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Immersing Yourself in the College Experience

The college experience is about more than just living on your own, taking classes and partying. From athletics to student government to fraternities to working in college radio and newspapers, there are a number of ways you can plug into your school socially and intellectually besides just showing up to class.

First, remember that universities aren't just places you go to get a degree so you can get a job. They are also intellectual hubs and centers for research in many different academic spheres. Most universities will give you the opportunity to attend expert discussion forums with your university's faculty on various academic, philosophical and scientific topics. Universities also bring in nationally-known speakers. Each university arranges for these sorts of events differently, but, for example, at Texas State University—San Marcos, there is a program called the Common Experience, in which the university sponsors speakers in various areas to speak on a common topic. This year's topic happens to be Science, Policy & Opportunity. Fitting with that theme, there are several chances on campus to listen to experts speak on this broad topic and to engage in lively debates with fellow students. Past speakers for the Common Experience on other themes have included Maya Angelou, Spike Lee and Erin Brockovich.

Socially, joining a fraternity or sorority is a great way to meet friends for life, take part in volunteer efforts and get linked up to scholarship opportunities. And you don't have to be pigeonholed into the social fraternities—there are also academic, religious and ethnic/cultural fraternities. Something else you can consider is running for student government. As a member of your college's student government, you represent your fellow students, making sure their voice gets heard when the university makes its decisions. It's surprising how many people on a college campus have no idea how decisions are made at the top of the chain. Being a student government leader keeps you in-the-know. And if you don't make the cut, you can still sit in every now and then on the decisions that are being made. It's a great way to stay informed about the issues your university faces.

Finally, you can apply to work at your university's newspaper or radio station. Not only will you make a little extra pocket money (although don't expect much), but you can also write columns about the political issues you care about, cover controversies and events that matter to students, cover the big game, learn disc jockey skills and learn what it's like to work behind the scenes in radio.

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