You’ve made the trip, moved into your dorm, met your roommate. Mom and dad are gone and you’ve survived your first day of classes. What’s next for a new college student? The habits you start in your first days as a freshman will lay the groundwork for your success throughout college. The best part? It’s easy to take advantage of one of the greatest opportunities available to help college students grow and succeed: getting involved with your campus or community.
Much of your college career will happen outside of the classroom. Although your studies should be top priority, getting involved on campus is a great way to ease the transition into college and help you gain experience for your resume. Studies show that those who are involved in activities outside the classroom are more engaged and have greater academic success in college. In addition, many employers indicate that they look for real-world experience when interviewing recent college graduates. So, what are you waiting for? The reward that you can gain from getting involved in part-time jobs, volunteer work, campus organizations and industry-related groups will follow you well beyond college graduation.
An obvious advantage to getting involved is the opportunity to meet new people. Joining a club or organization allows you the benefit of making friends and networking with those who share your similar interests, goals and values. This can be especially helpful for commuter students who would otherwise leave campus as soon as class is dismissed. Students who are involved in campus activities often feel more connected to the school, campus and people, increasing their satisfaction with their college experience and reducing the likelihood of transferring schools or dropping out all together.
Employers want to see college graduates with real-world experience. Getting involved in a campus or career-related organization can help you gain leadership experience, improve communication skills, and provide you the opportunity to work as a team to solve problems. Helping your organization achieve its goals, such as increasing membership or organizing a special project or program will help you stand out to potential employers in the future. Your school’s campus serves as a representation of life after college, where the concepts are ever important to your future success. On campus, you can apply these skills to real-world situations in a safe environment.
Few extracurricular activities can beat the experience gained through a part-time job. Working while in college demonstrates your ability to manage time, communicate with supervisors, take direction, work as part of a team, and manage stress. Look for part-time jobs related to your major. For example, a job on campus in a lab for a student majoring in chemistry, or as a counselor in an after-school program for an elementary education major provides that real-world experience employers are looking for. As a plus, you will have a greater chance of meeting professionals in a field of work that interests you, therefore building your network of people. After all, there is some truth in the saying “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”
Volunteering is great way to explore a potential career field while building on your existing skill sets. In addition, it demonstrates to potential employers that your time management skills have enabled you to fit an unpaid position into your busy schedule. Opportunities on campus can include things such student government involvement, working as a campus tour guide, or helping with a campus-wide event. You can also volunteer with local organizations in the community. Check out www.VolunteerIowa.org to find organizations seeking volunteers. Even if you don’t find a volunteer opportunity that matches your major, you can probably find one that will use skills you hope to develop in the workplace. Keep track of the things that you learned from each experience so you can use that information later. If you stay in touch with the people in charge, they may be willing to be a reference for you during your future job search.
Extracurricular activities can be just as important to potential employers as your GPA, but that doesn’t mean you can let your grades fall. The key to successful campus involvement is finding balance between your school work and activities. A more structured day can help to decrease procrastination; however having too much on your plate can become overwhelming. To find ways to get involved on your campus, visit your student activities or campus life office, stop by your academic department, check out the school calendar, and search the school website. Most come at little or no additional cost to you, but can add plenty in the way of college and work experience.