Bear Perspectives is a series of first-person essays written by upperclassmen students at Mercer University about their experiences in college and what they wish they knew as a first-year. Throughout the beginning of the semester, The Cluster will publish a variety of these essays covering various topics for the benefit of the class of 2026.
Finding your niche and getting involved is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself as a freshman entering college.
For me, Bear Fair was the perfect opportunity to gain insight into how to get involved. Those of you who went this year know there are over 150 active student organizations on campus including academic societies, fraternity and sorority programs, faith-based organizations and much more. I could run for student government, write for The Cluster or join an intramural sports team.
Odds are, I would find an organization or two on campus that would fit my interests. The more involved I became, the more connections I was able to build with others. Outside of the classroom and the dorms, I met some of my best friends on campus through the organizations I joined as a freshman.
Finding your niche also means challenging yourself and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Rather than going to class and coming straight back to your room every day, push yourself to go out and meet people around campus. Stepping outside your comfort zone will allow you to gain a newfound sense of self-confidence and creativity.
My experience with this was running for student government. I knew I wanted to get involved in college in some sort of way, but I didn’t know what it was that I wanted to join.
My mentor suggested I’d run for student government, but I had doubts in my mind. As a new student, you may think to yourself: “But no one knows me.” Trust me, I thought the same thing when I ran for SGA. I was brand new to campus and hadn’t made a whole lot of friends at that point. I realized I had to put myself out there, even if it made me uncomfortable.
The best advice I received from that mentor was that my peers were much more likely to remember my name and face if I spoke to them directly, not by throwing social media posts and flyers in their faces. I was campaigning inside and outside residence halls, in the caf and out on Cruz Plaza handing out treats and asking my peers what they thought was most important to them at college. Little did I know I was going to be elected a senator, let alone freshman class president.
The moral of my story is to not be afraid to step outside your comfort zone as I was initially. One of the best parts of my college experience was making friends by getting involved. Honestly, my college experience would probably be entirely different if I never ran for SGA or joined the organizations I did.
If you don’t find an organization that fits your interest, start your own! I have seen numerous organizations that started during my time at Mercer fully blossom, and it warms my heart. Just be careful to not join too many organizations at the same time. You don’t want to overload yourself on top of your classes — you should enjoy your first-year experience!
My first year at Mercer was a time for me to start growing as a person and figure out who I want to be in life. If you step outside of your comfort zone this year, there's a good chance that will happen for you, too.
Rylan Allen ’23 has served as the president of the Student Government Association since March 2021 and was elected Homecoming King in 2021. He is a political science and sociology major.