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Getting Involved: The Key to College Happiness

By a Student, Sean Morris
As a tour guide, the absolute, most frequently asked question I got was, 'What's the one piece of advice you would give my son/daughter if he/she were to attend Binghamton?' My response would unfailingly be, get involved.

For the better part of a four and a half year stint at Binghamton University, I had about as much fondness in my heart for it as I do for my couch (though I must say, my relationship with my couch has never been better). The reason: I wasn't involved in anything extracurricular on campus. This was through no fault of the University, I just didn't take the time to fully absorb and immerse myself in the plethora of opportunities that a modern college has to offer.

A lot of what transpires at college can be construed as trivial and even downright lame; but, the mantra 'nothing lost, nothing gained' is apropos when considering whether or not to get involved. If you're like me - a touch on the introverted side - it can be difficult to summon up the motivation and courage to put yourself out there, but I assure you, the sense of fulfillment you'll feel when you're an active, contributing undergrad will more than compensate for the initial anxiety. At the end of the day, it feels good to belong.

What college offers is the supremely unique opportunity for you to participate in just about anything you have an interest in. There are a litany of groups, clubs, teams, fraternities and sororities, dorm and campus-wide events, study abroad opportunities and anything else your imagination can conjure up. You name it, and it's probably happening somewhere on campus. The trouble is, you won't have access to such a centralized wealth of possibilities again in your life, so don't squander the opportunity.

The beauty of the situation at college is that there is such an intense variety of things to do that you can reinforce existing passions, while simultaneously broadening your proverbial horizons. If you want to play a sport you like, or maybe just stay active, join a club or intramural team. If you're interested in meeting others that share your ethnicity, there are typically at least a few culturally-focused organizations floating around. If you want to party under the pretense of enriching campus-life, join a fraternity or sorority.

If the endless array of on-campus activity is not enticing enough, consider this: students who immerse themselves in the campus community are happier overall. I'm not citing a research-based statistic and I don't have any raw data to back it up, but through observations of students during my time as a Resident Assistant I can say it really is quite a conclusive assertion. In talking to students who were both flailing and flourishing, it was plainly obvious that students who were passionate about just one campus activity loved being at school, and those whose time at college was marked solely by going to class were the most unhappy. In fact, several of the more aloof and despondent students withdrew, while none of the proactive ones even contemplated that route. To me, this trend makes perfect sense. Students who are involved meet more people and in turn feel connected to their school; those that elect to live a more isolated lifestyle further exacerbate the disconnect between school and student.

As I alluded to earlier, the first half of my college career was spent as one of the more reserved, reclusive students. But after two and a half years of going to class sparingly and playing video games nonstop, I'd had enough of the cavernous confines of my room and resolved to make a drastic change to my lifestyle. It was the best decision I've ever made. I met my lovely girlfriend, made a lot of great friends, and got in the best shape of my life, all by stepping out of the shadows and exploring everything college has to offer.

So what's the one piece of advice I would offer a prospective student? Colleges are big places. It's easy to feel like a number in a system and resign yourself to the fact that you're just another body in a sea of them, but that won't do you any good. As easy as it is to slip into this mentality, it's just as easy to thrust yourself into the campus community and really discover what it means to be a college student. I know it's a cringe-worthy cliche, but you might just discover more about yourself in the process, and that's really what it's all about.

Former RA, tour guide, and tutor

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