. College campuses are replete with opportunities to dance, engage in competitive gaming, or tap into your technical skills. If the latter sounds like you, look into a school with a cool computer science club or robotics lab.
Are you an apiarist in the making? Believe it or not, there may even be a club for beekeeping on your campus. Boston University, for one, hosts an active beekeepers club. Love Renaissance fairs? Many colleges have a chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA).
If you’re not really sure where to start, the following associations are probably a great entry point for you. These organizations spotlight an enormous spectrum of campus activities. Learn more and get involved today!
This is really just the tip of the iceberg. College gives you the chance to branch out, gain new experiences, meet new people, learn new things, stretch yourself, move out of your comfort zone, and prepare for “adulthood” and a career. Don’t sit on the sidelines, get out there and play some Quidditch!
And if there’s a club on your campus that you’d like to shamelessly plug in our comments section, go ahead. We’re here to help you get the word out!
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