The second week of classes at Elon University hasn’t ended yet, but most upperclassmen’s calendars have already started to fill. Soon, new students’ schedules will be equally crammed.
Students come to Elon to earn a degree, but they stay because of their commitment to student organizations, which quickly occupy the hours not spent in class. Participation in student organizations has become such a major part of Elon campus life that it has created an atmosphere of over-commitment in which students are pressured to join any and all organizations that match their interests, often to the detriment of their academic performance and general well-being.
The solution to this problem isn’t committing to nothing. Student organizations enrich the college experience and nurture passions that can develop into careers. Involvement in them teaches students professional and practical skills they can use for the rest of their lives. But the key is to commit to student organizations in depth, not in breadth.
Involving fully, or as fully as possible while balancing academic and personal commitments, increases student fulfillment and allows students to truly invest themselves in groups they are passionate about. When students have too many commitments, they struggle to balance all of them and are often unable to devote an appropriate amount of time to each. This is when students are forced to become members in name only, not for lack of passion but for lack of time.
This Friday, representatives of 240 of Elon’s student groups will arrange tables around Young Commons, all hoping to entice students, new and old, into joining.
The resulting chaos — the Organization Fair, more affectionately referred to as the Org Fair — is new students’ first opportunity to sign up to learn more about student groups. It is also new students’ first introduction to over-commitment at Elon.
Janis Baughman, director of student activities, said the atmosphere of over-engagement comes from the students Elon attracts, students who were highly involved in high school. The university’s job, she said, is to offer students the opportunities they want when it comes to student organizations.
Thanks to their efforts and the efforts of other students, at Elon students don’t have to look hard to find an organization that fits their needs. Instead, the opposite is true: Elon offers such a variety of organizations that students can pick and choose what they do and don’t want to take part in.
But in Elon’s atmosphere of over-commitment, many students struggle to be picky and, rather than choosing only the organizations that most interest them, join multiple. And the Org Fair allows them to do that right from the start.
Collectively, membership in student groups across campus totals 12,000, Baughman said. With approximately 5,800 undergraduate students on campus, this means the majority of students are involved in more than one organization, which points to students’ time management skills and eagerness to be involved.
Of course, there are no statistics to measure the extent to which students are involved in their organizations.
So at this year’s Org Fair, whether you’re a new student searching for an organization to devote yourself to or a returning student looking to get more involved, take stock of what you’re really interested in and what you can handle. Do some research before you go so you know which organizations to look for and which you want to prioritize.
If you deeply invest yourself in a select handful of organizations, your Elon experience and your choice organizations will all be the better for it.