One of the best parts about college is the variety of people and activities that you will encounter. Students from all over the world attend U.S. colleges and groups of all imaginable kinds exist on every campus. Want to join a knitting club? Chances are you can (or you can start one). Want to meet someone from Qatar, Sri Lanka or Tahiti? You probably don’t have to look much further than your dorm. It’s a wonderful, enriching time - one that can increase your appreciation of the world and allow you to embrace and enhance your own diversity.
There are many ways in which you can connect with your heritage, ethnic roots and beliefs in college. Extracurriculars, student groups, political parties, academic pursuits — all of them can be tailored to help you learn about your background, even after you leave home.
Cultural heritage and ethnic groups are among the most vibrant on any college campus, and typically among the most visible. Just a quick glance at any college student group roster will let you see an African American student group, a Latin American group, a Southeast Asian group, a Korean group…Australian, Pacific Rim, Eastern European – the list goes on and on. Even better, these groups are not just open to those with that specific background or heritage, but also avidly welcome students interested in learning more about each culture! These groups often host parties, lectures, book readings, guest speakers, seminars, talent shows and conferences. They are a fantastic way for you to get to know your own cultural or ethnic background as well as the backgrounds of others.
Political parties on campus are also a great way to meet others with similar convictions and participate in lively debates with those who disagree with your stances. Politics in college are very often not limited to merely the Democratic and Republican parties — you’ll also be able to engage in discussion with libertarians, progressives, conservatives and many other groups that can challenge the way you think and cause you to define your beliefs in a sharper way.
Activity groups of every stripe are available to you during those four undergraduate years, too. Everything from juggling to chess and origami to yoga will have a group, and if one doesn’t exist, you can often create it! You can also find traditional student groups and organizations such as student newspapers, magazines, bands, dance ensembles, a cappella groups and comedy troupes (among many, many others). Student groups are a great way to not only embrace your hobbies or interests, but also for you to get to know others with the same penchants and discover other ways you can use your talents.
Academic groups will also form an integral part of many students’ college experiences. Math, science, literature and other academic and honor societies will introduce you to other students who share your major, minor or just general academic interests, and will allow you to delve deeply into subjects you find fascinating. They’re a great way to complement your classroom education (and they never have homework — BONUS!).
Learning to embrace your own beliefs and diversity through student groups and organizations will not only enhance your collegiate experience, it will also let you learn more about yourself, your experiences, your abilities and your interests. Remember, diversity is not just about your race or ethnicity; it’s about your specific interests, too! Get involved in student groups during college and you’ll ace the most important class of all — the one that’s all about YOU!
Anne Chaconas is the director of admissions counseling for PowerScore Test Preparation (www.powerscore.com). Every year, she answers countless questions about college admissions and helps many students get into their top choice schools.