Not all your college experience should be focused on academic work. Third-level students are often stereotyped as spending their free time drinking and partying, but colleges provide many extracurricular activities that don’t involve alcohol or loud music. College should primarily be a time for personal growth and exploring your passions. Student societies or clubs are a great opportunity to socialise while engaging in a special interest.
It can be overwhelming choosing a society to join. It’s important to remember a few things before doing so. Firstly, it’s common to be involved in multiple societies at once, especially if you live on campus. Secondly, some societies have time-of-year specific activities. A windsurfing club, for instance, is unlikely to run in the middle of January! To help give you an idea, we have divided clubs and societies into the following categories.
Clubs are focused on sport and athletic activities. They are a good way to continue sports from before college and to pick up new activities too. Want to keep playing rugby after doing it in school? Always wanted to play basketball but you were never near a court? If you weren’t particularly sporty in school, remember that clubs involve far more than just football on the green. Martial arts, windsurfing, fencing, frisbee and even scuba diving are common activities for societies. Sometimes club activities depend on the resources of the college campus. However, even if the campus isn’t as well equipped, clubs often organise trips to help bridge this gap.
Societies are broad but fall under four basic categories. Firstly, there are knowledge-based societies. These are centred on academic subjects like literary, history and philosophy societies and allow practical chances to apply your knowledge in field trips or guest lectures. Debate societies are common and tend to be popular with students interested in public speaking and politics.
Secondly there are performance societies. Jazz, dance, and theatre societies are good if you played a musical instrument or acted in school plays. They can also be a good opportunity to try these activities for the first time. For instance, although theatre societies are popular with drama students it’s very common to have members across the humanities and sciences trying their hand at acting for the first time in college.
Third are purely recreational societies and cover most societies. Film, gaming, and science fiction societies provide a chance to relax and indulge in a hobby. These societies also offer the chance to learn a new skill such as knitting, juggling, or painting.
Finally, societies engaged in political causes are common in college. Action groups such as Amnesty International and St Vincent De Paul’s have student branches which are great for people interested in advocacy. Similarly, political parties such as Labour, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin normally have student equivalents on campus.
Like the Student Union, activity in societies can be a good way to gain experience for life after college, especially if you serve on one of the committees that manages these societies. This kind of involvement will give you experience in budgeting, event-planning and PR. For example, many people who are interested in law and politics generally gain experience by getting involved in debating society committees.