Engaging with Your Campus Community Outside of Class
Social engagement in college is a critical aspect of your well-being and personal development. Community involvement outside of class can take on many forms, including organized extracurricular activities. The social connections made outside of the classroom have many benefits for well-being. They can be protective factors for depression, anxiety, minor illnesses, and substance abuse and helpful for managing stress. Extracurricular opportunities can provide an outlet for expression and allow students to participate in activities they are passionate about, explore new interests, meet other people with similar or diverse perspectives, apply what is being learned outside of the classroom, and in many instances, practice time management. In addition, these activities can help you:
- Learn more about your unique strengths
- Develop your leadership skills
- Improve your ability to interact with diverse people in a group or team setting
- Expand your future career network
- Feel a sense of purpose while contributing to your campus or local community
Getting the Balance Right
You are in college to learn, and your studies are important. However, focusing on work all the time can hurt rather than help. Limiting your opportunities to get involved on campus can hinder your transition to college by making it more difficult to meet people and find spaces and groups within your community that make it feel like home. Students who don’t get involved in campus activities struggle more with homesickness, depression, and other emotional concerns.
You don’t have to fill your entire schedule with extra-curricular activities. You should focus on the quality or depth of an experience rather than the quantity of experiences. This means that participating in one thing you find especially meaningful yields more emotional and academic benefits than participating in multiple activities. Getting involved in too many activities can actually have the opposite effect on your grades and well-being.
Activities are participatory, not permanent. It is ok to try something out and evaluate whether it is working for you. If you find a commitment to be too much, take a step back. Moreover, you can explore multiple interests without doing everything all at once. If you find four things that interest you, you can try one activity for one semester or year and move onto another experience next year. This can allow you to pursue multiple interests without pursuing too many at once.
Finding the Activity that Is Right for You
There are many ways you can seek a meaningful co-curricular experience. Typically, colleges and universities will host involvement fairs at the beginning of each semester. While the commitment level for each activity varies, they all provide a space for students to build connections with others and connections to campus.
Here are some types of involvement to consider:
Recreational Club or Student Organization
Recreational clubs can represent a range of interests, including academic, cultural, athletic, arts, faith-based, and more. Such organizations meet weekly or bi-weekly and often host events. General member attendance at meetings and events is optional.
Governing Board or Campus Programming Organization
Organizations like student government or campus activity boards require greater commitment than a recreational organization because membership usually includes a committee or embedded leadership position. These groups typically meet on a weekly basis, and programming groups host several events throughout the year.
Club Athletic Teams
If you would like to continue competitive athletic involvement without the commitment required by varsity athletics, club sports teams may be for you. Club sports teams are funded by student fees and compete against other college and university teams. They are typically more intense than intramural leagues as well.
Intramural Leagues and Group Fitness
Intramural leagues and group fitness programs often meet 1-2 times per week and provide great opportunities for fitness and social opportunity without the competitiveness of club or varsity athletics. Both also provide students the opportunity to learn new sports.
Volunteer and Service Learning Opportunities
Volunteer organizations and programs provide ways for students to give their time to better the community. Service learning organizations and programs take it one step further, pairing service with academic preparation and reflection.
Student Leadership Positions within an Organization or Department
Individual student organizations often have Executive Board positions that require more commitment than general membership. E-board members ensure the organization carries out its mission and goals. Academic and student-serving departments may also have leadership positions such as resident assistants, orientation leaders, peer educators, peer tutors, and more.
Student Employment or Work-Study Positions
These are on-campus employment positions. Commitment levels would vary. Study employment and work-study positions allow students the opportunity to build mentor relationships with their supervisors and gain valuable career skills.
There are a variety of benefits and a plethora of pathways to get involved on campus. Just remember that it’s a balancing act. Not getting involved in anything or too much involvement can both lead to imbalance and have negative impacts on your well-being and grades. Finding one activity that gives you a depth of experience to supplement your academics can provide just the right balance to bolster success.