A college campus can seem intimidating and overwhelming. Student activities in college serve as a way to become a part of the campus community. Participating in a student organization, recreational sports or academic club provides an instant opportunity to make new friends and feel socially connected. Extracurricular activities encourage risk taking and are an easy way to develop new interests. Involved students have fun and learn to make a difference.
Staying in College
Getting involved in extracurricular activities helps college students become comfortable with the campus environment. Social connections developed through student engagement provide peer support that increases positive feelings about the collegiate experience. This is even more important during the first year of college when transitioning to a new environment, away from home, is critical. Leaving an established peer group from high school can lead to a sense of loneliness. Students who get involved are more likely to stay in school and thrive in a new environment, according to the authors of "The Keys to First-Year Student Persistence."
Joining a student organization or becoming a student leader helps students become employed after graduating from college. Employers are seeking college graduates who can multitask, manage their time effectively and lead others; involvement in student activities demonstrates these skills, according to David Wierschem, Department Chair at McCoy College of Business Administration. Selecting the right extracurricular activity is critical. When a students are involved in an academic club that enhances their classroom learning, they show commitment to their academic discipline. Adding a community service activity indicates an interest in citizenship and becoming more globally minded.
Students who are more involved in extracurricular activities learn to balance their time. This often leads to an interest in taking more credits and successfully completing more classes. Having a role as a member or leader in an organization develops a sense of purpose and encourages academic achievement. Some student organizations require a minimum grade-point average for members which serves as a motivator to do well. Other organizations include mandatory study times or provide peer tutoring to encourage academic excellence. Getting involved in extracurricular activities connects students with academic resources and in some cases, sets standards of achievement.
Extracurricular activities provide an avenue for the development of leadership skills. Most student organizations have a faculty or staff adviser that provides guidance and education about how to be an effective leader. Involved students may have the opportunity to plan events, chair a committee or learn how to manage a budget. Students who take the initiative to join a student organization demonstrate an investment in bettering themselves as campus community members and student leaders. Leading a group of students gives students the chance to develop communication skills and provide direction to peers.
Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years. She has numerous publications with Talico, Inc., DynaTEAM Consulting, Inc. and Kinect Education Group.