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What's That Feeling? That's FOMO.

college culture


University of Virginia


What's That Feeling? That's FOMO.

FOMO = Fear of Missing Out

Chelsea Li


I remember my first-year at UVA. Describing it one word? Panic. The major reason for this panic? I just couldn't decide what extracurricular activities I wanted to do. Like the romantic notion of soulmates, I had this idea that my perfect activity was out there, just waiting for me. But why did it have to be so hard to find here at UVA?

First off, they aren't "clubs." They're CIOs, or Contracted Independent Organizations not affiliated with the University or its departments. That means they have a lot more freedom and are easier to establish On-Grounds. Which might explain why there are over 800 of them. I still recall squeezing my way through the masses of people milling about the Activities Fair just for the privilege of jotting my name on a sheet of paper or typing it into an Excel spreadsheet. By the end of the day I had signed up for at least thirty listservs, if not more.

The coming weeks were even worse. It seemed every CIO had an interest meeting, and they all had the same favorite times but wildly different locations. I just couldn't physically be at two of these meetings at the same time, and I was often forced to choose between CIOs that I was interested in. Not to mention, these interest meetings took up so much of the time I could have spent studying and grinding away on my homework, a story of pain and suffering for another article.

Since UVA focuses so extremely on student self-governance, the bountiful number of CIOs is both a blessing and a bane. There is supposedly an organization for everyone, and if there isn't, you can go ahead and make another! The problem with this is that it is hard to tell which CIOs are legitimate, and they are often disorganized. Additionally, many CIOs are selective, requiring an application and/or interview. My darkest days of first year involved rejection after rejection, hit after hit on my self-esteem, whether from UJC or a K-pop Dance Group. But eventually, I remembered that it's really nothing personal.

However, this whole process triggers something in people, something that my friends and I have affectionately referred to as FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. You end up applying and trying out for whatever you can get your hands on, and you live in a state of perpetual anxiety. It gets a little bit better after the initial months of first semester, but in the end, you have to ask yourself, are you really happy? I still fall into the mental trap that is FOMO from time to time, and it's not a great place to be.

What do I advise? Cliché as it sounds, take it slow, and follow where you heart leads. Just like finding housing (another topic for another article), don't get caught up in the frenzy that is everyone joining CIOs. You'll find one for you, and if not, then that's fine too. One trick I use to scout out potential groups to join is using @UVA, It's a repository of all official CIOs On-Grounds, grouped conveniently by name and category. If a CIO catches my eye, I simply send a message to whoever is in charge, and they usually respond warmly, adding me to the listserv and sending information that I had missed.

If you get rejected from a CIO, don't give up. If you feel like it was meant to be, apply next semester, and then the next, and then the next, and then the next. I am confident your dream CIO will accept you. On the other hand, it is also okay to quit a CIO if you feel like it isn't a good match. It's okay to say no. Time is valuable, and as they say, college should be the best time of your life. How do you want to spend your four years? Me? I want to be happy.

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