Keep Your Involvement Momentum Rolling Through the Quarter

As academic responsibilities pile up, connecting with others can take a backseat, but take some time with some tips for finding your community.
USGA students at Franklin Institute
Katie Morcoones, Vivek Babu, Sanjana Suresh, Khizar Kashif and Sanjna Srinivasan at the Franklin Institute Welcome Week event in September 2023. Photo courtesy of Sanjna Srinivasan.

The quarter is rolling on, the papers are piling up, the amount of coffee consumed is increasing — but when was the last time you hung out with a new friend, or followed up with that club you saw during the Involvement Fair? Academics are important, but so is building your community.

“You have five beautiful years here, so it’s important to know whether you like something (or not); that way, you can start to build your community,” Drexel University Director for Student Engagement, Involvement and Leadership Ashley Archer said. “But how do I have community, or reach out to my community or form lasting connections? This can be a struggle sometimes.”

Archer, along with a members of the Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA) who works with Student Life, offered their best tips for remembering to find your place outside of the classroom.

“It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed and like you’re not doing enough, but you probably are,” Sanjna Srinivasan, biomedical engineering ‘27, USGA Student Life Vice Chair, said. “You’re taking a full load of classes, you’re probably still trying to make friends, trying out new clubs or you’re learning to put together a completely new schedule for yourself, and that’s not something you can get done in like a week, so I think patting yourself on the back and taking a minute to pause and acknowledge what you’ve accomplished is important to keep that motivation going and to keep exploring.”  

But as hard as it may be, breaking that struggle is key. The motivation to mingle might’ve been rolling at the start of the school year, so let’s try to recapture that.

Less is more

Archer said it’s important to remember that less is more, even in the fast-paced world of college at Drexel. She sees students come into college with a lot of research about organizations on campus, which can lead to them trying to get involved in everything right away. You don’t have to do everything, period, but especially not right away.

“Students are very researched, and they want all the info at their fingertips, but you have to discern what it is you want to do,” Archer said.

Srinivasan often works with students in their first couple of years at college and sees a lot of students comparing themselves to their peers, like they may have done in high school. Easier said than done, but being cognizant of comparison can help you be less frantic about your time in college.

“It’s very easy to get sucked into feeling like everyone’s doing everything and you’re not, and that kind of comparison kills the mood for some people,” Srinivasan said. “At the beginning of any academic session, if you’re coming back from co-op or in college for the first time, it’s a pretty similar vibe, so reminding yourself to take it slow and find the balance you need is very important.”

Quality over quantity

If you find yourself getting overwhelmed or cutting out times when you could be getting involved on campus, Archer advises branching out while being intentional about responsibilities you take on.

“Students can bite off more than they can chew with starting a bachelor’s program and being the president of whatever club and it’s a lot to take in, so it’s OK to take a break and ease into it,” Archer said. “At first, it should be about finding resources and what campus looks like, and what your passions are.”

Srinivasan advises dipping your toes in before committing to a responsibility, like attending a club’s general body meeting or browsing DragonLink to find events — you don’t have to be president right away.

Dancers at the yard show on the night on the row
A performance during the Night on the Row's Yard Show. Photo courtesy of Ashley Archer.

Find smaller engagement opportunities

Sometimes, committing to a bigger event or meetings for a club is daunting, so Archer and her team look at ways to keep students engaged through smaller events promoted on social media. Recently, a Wellness Week program brought in several students who’d seen it on Instagram or heard about it from friends.

Now, Archer is planning events that students can attend to learn useful skills about how to build resilience, navigate Drexel, run a meeting, resolve conflict and more — quick sessions that can get them out of their shells and learn useful skills for their career and life. Beyond those events, Srinivasan shouted out the DrexelNOW and “Mario’s Wednesday Word” newsletters that share events around campus.

“We want those things that students can just tap into now and again rather than these bigger commitments,” Archer said. “I think where students get overwhelmed is when they feel like they have to join an organization and become an officer or bite off more than they can chew. We’re flipping the script to teach them to acclimate to campus and get connected to resources.”

Figure out what community looks like for you

Finding your community might take a little time, but it’s important to figure out what types of people you get along with the best.

As students get adjusted to campus life, there’s some low-hanging fruit they could reach for to get engaged, Archer said. Programs in residence halls and simply hanging out with other students who live there are a good way to get out of your room. There are lounges for commuters and grad students, too, and Archer noted that it’s important to find a community that speaks to your identity, whether that’s a religious community, or a space for students of color like the Center for Black Culture or Drexel Indigenous Students of the Americas.

Above all, explore, whether it’s by reaching out to professors for mentorship or presidents of clubs or just checking DragonLink, Srinivasan said.

“Taking an active effort to reach out and see how that conversation goes is just the beginning,” Srinivasan said. “Try not to get lost in that all-or-nothing mindset. Being able to hold yourself together is important, and finding people to help you hold yourself together is important too.”