Whether you’re looking for something low-commitment, or you’ve heard horror stories about hyper-exclusive clubs, Bwog has the guide to finding and joining each of the hundreds of student clubs Columbia has to offer.
Your first semester at Columbia can be overwhelming for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the frenzy to join extracurriculars and find your community. With hundreds of clubs on campus all recruiting in the first few weeks of the semester, it can be difficult to navigate finding and joining the groups that fit best. At this point, you might feel overwhelmed with options, or you might have heard the horror stories about clubs whose recruitment processes are shrouded in mystery or whose admission is more competitive than getting into Columbia itself. Not to worry—Bwog is here with a (mostly) comprehensive guide to the many, many clubs at Barnumbia, broken down by the average time commitment and the difficulty (if any) of getting a spot in the group.
Below, find a preview of all the different clubs that we’ll discuss in this article.
- Clubs with low barriers and low time commitments
- Clubs with low barriers and higher time commitments
- Clubs with higher time commitments and (sometimes) competitive admission
But first, some pro-tips:
- Disclaimer: while the organizations in this article are categorized according to both their general selectivity and the average time commitment required, every group on campus is unique. We’ve done our best to sort each one into the category that best describes it, but if you’re interested in joining a specific group, your safest bet is always to seek out its website, social media, and/or mailing list for the most accurate, up-to-date information about its specific recruitment processes and time commitments.
- Beyond this guide, be sure to keep an eye out for information about upcoming club fairs! Both Barnard and Columbia host fall activities fairs at the start of the semester, where representatives from nearly every group listed here will be tabling to give you the rundown on joining their group. It will be a great opportunity to sign up for club mailing lists, which is how many groups distribute information about recruitment.
- Additionally, both Barnard and Columbia keep running lists of extracurriculars on their websites. However, those sites don’t always have the most up-to-date information about which clubs still exist and how to join them. Instead, the activities fairs are much more reliable sources of information, since virtually every existing club will be tabling in person during at least one of the fairs. For the purpose of this article, we’ve only included organizations that have hosted events within the last semester or have up-to-date websites and/or social media pages, to ensure every group included is still active and looking for new members.
- If you can’t make the activities fairs (or even if you can), it’s also helpful to follow any group that might sound interesting on social media (mostly Instagram). Aside from their mailing lists, Instagram tends to be the primary means by which student groups distribute information about upcoming meetings and the recruitment process.
- The majority of clubs admit students from all four colleges. However, some are specifically designed to serve just one college, or are required to pull a majority of their members from one college. If you’re not sure about a club’s admission policy, check out their website or reach out to them over social media.
- If you don’t find a club that interests you, you can always start your own! Check out the requirements for forming new student groups at Barnard and Columbia—they’re fairly accessible even if your club doesn’t start off with a ton of members.
Clubs with low barriers and low time commitments
If you don’t feel ready to make a major time commitment to an extracurricular, or if you’re just not interested in competing for club admission, you’re not alone. Luckily, Columbia has plenty of low-barrier, low-commitment clubs tailored to a variety of interest groups! Most low-barrier clubs fall into one of the following categories.
Cultural and identity-based groups can be a great way to find community on campus, especially if you’ve just moved to New York from another city or country. Luckily, most of these groups host open events for anyone interested throughout the semester. This means the time commitment is what you make of it—while there are certainly opportunities to make big commitments in more competitive leadership positions, it’s equally accessible to participate on your own schedule.
- African Students Organization
- Alianza (Pan-Latine)
- ARSA (Argentine Students Association)
- Armenian Society
- Asian American Alliance
- Barnard Club Q (queer students)
- Black Students Organization
- B.O.S.S. (Barnard Organization of Soul and Solidarity)
- Boys, Butches, and Bros at Barnard
- Brazilian Society
- Canterbury Uptown (Episcopalian)
- Caribbean Students Association
- Chicanx Caucus
- Chinese Students Club
- Christian Union Lumine
- Club Zamana (South Asian Student Association)
- Columbia/Barnard Hillel
- Columbia Catholic Ministry
- Columbia Queer and Asian (Q&A)
- Columbia Vegan Society
- CU Bangla (Bengali students)
- Ethio-Eritrean Students Association
- Falun Dafa at Columbia
- French Cultural Society
- Grupo Quisqueyano (Dominican students)
- Habla Peruano (Peruvian students)
- Haitian Students Association
- Hindu Students Organization
- Hong Kong Students and Scholars Society
- Intercultural Resource Center
- Iranian Students Association
- Japan Society
- Kesher (Reform Jewish students)
- Korean Students Association
- Liga Filipina
- Mālama Hawai’i
- Mixed Heritage Society
- Mujeres (Pan-Latine Barnard students)
- MANSA (Muslim Afro Niyyah Students Association)
- Native American Council
- Pakistani Students Association
- Polish Student Society
- Proud Colors
- Reformed University Fellowship (Christian)
- Singapore Students Association (SSA)
- Somali Students Association
- South East Asian League (SEAL)
- Student Organization of Latinos (SOL)
- Taiwanese American Students Association (TASA)
- Thai Sabai
- The Sapna Project (South Asian discussion collective)
- Turath (Arab Students Association)
- Turkish Students Association
- Vietnamese Students Association (VSA)
Most crafting, skill, and special interest-centered groups
- Barnard Bookworms
- Barnard and Columbia Gardening Clubs
- Barnard Zine Club
- Columbia Artist Society
- Columbia Hay Day
- Columbia Games Club
- Columbia University Culinary Society
- Columbia University Science Fiction Society
- CU Sign
- Gosh Yarn It!
- Gourmand: A Food Club at Columbia
- Philolexian Society (Columbia’s oldest secret society)
Similarly, most academic and pre-professional groups
If you already know what professional field you’re planning to enter after graduation, pre-professional societies are a great way to connect not only with other students in your field, but with professionals and post-grad opportunities.
- Alexander Hamilton Society
- American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
- Application Development Initiative
- Athena Pre-Law Society
- Barnard Chemical Society
- Barnard Psychology Society
- Biomedical Engineering Society
- Charles Drew Pre-Medical Society
- CIRCA (Columbia International Relations Council & Association)
- Columbia Association for Women in Mathematics
- Columbia Association of Pre-Dental Students (CAPS)
- Columbia China Law Business Association (CCLBA)
- Columbia Debate Society
- Columbia Financial Investment Group
- Columbia Investment Banking Division
- Columbia Model United Nations New York
- Columbia Model United Nations Travel Team
- Columbia Quiz Bowl
- Columbia Robotics
- Columbia Space Initiative
- Columbia University Financial Engineering (CUFE)
- CU Pre-Veterinary Society
- Latinx Professional Education Network
- Mock Trial
- Model Congress
- Multicultural Business Association
- National Society of Black Engineers
- Neuroscience Society
- Political Science Students Association
- Scientists and Engineers for a Better Society
- Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
- Society of Women Engineers
- Women in Computer Science
- Women’s Business Society
- The Women’s Network
Some Event-Planning Groups
As with most of the groups in this category, student groups focused on event planning tend to require varying levels of commitment depending on your role. If you’re interested in a leadership position, you’ll probably be devoting a lot of your time to the club throughout the school year, but it’s just as possible to stay in the loop by attending meetings sparsely throughout the semester.
If you’re interested in getting involved with the arts and music scene on campus, or if you see audio production in your future, the University’s two radio stations, Barnard’s WBAR and Columbia’s WKCR, are a great—surprisingly low-barrier—way to get started! While there are plenty of opportunities to make a name for yourself hosting weekly shows, there’s no obligation to make a regular time commitment. Instead, to remain in good standing, students are asked to host around three shows per semester, as well as some other events such as fundraising. Both radio stations usually hold info sessions at the start of the semester, but, as with most of the clubs in this category, you’re free to join at any point throughout the academic year.
Clubs with low barriers and higher time commitments
Are you hoping to really dedicate yourself to an activity, but still feeling wary of a club you have to compete just to get into? Not to worry—the following clubs ask for a higher time commitment than the previous group, but are still low-barrier.
Intramural and club sports
At Columbia, non-varsity sports are not only a great way to stay active, but they’re incredibly easy to join! Aside from online registration and (sometimes) accompanying fees, recruitment is very lax—there are no tryouts, meaning anyone can join the team. Teams have varying levels of commitment, with some holding practice multiple times a week.
- Badminton (club)
- Badminton (intramural fall tournament)
- Ballroom Dance
- Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
- Figure Skating
- Flag Football (intramural fall tournament)
- Goju Ryu Karate
- Ice Hockey (Men’s)
- Indoor soccer (intramural spring league)
- Lacrosse (Men’s)
- Outdoor soccer (intramural fall league)
- Road Runners
- Rock Climbing
- Rugby (Men’s and Women’s)
- Shotokan Karate
- Skiing and Snowboarding
- Spikeball (intramural)
- Squash (intramural)
- Swing Dance
- Table Tennis (club)
- Table Tennis (intramural)
- Tae Kwon Do
- (Regular) Tennis
- Triathlon Club
- Ultimate Frisbee (Men’s and Women’s)
- Volleyball (Men’s and Women’s)
- Volleyball (intramural)
- Water Polo (Men’s and Women’s)
- Whitewater Kayaking
- Wrestling (Women’s)
Most groups in the politics, activism, and service sphere
As to be expected, most student groups focusing on politics and/or public service of some kind are always looking for new members, and with that, hoping for commitment to their cause. That said, we would still categorize most of the clubs in this group as “custom-commitment. That means that while a higher time commitment isn’t always required, these clubs tend to host a lot of events and need a lot of assistance from willing club members, so we’d recommend them to those with time to volunteer.
- 116th Initiative (student-run mutual aid fund)
- Active Minds (mental health advocacy)
- CIRCA (Columbia International Relations Council & Association)
- Coalition Against Sexual Violence
- Columbia Planned Parenthood
- Columbia Political Union
- Columbia Public Health Club
- Columbia Recovery Coalition
- Columbia UNICEF
- Columbia Young Democratic Socialists of America
- CU Democrats
- CU Republicans
- CU Votes
- Eco Reps
- Effective Altruism
- Housing Equity Project
- Jewish Voice for Peace
- John Jay Debate Society
- LiNK (Liberty in North Korea)
- Meet Me at the Museum
- No Red Tape
- Student Birth Workers
- Students for Sanctuary
- Students for Sensible Drug Policy
- Students Supporting Israel
- Sunrise Movement
- Youth for Debate
Additionally, Bwoggers more well-versed in the performing arts pointed out that student theatre groups, including the Columbia Musical Theatre Society (CMTS), are regularly in need of help on their build crews, and that many all-levels performance groups, including the Glee Club, Orchesis, and the Swing Dancing Club, are very easy to join even as a beginner.
Clubs with high commitment and (sometimes) competitive admission
We’re sure you’ve heard tale of hyper-selective Ivy League clubs—those who treat their applications like a job interview process and are more difficult to get into than Columbia itself. Don’t worry, as intimidating as a club application may seem, it really shouldn’t be a major source of stress. There are so many clubs tailored to each respective interest that you’re sure to find your fit, even if you don’t get in to the first club for which you apply. What’s more, plenty of these groups aren’t as selective as their reputations would have you believe. That said, if you think you might be interested in a club with an application or audition process, it’s best to go in prepared. Familiarize yourself with the club and its past work, and do as much research as you can on what, if any, materials you’ll need for a written application, audition, or interview.
Columbia is made up of four undergraduate schools, which means we have four student governing bodies—the Columbia College Student Council (CCSC), the SEAS Engineering Student Council (ESC), Barnard’s Student Government Association, and the General Studies Student Council—and with that, plenty of opportunity to get involved. The majority of student government elections happen in the spring, but elections for first-year-specific positions (like first-year class president) typically happen in the first few weeks of the fall semester. That means you’ll have two opportunities to get involved this year! Aside from attending regular (usually weekly) student government meetings, the time commitment varies depending on the responsibilities associated with each position. Luckily, you can learn more about the available positions in each group on their respective websites!
Outside of direct positions in student government, leadership positions are also regularly available on Barnard’s McIntosh Activities Council (McAC), the Activities Board at Columbia (ABC), the Multicultural Affairs Advisory Council, the Residence Hall Leadership Organization, or—if you want to be part of the groups that control all other groups—the Governing Board at Barnard (GBB) and the Student Governing Board at Columbia (SGB).
While not a huge presence on Columbia’s campus, Greek Life is definitely there for those who want to get involved! Columbia has six Panhellenic sororities, ten IFC Fraternities, and 12 Multicultural Greek Council fraternities and sororities. An important note: while some of these organizations do offer exclusive brownstone housing for members, access to brownstones, which are controlled by the University, depends on available space and group seniority, meaning not every sorority or fraternity will have a house.
Panhellenic sororities recruit during Rush Week, which typically takes place in late January, during the spring semester, or through Continuous Open Bidding (COB), which will occur periodically in the fall and spring. Rush Week is made up of three rounds of recruitment: Philanthropy, Development, and Preference. Each round, students can speak to sorority members to learn more about the organization’s philanthropy and club culture, and can select their preferred sororities to continue to the next round of recruitment. If you decide to rush, there is a high probability that you will get into a sorority during formal recruitment, but if you choose to drop out of recruitment, you can join a sorority during COB. COB is a more casual recruitment period, and usually occurs on a much smaller scale than rush week. Not every sorority will participate in COB each semester, but every sorority will participate in formal recruitment.
Similarly to the panhellenic sororities, fraternities in the Interfraternity Council (IFC) also recruit during a rush period. While this process is not entirely uniform, it generally lasts for the first three weeks of each semester. During that period, the ten involved fraternities hold recruitment events, giving prospective members an opportunity to meet the current community. At the end of the rush period, prospective members may receive bids from their preferred fraternities, inviting them to join. Prospective members are encouraged to connect with the fraternities that interest them on social media.
Lastly, the Multicultural Greek Council includes a variety of culturally-centered sororities and fraternities. This includes chapters specifically designed for Asian, Black, and Latine students, respectively. Similarly to other fraternities and sororities on campus, chapters in the MGC recruit through a rush period. Unlike many other Greek Life organizations, however, MGC fraternities are non-campus based, meaning they typically don’t have houses.
One field that’s more than bountiful on Columbia’s campus? Student-run performing arts. With over 30 distinct performing arts groups on campus, spanning a variety of genres and experience levels, there’s no shortage of opportunity to get involved with the scene. These clubs tend to be on the higher end of the commitment spectrum, particularly in the weeks leading up to a performance, and range in their competitiveness. Most hold auditions in the first weeks of the school year, either for specific shows or for general club admission. If you know you’re interested in a specific group (or even just a specific art or style), be sure to visit their websites and/or social media pages for more information about their respective audition processes.
Columbia’s student dance groups run the gamut both of style, necessary experience level, and competitiveness. As we mentioned, some groups, like Orchesis and the Swing Dance Club, are specifically designed for beginners, while others are more advanced and thus more competitive. That means that whether you’re a professional dancer or you’ve never stepped foot in a studio, dance is easily one of the most accessible activities on campus. Groups vary in their audition processes—some hold auditions for each upcoming showcase, while others simply have auditions for general group admissions, and still others may not have auditions at all.
- Bhangra (competitive collegiate dance team)
- CoLab (dance-focused performing arts collective)
- Columbia Ballet Collaborative
- Columbia Ballet Ensemble (aka CUBE)
- Columbia Ballroom Dance Team
- Columbia China Dance
- Columbia University Dance Team
- CU Generation (urban dance team)
- Lion Dance (Chinese traditional dance and kung-fu-based dance)
- Onyx Dance Troupe (woman-centered hip-hop)
- Orchesis (all-levels dance group, a favorite of beginners)
- Raw Elementz (hip-hop)
- Sabor (salsa, bachata, merengue)
- Swing Dance Club
- Taal (South Asian dance)
Improv and Sketch Comedy
Columbia’s improv comedy scene is notably populous. The three groups range in their competitiveness, but typically hold auditions for troupe admission early in the fall semester, and stage performances throughout the year.
Columbia’s music groups vary in their competitiveness and intensity (though, a cappella audition season has occasionally been known to get brutal). Like other performing arts groups, these clubs, if they require auditions at all, tend to hold them in the first weeks of the semester, and stage concerts throughout the year.
- Bach Society (student-run classical orchestra)
- Columbia Chinese Orchestra
- Classical Performers
- Wind Ensemble
Choir and a Capella
- Bacchantae (all-female a capella)
- Clefhangers (all-gender a capella)
- Glee Club
- Jubilation! (all-gender Christian a-capella)
- Kingsmen (all-male a capella)
- Metrotones (all-female a capella)
- Nonsequitir (all-gender a capella)
- Notes and Keys (all-gender a capella)
- Pizmon (all-gender Jewish a capella)
- SHARP (all-male a capella)
- SUR (all-gender South Asian-fusion a capella
- Uptown Vocal (all-gender jazz/pop a capella)
- Vivace Chamber Singers (all-gender classical and contemporary choral a capella)
Including the Theatre department itself, Columbia is home to no less than eight theatre troupes, many of which produce multiple shows per semester. That means there’s no shortage of opportunity to get involved in Barnumbia’s theatre scene. Unlike some other performing arts groups, these groups hold auditions for each show, rather than for general admittance to the group, meaning it’s very possible to hop from group to group, performing in multiple shows throughout the year. However, while the shows are spaced out throughout the year, most groups typically hold one big round of auditions in the first weeks of the fall semester. If you’re interested in auditioning, make sure to join their mailing lists as soon as possible! Pro tip: Outside of these clubs, be sure to check out the Barnard Theatre Department’s upcoming shows—auditions are open to students from any school and department.
- Black Theatre Ensemble
- Columbia Musical Theatre Society
- CU Players (straight plays)
- King’s Crown Shakespeare Company
- LateNite (experimental theatre)
- NOMADS (original student work)
- Varsity Show
Finally, if you’re interested in writing for a campus publication, you’re at the right university. Aside from the obvious (Rush Bwog), Columbia is saturated with publications of all kinds, from news sites, to satire, to literary journals, to art and fashion magazines, not to mention academic journals in a myriad of fields. That said, if you’re hoping to get involved, it’s fair to expect some form of application process. While publications vary in the competitiveness of their admissions and the level of commitment they require from club members, in general, most accept applications in the first weeks of each semester. Many will request some kind of writing sample from applicants, and some also conduct interviews after the initial application cycle. Some have even been known to hold multiple rounds of interviews (don’t look at us. We would never do that to you. This is a school).
Pro tip: once you’ve decided to join one publication, ask about their policy on joining others. Some may have rules against writing for competing publications, so make sure you know which publications fall under that category.
- The Barnard Bulletin
- *We cannot emphasize enough that it is not actually scary or difficult to apply to Bwog. We will not make you interview. Rush Bwog.
- The Columbia Daily Spectator
A quick note about literary magazines on campus: most of these publications release an annual issue featuring student (and some non-student) work, created by a staff of students who work on the issue throughout the year. That means you can typically apply in the fall to become an editor, but you can also submit original work—poems, short stories, and essays—at various points throughout the academic year! Most groups will post a call for submissions on social media detailing exactly what kind of writing they’re looking to include in their upcoming issue.
- 4×4 Magazine
- Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism
- The Columbia Review
- Surgam (literary magazine of the Philolexian Society)
Art and Fashion
- Barnard/Columbia Urban Review
- Birch (Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies)
- Columbia Journal of History
- Columbia Political Review
- Columbia Science Review
- Columbia Undergraduate Journal of Global Health
- Gadfly (Philosophy)
- Helvidius (Journal of Politics & Society)
- Journal of Science, Tech, Ethics, and Policy (JSTEP)
- Undergraduate Law Review
- Undergraduate Science Journal
Other Specialty Publications
- Alianzine (annual zine published by Alianza)
- The Blue and White (Columbia’s student magazine)
- The Current (Contemporary politics, culture, and Jewish affairs)
- The Federalist (Satire)
- Her Campus
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of Barnumbia’s many club offerings and the logistics behind joining each of them. That said, don’t worry too much about getting into every club in your first semester—you have four years to explore what works for you, so take this time to adjust to the community and find what works for you.
Now, go forth and join clubs to your heart’s content! And by clubs, we mean Bwog.
This article is regularly updated with additional student groups. If you have a group to add to the list, please let us know at email@example.com!
Club Guide collage via Paulina Rodriguez