Can the number of societies available at university restrict student involvement?

Every Welcome Week is filled with non-stop fairs, workshops, and socials. There is also the opportunity, however, for students to join their choice of Edinburgh’s numerous societies. With over 280 societies and over 60 sports clubs, there is something for everyone. This is the first opportunity for new students to really ‘get involved’ at a university. Students can both continue their old interests or alternatively find new ones, meeting new people who enjoy the same activities and hobbies in both. However, this enormous scope for choice can limit real involvement. There is a limit to how much one person can do, and many new students tend to sign up to many clubs and societies during Freshers’ Week which makes the decision of which to continue harder. Variety is certainly a good thing, but the extent of the variety arguably makes the first year more stressful for many.

Having too much choice can also have an impact on what students will choose. Studies have shown that having an overabundance of options to choose between can increase anxiety, and impact the final decisions made. The stress of having to choose between the huge number of options available is a big worry for new students which can lead to impulsive decisions early in the term and can further lead to the feeling of having made the wrong choice which would be detrimental to the student’s first impression of a university. Time restraints can lead to students having to leave a society as the term gets busier, which perpetuates feelings of lacking and failure. Anxieties surrounding money can cause further worry, as it feels like a waste to leave society having already paid to become a member. While some do enjoy their new societies and find a healthy balance between university and societies, many do end up overworked and much more stressed.

This is not to say that variety in the sports and societies available is a bad thing. The huge number of clubs available means that there is something for everyone to enjoy, and it is very impressive that Edinburgh had built up such a variety of societies. This allows students to build new interests and to easily meet new people while feeling involved in the university community. In order to make the most of this variety, there is the need to ensure that students can find their way through the huge lists of activities to find the areas they would enjoy most. Students can work towards this themselves by signing up for mailing lists and going to early socials and starter sessions to discover which societies they would really like to join. The Activities Fair is always a confusing start for joining societies, and to reduce this confusion students can find a list of all societies and sports available on the Edinburgh University Students’ Association and Edinburgh University Sports Union website.

Most importantly, there needs to be an acceptance that the first term is the time for getting used to being at university, as it is a very different world. Everyone makes mistakes and joining the wrong societies, in the beginning, will not ruin the whole university experience. There is the chance to begin a new activity in the second term, and again throughout the four-plus years of study. Students need to put their health first and not overstretch. New students may not find their ideal societies instantly, and there needs to be an acceptance of the fact that this is not a problem. The first term is just the start, there is still plenty of time.

 

Image: Richard001 via Wikimedia Commons 

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