As a freshman, you may be a bit overwhelmed by new classes, new people, and the importance of the next four years. If you are already thinking about colleges, you may be wondering what you should be doing to start off the process—not only in terms of what classes to take and how to excel in them, but also how to manage your life outside of school.

First things first: Don’t stress too much! Colleges tend to evaluate your freshman year with more lenience than your junior, senior, and even sophomore years, not only in terms of grades and course rigor, but also with regard to extracurricular activities. So while it’s great that your starting to think about these things early, remember that you don’t have to have it all figured out. (Check out our guide to freshman and sophomore years for more advice on how to start off your high school career on the right foot.)

Few high school freshmen have a clear idea of their long-term career goals, and at this age you are generally still figuring out your talents and passions. Ultimately, ninth grade is a time to focus on exploring your interests and developing ideas about what you might want to do in the future, and this is what should be at the top of your priority list, not college applications. Keep this advice in mind as you read on for our advice on how to decide on what clubs to join during your freshman year.

Finding a Club to Join Early On

If you are lucky enough to find a great club to join in your freshman year and are able to stick with it throughout your high school career, there can be a lot of advantages.

For starters, you will have a community of like-minded peers who can help you find other opportunities to get involved in other activities related to your areas of shared interests. Not only will this help you in terms of building a strong extracurricular profile, but it will also give you more opportunities to something you really love. For instance, if you join the high school newspaper and find that you love writing, perhaps members of the staff belong to other writing groups or work on publications outside of school, and you can join those activities as well.

Additionally, you may build close relationships with faculty members, coaches, or club advisors who might be able to write letters of recommendation for you when the time comes. If you are involved in a club for which they serve as an advisor, they will be able to attest to your passion outside the classroom as well as in it.

Furthermore, you may be able to secure a high proficiency in a certain skill or activity that will allow you to take on leadership positions if you stick with an activity throughout high school. As we explain in “Your Resume Revamped: Securing Leadership Positions and Perfecting Your Extracurricular Profile,” demonstrated leadership experience can be a definite asset for your college applications.

Colleges like to see long-term commitments on your application. As we discuss in “Well-Rounded or Specialized?” , these indicate a strong commitment and developed talent that you can bring to college and beyond.

However, don’t feel like you need to stick with something you hate or that isn’t benefitting you in any way. This will only take away time from finding activities that actually are meaningful to you. Remember, colleges understand that you are young and still exploring your interests. It’s okay to join something and decide it’s not for you later—in fact, it’s better to leave an activity you know isn’t for you earlier rather than later instead of sticking it out only to quit your junior year.

Finding Activities to Join

So how do you find clubs to join? Start by thinking about your academic strengths. Are there any related activities or clubs that use those skills? For example, if you have strong writing skills, try joining the school newspaper if one exists. If you excel in math or physics, perhaps there is an engineering club you could join.

What are you friends or siblings doing? If you have similar interests, you might enjoy one of their clubs as well. You could also think about the kinds of activities you did in elementary and middle school and see if there is a related activity at your high school. For instance, if you have been playing the piano since an early grade, perhaps you could join the school band. If you like to run, try out for the cross country team.

If you don’t have any ideas, try exploring a few options. As we explain in “Your Comprehensive Guide to Extracurriculars,” it’s never a bad idea to start off with as many activities as possible and whittle them away until you’ve found your niche. Try shopping around a bit until you find something that really peaks your interest. Don’t just join one or two clubs and assume you have to commit to them; attend a few meetings for a range of activities that might interest you so you can get a sense of what is the best fit. Over time, you can decide which clubs are most interesting and relevant to your strengths and commit to those while dropping the others. Remember, college applications should not be the deciding factor at this stage. Right now, you just want to find something that is a good fit, and doing so make take a bit of exploring first.

Starting Your Own Club

If you have an interest that isn’t represented through the clubs already in place at your high school, don’t be afraid to start a club yourself. As we explain in our guide to leadership positions, demonstrating leadership shows colleges that you are driven and will be a valuable asset to their schools. Starting your own club teaches a lot of other real world skills that will benefit you down the road as well. However, don’t feel like you need to start a club as a freshman if the idea is overwhelming. Keep in mind that you are in the very early stage of your high school career, and your college application should not be the determining factor in what activities you join or start. It’s more important to figure out what your interests really are so you can build them throughout high school.

Want to make the most of your high school career and develop strong skills and interests early on? Check out CollegeVine’s Mentorship Program. You will be paired with a mentor from a top college who will work with you one on one to help you discover your interests, develop significant self-motivation, and gain the skills necessary to show the best side of yourself to college admissions committees.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works in publishing. She also writes, dreams of owning a dog, and routinely brags about the health of her orchid.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine