BROWN: Less is more

First years should invest in fewer activities rather than over-committing to numerous organizations

It’s the time of year on Grounds when even more people than usual are harassing you on the sidewalk as you walk to class. They hand you pieces of paper, pressure you into giving them your email, or at the very least make you awkwardly reject them by refusing to make eye contact as they try to get your attention. This also makes it the time of year people join more organizations than they can possibly keep track of, leading to their becoming overwhelmed, quitting most of their commitments, and then getting emails for the next four years from an organization with a complicated acronym which they don’t understand. I know because I have done this to some degree every year at the University, and it is the wrong way to handle extra-curriculars. As difficult as it may be for the many intrepid new students of the University eager to embroil themselves in the community, new students should make a conscious effort to only join a select few organizations.

The label “joiner” is one embraced by many students and despised by others, but what makes a successful “joiner” is not the ability to show up to a lot of meetings. The people who make an impact on a wide variety of organizations around Grounds are those who have learned to at the start of each year to devote their time and energy to a group they feel strongly about and enjoy working with. Over time they can build more and more organizations into their schedule as they settle into their roles and learn to work more efficiently, but they never let themselves make a promise they can’t keep. Doing so hurts not only them, but every group they can’t fully commit to because they over-reached.

I want to be careful not to encourage people to avoid joining groups they’re interested in on a provisional basis. The best way to know which groups you care about is to take a close look at what they do, and most groups on Grounds structure their operations to allow this type of try-out period. But before you pay dues, commit to a leadership role or promise to work on behalf of that organization, ensure you have the time and willingness to do so. The groups you join and decide to drop will thank you in the long run.

At the start of my third year I was coming into positions of responsibility in a few of my extra-curricular activities, and I made the choice before the year started to accept a leadership role in a group I knew I would not be able to prioritize. It is a mistake I still regret today. The group was intended to serve as an Honor advocacy group, but because I didn’t have the time to commit to making it a fully realized organization, I let the enthusiasm of others involved fade away as nothing happened and ended up torpedoing the group into non-existence. Thankfully the Honor Committee ended up taking up most of the functions we were planning to fill, which is probably a more effective system anyway, but the fact remains I killed a group I cared about by trying to do too much. Don’t make the same mistake.

This University is full of passionate leaders and people willing to give their own time to a variety of pursuits. I encourage all new students to throw yourself into this community with just as much prudence as enthusiasm so that your efforts can be maximized.

Forrest Brown is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at

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