Extracurricular Activity Matters
All learning does NOT take place in the class room. You probably already know that. In high school, beyond the class room doors you may very well have learned on your night job, been involved in community activities that taught you a lot about life, pursued hobbies that gave you lots of new skills, and taken lessons in one area or another that gave you new information. The same is doubly true at college. The main reason to be involved beyond the classroom is to increase your education and broaden your learning.
There are other reasons for joining organizations or taking part in activities across the campus. One is making friends. You will meet new people, and unlike the classroom, there is opportunity to interact socially, probably with less feeling of competition. You might even find potential dates! Another reason to take part in campus activities is to increase your sense of belonging. By taking part in campus life you get a sense of your school’s character which is far richer than instruction and dorm living. People who take part in campus life tend to identify with their school more, and those who have a strong sense of identity with their school are more successful. And, let’s not forget, part of your development can be enhanced by participation in extracurricular events and organizations. You might learn to speak more easily in front of people, learn how to actively listen to others, begin to appreciate team work and group dynamics, overcome shyness, or learn interactive communication skills. In addition, often extracurricular activities look great on your college resume and to future employers. In fact, many times graduates pursue their passions more often than their majors in careers. Donald Trump says you should always do what you love, and extracurricular involvement is a wonderful way to explore possible passions.
It’s not only about you and what you gain either. Giving back to the college is a good feeling and happens to empower you as well as give you some voice and influence over your college experience. You can also support friends by attending events they are participating in. It’s a way of networking, which, after all, does come back to help you in the end, doesn’t it!
Types of Involvement
You should be able to find something to belong to or take part in. Most every campus offers a good variety of activities, events, and organizations that provide extracurricular experience. The problem may be just finding them or realizing they exist for your interest. There are:
- Social activities: fraternities, sororities, ski trips, kayaking clubs, etc.
- Sports: intramurals, athletic varsity teams, tennis, swimming, workout clubs, etc.
- Academic pursuits: language clubs, poetry readings, debates, presentations, etc.
- Hobby clubs/organizations: flying, mountain climbing, forensics, chess groups
- Volunteer opportunities: Habitat for Humanity, food distribution programs, mentoring, tutoring, etc.
- Religious affiliations: non-denominational and denominational services, study groups, charities, etc.
- Political organizations: student government, student boards, Young Republicans, Young Democrats, etc.
- Lifestyle groups: LGBTQ organizations, international clubs, women’s groups, etc.
- Campus opportunities: newspaper, radio station, scholars groups, study abroad programs, etc.
- Recreational activities: drama productions, dances, musical concerts, readings, comedy, etc.
- Pre-professional clubs: Organization for Teaching Excellence, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) , Future Leaders of America, American Marketing Association (AMA), etc.
This is just the tip of the iceberg!
Some Advice about Joining Activities
Don’t overdo your first semester, even your first year: Even though you may have been very active in high school, college academic expectations and demands may differ for you and time may be an important resource. It is suggested you try one to two activities to begin with so you will not over extend yourself. Let’s see how you do on your first set of exams before you get too involved.
Maybe joining the fraternity/sorority should wait till sophomore year: Pledging and going through a fraternity or sorority initiation takes a lot of time and energy, and if it happens in the first semester, a time when you are adjusting to so many things, you may quickly get behind in your studies. Also, you may get swept up in a rush program, by the influence of your friends, or in the general excitement, then make a choice that you would not make later after you have had time to take stalk of how you may change in college and of what the different character of each fraternity/sorority is. Take the time to scout out all possibilities in your own time and way. You want the best fit when you join, or you want to make sure you really want to belong to such an organization.
Don’t dismiss something without trying it. Don’t believe you do not like something unless you are basing that belief on experience. A college student should be broad-minded enough not to stereotype or make decisions with too little information. Try new things. Have you ever attended a symphony, been to the opening of an art exhibit, attended a play? If you don’t like it, you can leave. If it ends up you like an activity, you have only gained.