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Clubs and Extracurriculars in College: An Overview

One of the most exciting parts of college is joining clubs and organizations — not only do they look good on your resume and help with academic endeavors, they are also spaces where you can meet new people, broaden your interests, and learn in a non-classroom setting.

At Penn, there are roughly 650 clubs for students to choose from. While some are closely tied to academic fields such as business, medicine, law, or technology, there are still many more related to sports, culture, performing arts — almost anything you can think of.

With so many options for extracurriculars, especially compared to high school, it can feel a little overwhelming. How could you possibly choose when you want to join them all? I spoke with ACLP Chief of Staff Simi Ayinde and, as always, she has some amazing advice.

“Take a look, visit different organizations, but just focus on the ones you’re actually interested in,” Simi suggests. “Pick three clubs maximum is what I would say. You don’t have to stick to those, but I think three is a good number.”

But, as with most things, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Simi personally decided to not join any clubs during her first year at Penn since she already had so much on her plate, and she encourages anyone who feels overwhelmed to take “baby steps” in their transition into college.

“I decided not to join any clubs my freshman year simply because I am an overachiever. I like to try so many things and then end up being overwhelmed, and I really didn't want that for my freshman year, especially because I was new to the United States,” Simi says, adding that this allowed her to focus more time on her classes.

Balancing different priorities such as classes, clubs, friends, and self care is a skill that college students learn early on. But even when it seems like there are events happening all around you, it is important to figure out your own priorities and to not lose sight of them. For Simi, her top priority was classes, and no matter how many extracurriculars her friends may have joined, she knew what was best for herself.

Now, as a senior in Wharton studying organizational management and marketing, Simi is involved with her fair share of clubs: Nigerians at Penn, New Spirit of Penn Gospel Choir, Black Wharton, and Black Ivy League Business Conference, just to name a few.

“You can do extracurricular activities just because you like them. If you want, they can align with what you’re studying, but they one-hundred-percent don't have to,” Simi says.

For example, even though she is studying marketing, Simi is not a part of the main marketing club at Penn. Instead, she has found ways to utilize her skills within other organizations, such as serving as Marketing Chair for Nigerians at Penn.

College can be tough to handle, both with and without extracurricular activities, but something that helps Simi stay organized is using Google Calendar. Having a visual reminder of various commitments helps her balance her time, but she reminds students to always make time to relax.

“Leave some space [between blocks] for yourself to just be: whether that's scrolling through social media, catching up with friends, or catching up with family, just take some time for yourself so you're not overwhelmed.”

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