BY ANTON LUCANUS
There is no doubt that heading to college is a daunting experience for many students.
Aside from the sudden upheaval from your established daily routines, it also comes with new challenges of academia, different study workloads, practical assessments, and group projects. It’s easy to assume that with all this going on, getting involved in the social side of your college will have a negative impact on your performance and grades. However, that notion couldn’t be further from the truth.
Engaging with co-curricular activities outside of your studies provides great benefit for both practical and personal reasons. It can teach valuable life skills, like time management or team organization, which can be applied across all areas of life, as well as providing you with the opportunity to form life-long friendships and make useful connections.
The benefits for becoming involved with these types of activities continue long after graduation. According to Marilyn Andrews, former Pro-Vice Chancellor of Keele University in the UK, “Engagement with non-academic pursuits is not only beneficial to student development, but is known to be highly valued by employers.”
Participation in co-curricular activities has benefits outside of the realms of academia and employment too, with many researchers illustrating how being involved in non-academic, social activities can create more ethical and understanding students, building skills like intercultural competence and allowing students to understand people from different walks of life.
Most institutions have a wide variety of options. Sporting activities like track and field or basketball are popular. So are cultural clubs, such as a university Korean society, which focus on developing cultural understanding and appreciation. Most political alignments and religions are also represented by organizations amongst the student body. You could even join a University drama club and learn the behind the scenes of theatre production. No matter what your interests or major, finding a club or sporting activity you love won’t be too difficult.
One co-curricular activity that is becoming increasingly popular, and one that I chose during my degree, is running a student startup. Some friends and I built academic repository software to help researchers at our university share their data online (the website is still running today and we still keep it updated). Not only was the experience fun, it was also helpful for academics at the university and it taught us invaluable teamwork, managerial, financial and entrepreneurial skills that simply couldn’t be obtained by attending classes in a regular degree. We learnt to pitch ideas to others, work to a budget, calculate risks, and acquire users. If you have some success, a startup can even provide income to pay your loans and textbooks.
One of the most important things to remember during this time is that tertiary education is what you make of it. Being willing to step up and seize opportunities is an important life skill on its own. Of course, as with everything else in life, it always pays to use common sense. Don’t sign yourself up to ten different clubs and societies in your first week, or suddenly try to involve yourself a few weeks before the end of a semester. Both are sure-fire ways to get burnt out or make a bad impression. You don’t want your co-curricular activities to contribute additional stress to your daily life. Too often people think about co-curricular activities as indicators of success or stepping-stones to a high-paying job. Instead of adopting this attitude, let your choice of activity provide some stress-relief and a welcome change of pace from regular classes and homework.
Whatever activity you decide to pursue, it’s important to focus on quality over quantity. Ideally you want to choose something that is both relevant and interesting to your skills and studies. This is an opportunity to actively pursue your passions, so don’t focus solely on what will look good on your CV. Employers look to your experience outside of study to differentiate you from other candidates, gauge your personality, and to understand what sort of fit you might be for the company.
Byline – Anton Lucanus is the Director of Neliti. During his college years, he maintained a perfect GPA, was published in a top cancer journal, and received many of his country’s most prestigious undergraduate scholarships. Anton writes for The College Puzzle as a means to share the lessons learnt throughout his degree and to guide current students to achieve personal and educational fulfilment during college life.