Campus Life: Joining Clubs and Organizations


MODULE GOALS: To provide college students with disabilities knowledge and resources regarding campus club and organizational membership.

  1. To identify reasons why you should join a campus club or organization.
  2. To provide resources for finding clubs and organizations.
  3. To explain the laws that protects the rights of students with disabilities that who are current members or interested in membership.
  4. To recognize the steps you should take when you join a club/organization at a university or college.


Clubs and organizations are a big part of college life! A club is “a group of students organized with a similar interest for a social, literary, athletic, political, or other common purpose; while an organization is a group of students organized for and acting toward a particular cause” (Channel Islands California State University, 2013). Students have the opportunity and choose to join these groups for many reasons including: pursuit of individual interests; career networking opportunities; social camaraderie; and political activisms. Most colleges and universities have a very active student club and organizational system that can be accessed by visiting on-campus offices and individual websites. All students should be strongly encouraged to pursue club and organizational membership opportunities to help them enrich their college experience.  

  1. What are the main reasons students join campus clubs and organizations?
  2. Are there a specific number of clubs and organizations that a student should join?
  3. What are different types of campus clubs and organizations?
  4. How easy is it for a student with a disability to participate in a campus club or organization?
  5. What are the steps you should take if you want to join a campus club or organization?

What are the main reasons students join campus clubs and organizations?

Attending college brings many new aspects and transition in a student’s life, including a new level of independence and responsibility. Depending on where you decide to attend school, you may find that you must develop new friendships and engage in a new social atmosphere as you work toward your career goals. Many students find this task easier to embark upon through joining clubs and organizations that fit their individual interests, needs, and goals. A specific club or organization may satisfy several aspects of interest for a student, such as networking to find to learn more about an academic related subject and the opportunity to socialize and meet new people. Students have a variety of purposes for joining clubs and organizations including:

  1. Networking Opportunities: Networking provides a student with the opportunity to meet other students and professionals with common goals and interest. Additionally, students’ can receive information and resources that will support their current and future interests and goals. For example, many student-led professional organizations provide networking opportunities by hosting events that invite those whom are established within the career or industry which they are pursuing (Penn State Smeal College of Business, 2001).
  2. Social Opportunities: Many clubs and organizations are formed based on leisure and recreational interest. Students may wish to pursue membership in these types of clubs for personal enjoyment, as well as an opportunity to meet people with the same interest. For example, many schools have extramural sports teams that compete regularly; as well as clubs that are based upon commonalities, such as culture or religion (Penn State Smeal College of Business, 2001).
  3. Professional Experience: Professional chapters of different student led organization exist on campuses. These chapters encourage career development and an understanding of opportunities within the industry (Howard University, 2013). Students can access information about internships and job opportunities by becoming active in professional organizations at the student level (Penn State, 2001). An example of a professional organization that has student chapters is the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) (American Institute of Architecture Students, 2010).
  4. Personal Development: Joining student clubs and organizations give you the opportunity to meet a diverse population of people that allow you to expand your thinking and interest. It encourages personal development through communication and exploration of different interest (Penn State Smeal College of Business, 2001).
  5. Leadership Skills: Joining a club or organization allows you to develop leadership skills within an environment of your peers. You will be able to learn from fellow students and establish your leadership abilities through planning and implementing different activities and events (Penn State Smeal College of Business, 2001).
  6. Organization and Management Skills: You can gain valuable experience in the execution of procedures and policies by your involvement in clubs and organizations. Colleges and Universities establish organizational rules and procedures, which must be adhered by all clubs and organizations that want to operate on campus. These systems help to understand the organizational structure and helps to build these vital skills (Penn State Smeal College of Business, 2001)

How many student clubs or organizations should you join?

Determining the amount of student clubs and organizations that you should join is an individual choice. There is no written rule for the optimal number of clubs and organizations one should join. Prior to making this decision, you should establish a list of your personal and career interests, as well as your academic goals. It is a good idea to visit different clubs before joining. You should research the organization’s history; and compare their mission and goals to those on your list. It is important to remember that your membership and level of involvement should be dependent upon your course load and personal responsibilities. For instance, you may have the time to join several organizations during your first year in college; but during your second year, you may have added responsibilities like a part-time job. This will limit your ability to participate in extra-curricular activities. Students are often encouraged to join an organization that represents the profession or industry of their career pursuits, such as AIAS, in order to gain career knowledge and increase networking opportunities (American Institute of Architecture Students, 2010). Some students have gained life-long friendships; provided public service; and received networking opportunities by pledging sororities and fraternities that have established Alumni Chapters, such as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, 2012). It is important to prioritize and compare when selecting clubs and organizations to join (Penn State Smeal College of Business, 2001). 

What are different types of campus clubs and organizations?
Many schools have a large variety of campus clubs and organizations. Also, students can establish organizations that are not present on their campus if they desire. You will find that many schools have memberships that are represented by the following types of clubs and organizations.
  1. Academic: Academic clubs and organizations can be represented in many ways. Some clubs may function for a particular purpose, such as the Academic Quiz Team, which is a club at the University of Maryland that competes with other similar school clubs about academic (University of Maryland, 2013). Academic clubs may have student membership with interest in a particular field or industry, such as Air Force ROTC (University of Maryland, 2013).
  2. Cultural: These organizations represent people from all over the world and promote an awareness of cultural diversity on campus. These organizations are not limited to including only those from a particular culture; however they do provide an opportunity for those from the same ethnicity, culture, and/or nation to develop kinship (University of Maryland). 
  3. Faith-Based: These types of clubs and organizations usually include those of the same faith or religion that wish to gather for various purposes. They can be represented by different purposes such as a gospel choir or a religious faith club (Howard University, 2013).
  4. Honors/Achievement: Honorary organizations have been established to provide recognition to those students that have provided exemplary achievement in various areas, such as academics, leadership, and community service. Membership in these organizations and clubs are restricted to specific selection that may be based upon different criteria, including GPA and other notableaccomplishments as decided by a selection committee (University of Maryland, 2013).
  5. Sports Clubs: The governing body for these clubs is led outside of the college athletic department and they have no affiliation with the university sports teams. Teams are usually organized within a league system that organizes and regulates the competition.  The teams that participate in this type of competition are numerous and may include sports events such as football, lacrosse or volleyball (University of Maryland, 2013).
  6. Political: These organizations include group of students that are affiliated with particular parties, ideologies, or like to engage in civic discussion. Political parties may include groups such as Political Latinos, College Republicans, and Model United Nations (University of Maryland, 2013).
  7. Public Service: These organizations function primarily to provide service to those who have needs that aren’t being met. Students support individuals within communities in need of various services such as financial assistance, tutoring, and respite care; as well as providing services to the community, such as planting gardens and renovating homes. Students can work within organizations that have been established solely at the college or university or they may work with national agencies. An example of an organization that exists on campus only is Team Happiness. This is organization was established at The University of Maryland to raise awareness about drinking and driving (University of Maryland, 2013). Habitat for Humanity is an organization that has a large presence on many campuses throughout the United States (Habitat for Humanity, 2013). It is an international organization that provides affordable housing. 

How easy is it for a student with a disability to participate in a campus club or organization?

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) relates to the requirements of private entities in the realm of public accommodations and commercial facilities (Americans with Disabilities Act, n.d.). The technical assistance manual is a “… publication issued by Federal agencies under section 506 of the ADA to assist individuals and entities in understanding their rights and duties under the Act” (Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, 2013). To access the manual follow the link:

The ADA addresses the rights of persons with disabilities to building access and other accommodations, such as interpreters, note-takers, etc. These accommodations help to ensure that, among other things, persons with disabilities can attend college with a minimum of difficulty and that their right to experience the world of higher education is not infringed upon.

Although groups and organizations are not an official University or College office, registered student organizations are expected to provide accommodations when possible. Students with disabilities must often advocate for their rights by communicating their needs to the leadership of the club or organization. Discuss the accessibility of facilities with the event organizer. You may want to provide the organizers with the Title III manual link:

Students with the disabilities have a right to accommodations that will make joining and participating in clubs and organizations “easy”. Some of the disabilities that may be affected through accessibility include:

  1. Wheelchair usage and mobility impairments: Thesite should have accessible elevators, restrooms, parking, and wheelchair ramps. An area for guests using wheelchairs and other mobile equipment should be reserved (American with Disabilities Act, n.d.)
  2. Hearing impairments and individuals who are deaf: Arrangements for a sign language interpreter can be made through the Office of Disability Services at your school. Other accommodation considerations may be the usage of real time captioning, pictorial symbols, closed captioning capability, and priority seating (Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, n.d.).
  3. Visually impaired, individuals who are blind and individuals who are print impaired: Accommodations can be made that include larger text on hand-out materials and video. Audio technology can be provided which allows the individual to follow the presentation (Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, n.d.).

What are the steps should you take when you want to join a campus club or organization?

When you are interested in joining a club or organization, there are different steps that you must follow depending upon the requirements of the group. Most membership information can be found on the college or university website within the Student Affairs Department. Some clubs and offices have physical locations on campus. The steps that you can take to join a club or organization are:

  1. Research different clubs offered at the school. There are usually a variety of clubs available to meet every interest.
  2. Make a list of your goals and interests
  3. Attend several of the meetings and/or events of the organization before you join.
  4. Understand the requirements of the organization (i.e. financial, GPA, time commitment). This information may be available on the university or organization website; however, you may want to speak directly with a member as well.
  5. Complete the application process in a timely manner.
  6. Pay any dues promptly. If you need financial assistance, speak to the leadership of the club or organization.
  7. Stay active. In order for you to gain the best possible experience, it is a good idea to attend as many meetings and events as possible.  If you are unable to participate due to other issues, communicate with the leadership. You may be able to have an inactive member status (Penn State Smeal College of Business, 2013).
There are many aspects of college life, including the option to join campus clubs and organizations. You may choose to affiliate with these groups for professional and personal reasons. There are a variety of clubs and organizations that exist on college campuses including religious, honorary, civic, sports, professional, and recreational organizations. You can find details about these groups on college websites. There are many considerations when deciding which organization to join, including your professional goals and personal interests. The process in joining is usually relatively simple, with the exception of some exclusive memberships, like honorary and fraternal organizations. It is important to remember the reasons for joining clubs and organizations. There are expectations and responsibilities associated with membership. Benefits of these affiliations are professional networking, socializing, and the ability to develop organizational skills. Additionally, many of these clubs and organizations have alumni organizations that are available to join after college. When considering these options, remember that clubs and organizations are extra-curricular activities and they are secondary to your academic and professional goals! Membership in clubs and organizations should be considered as an extension of your college experience.
American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)
AAPD works with other disability organizations as advocate for disability rights and services.
The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD)
This organization consists of approximately 100 national disability organizations that work together as an advocate for disability rights through policy.
Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is a resource tool that provides information regarding governmental policies and best practices for those individuals with exceptionalities.
The HEATH Resource Center at the National Youth Transitions Center
The HEATH Resource Center is the national clearinghouse on postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities.
National Council on Disability
NCD's overall purpose is to promote policies, programs, practices, and procedures that guarantee equal opportunity for all individuals with disabilities and to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve economic self-sufficiency, independent living, and inclusion and integration into all aspects of society.
National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities
Website is an extensive resource for youth, parents, and families regarding disability laws, research, education and other topics. Information is disseminated according to states.
  1. How can joining a club or organization benefit me while I attend college? Should I only join those that relate to my field of study? What are the best ways to decide which club or organization I should join?
  2. How can joining a club or organization benefit me after I graduate from college? What is networking? Will I be able to continue as a member of some clubs or organizations after I graduate?
  3. What personal skills can joining a club or organization help me to develop? How can this impact my ability to get the job that I want?
  4. What are some of the barriers that people with disabilities may face when trying to join a club or organization? Are there any current laws that protect students with disabilities? What are they? 
  5. How can these barriers be overcome? How can students with disabilities advocate for themselves?
  6. What are some of the clubs or organizations that may interest you? Have you participated in similar clubs or organizations in the past? 
  7. Do you think that you will join a club or organization when you attend college? Why or why not?


When transitioning to a post-secondary educational institution there will be many decisions that you will make that will help you to determine your future career. Becoming a part of an organization or club is one of those decisions. Make your decisions based upon current knowledge of the organization, your personal interests, and your future goals. You should balance your involvement by joining clubs and organizations that allow you to grow within your academic field of interest, meet diverse people, and have fun!


Suzanne Brooks is a student at George Washington University in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development. She is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Secondary Special Education and Transition Services. After graduation, she plans to teach high school students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders.


Americans with Disabilities Act. (n.d.). Americans with Disabilities Act: Title III Technical Assistance Manual. Retrieved May 2013, from Americans with Disabilities Act:

American Institute of Architecture Students. (2010). Retrieved May 2013 from, American Institute of Architecture Students:

Channel Islands California State University. (2013). Student Leadership Programs. Retrieved May 2013, from Channel Islands California State University:

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. (2012). Membership. Retrieved May 2013, from Delta Sigma Theta Sorority:

Habitat for Humanity. (2013). Youth Programs Chapter Listing. Retrieved May 2013, from Habitat for Humanity:

Howard University. (2013). Office of Student Activities. Retrieved May 2013 from, Howard University Office of Student Activities:

Penn State Smeal College of Business. (2001). Joining The Right Student Club Or Organization In College Pays Dividends. Retrieved May 2013 from, Penn State Smeal College Business:

University of Maryland. (2013). Division of Student Affairs. Retrieved May 2013, from University of Maryland: