Whether you are a first-year looking to find your place in the McGill community or a fourth-year student hoping to become more involved on campus and pad your resume before graduation, Activities Night is a great place to start your search for the perfect extracurricular. With this year’s Activities Night expanded to three days, students have more opportunities to discover and join campus groups. The following is a run-down of tips from Elaine Patterson, Vice President (VP) Student Life at the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) about how to get the most out of Activities Night.
1. Approach club recruitment tables with a good attitude
Though it can be daunting to approach a club’s table, there’s no better way to make a good first impression than with a positive attitude and a friendly smile. The representatives at the table will appreciate your enthusiasm, which will move your conversation along more smoothly.
“From my own experience, I can say that a lot of the times when I am tabling, I don’t want to feel like I am trying to accost people to bring them to the table,” Patterson said. “I want to let them feel comfortable enough to approach my table by themselves to learn more.”
2. Don’t be afraid to ask “What club is this?”
You should never worry about seeming unprepared or naive when going up to a table. You are at Activities Night to learn; there’s no shame in not knowing what a group does before you approach their table, and club representatives are there to help you.
“There are so many groups with different names and acronyms, there is no way that everyone is going to remember all of it,” Patterson said. “I think club executives realize that themselves, so they are always happy to explain what they are and what they do!”
3. Ask representatives about their group’s level(s) of involvement
It is important to be prudent about the number of groups you can get involved with based on your other commitments, academic or otherwise. While it’s important to respect your schedule and limitations, there are ways to get involved in multiple clubs at a level that works for you. You should avoid walking away from an opportunity you are interested in before finding out exactly what the time commitment is like.
“Time commitment is something that prevents a lot of people from joining the groups they want [to],” Patterson explained. “But in reality, there are many groups that hold an event every once a week or once a month [….] So you can figure out how to get involved with only an hour or two of your time every week.”
4. Don’t worry about signing up for too many things
Contrary to popular belief, you are not signing away your soul by writing down your email on a club’s sign-up sheet. The primary way to stay updated about opportunities is to receive club emails, and the representatives will be happy that you showed interest. There will be time after Activities Night to reorganize your commitments and to unsubscribe from mailing lists.
“Speaking from personal experience, I think it is absolutely okay to sign-up for as many groups and listservs as you want,” Patterson said. “And then from there, once you figure out which groups you want to get involved in, you can unsubscribe from the ones you are no longer interested in. That’s how you can organize everything after your initial binge sign-up.”
5. Leave your major/minor at the door
Avoid the misconception that you should only join groups that are related to your field of study. In fact, it’s a good idea to get involved in new clubs to explore hobbies and passions beyond your studies in order to take a break from the mental drain of academic life.
“I think a lot of what getting involved is, especially at McGill, is about finding an outlet from your academics,” Patterson claims. “I know, for example, many of the students in the Symphonic Band Club are science students. I think that’s the best part about SSMU, it offers opportunities to people without being restricted by their majors.”
6. Take a notepad
While taking notes is the last thing any McGill student wants to do after a long day of lectures, Activities Night is worth pulling out your notebook and pen. You will want to keep a record of what you are learning in order to make sure that all the information you hear about each club does not go out the other ear. It’s also useful to mark down the names of any groups that you were interested in, but didn’t have time to sign-up for.
“Write down which listservs you joined, names of different groups that caught your attention, and anything in between,” Patterson said. “It will be easy for you to go back and look at that after Activities Night.”
Going to Activities Night is an integral part of the McGill experience, so remember to walk into it with an open mind, and you might be surprised by where it will take you.