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Getting Involved on Campus

Acceptance into an institution of higher learning indicates the beginning of the transition into adulthood. Besides obtaining a well-rounded education, college students have many opportunities to enrich their lives with new experiences, new relationships, and community service; as well as laying the foundation for friendships and future career successes. From my own experiences in college and that of the students I served these past 20 years, I have learned that the college years are the best years to explore the real world and the many possibilities that will enrich college life and beyond.

As a matter of fact, the best way to prepare for the real world is to get involved in various activities and college programs. Getting involved on campus will help students get familiar with their college community and the surrounding community. The experiences to which students will be exposed will certainly follow them beyond the commencement ceremony.

What benefits to getting involved may students expect?

There are various important benefits associated with becoming involved in college activities. The most important and personal perhaps is connecting. Students will be able to forge many friendships that may last a lifetime. Students will meet and interrelate with fellow students, faculty and staff from their own college as well as from other colleges. Students will also have the opportunity to interact and network with diverse professionals in their field of study and other supportive fields. Making these connections will help students feel included whether or not they are live-ins or commuters. Forging friendships will alleviate the usual homesickness and loneliness. Additionally, students are exposed to diverse culture, opinions and opportunities that may be of value in their futures.

Another benefit is that getting involved will enrich the college experience of the students. The things that students learn while participating in extracurricular activities can have a significant impact on their college life and on their careers. In many cases, these experiences may be the reason that a company chooses one candidate for employment over another. It may also be the reason that a company goes after a well-rounded candidate instead of a candidate having to go after the job.

Having fun is one more benefit. The main objective for students is to learn by studying and attending classes; however, without respites the students may become overwhelmed. So, getting involved with extracurricular activities and having fun while doing these will help students relax and assuage any anxiety about their classes. Taking breaks from any tasks makes individuals more effective and more efficient.

There are other benefits depending on the activity, for example: learning or honing skills. They may learn to cooperate, communicate, or lead. These skills are necessary in order to be successful in high performing organizations. Students will have many opportunities to learn and sharpen their capacity for leadership when they run for office in any number of organizations or leading a community service group. Working in groups in college courses and in activities to reach a goal will give students the experience that will translate to teamwork in the workplace. Students also may learn how to handle themselves and others under unfamiliar situations, manage time effectively, and set priorities, as well as becoming organized.    There are many other benefits depending on the specific activity that will be left for students to discover.

How can students get involved?

First, students must look at their planners to make sure there is time to devote to possible activities.   Students should avoid over extending themselves to prevent undue stress and/or disappointing others by committing to more than what they can safely assume. In my experience, average students may be able to handle successfully the demands of two organizations.

Second, students can go to the Student Activities Office of the college they attend to find out the different organizations and programs existing on campus. Students can become part of a sports team, members of a dance group, representatives in the student government, members or officers of a social club or a discipline oriented organization.

A different type of opportunity to participate and belong is volunteering in a computer laboratory, library, or school office. In so doing, students will meet other stakeholders and learn more about the school environment. However, for those students in need of making a little extra money, a volunteer spot may lead to an offer of a paid job or the experience to obtain a job. By the same token, applying for a position like a peer advisor to help and guide other students during Open House or Orientation or to become an ambassador to help and guide visitors to the school are ways of making a little money while helping others and acclimating to the school environment.  

Attend club fairs and other events to learn as much as possible about the different organizations and activities to make sure these are a good fit. Choose things that appeal to you and that may be of use later on in the real world. But, keep in mind that if you join an organization and then find that you dislike it, that information is important to have before you commit to it after graduation.

Getting involved in extracurricular activities besides helping students interact with other people outside the classroom setting and obtaining skills and experience for their life after college, will also help make them better students. It is true that there will be a real danger of stress if students take on more than they can do. However, as long as the students do not over extend, the commitment that participating in these activities engender will translate to the classroom. Many of these organizations require students to keep their GPA high in order to join and to remain as members; therefore, they can’t afford to ignore their studies. Students will be forced to organize themselves to get course work done and focus more intently on getting assignments done. Additionally, the benefit that taking a total break from studying helps students refresh and get back to studying with more energy.

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