By Vaidehi Bulusu, Press & Written Media Team
College offers an incredible number of extracurricular opportunities. Whether you are interested in participating in weekly chess matches or spending a couple of months immersing yourself in a new country, you will probably find opportunities that cater to your interests.
Although you should prioritize academics as a college student, it’s also important to take advantage of opportunities outside of the classroom as they help you learn and grow in your professional as well as personal life. In no particular order, here are ten extracurricular opportunities you should consider taking up while in college!
Benefits of Participating in Extracurricular Activities
Before we get to the list of extracurriculars, let’s first talk about the benefits of participating in them.
First of all, there are social benefits. Extracurricular activities give you the opportunity to meet people who share your interests. This allows you to make new friends as well as grow your professional network, which not only enriches your social life but is also an invaluable resource for your career. For example, you can learn about internship and job opportunities from your network, and even request referrals.
Building on the previous point, participating in extracurriculars benefits your career in other ways as well. It allows you to develop skills and gain knowledge in areas of interest while exploring different areas and learning about your likes and dislikes. If you are curious about data science, for example, you can join an on-campus data science club and see if you find the topics you are engaging with interesting. This also allows you to identify your strengths and weaknesses, which in turn helps you decide the career path to pursue.
Furthermore, you learn another important life skill: managing multiple commitments simultaneously. Juggling academics and extracurricular activities is a challenge. Taking on this challenge will help you hone important skills like time management and organization.
List of Extracurricular Opportunities
- On-campus clubs and student organizations
Several colleges have as many as a thousand clubs and student organizations for different types of activities, such as academics, sports, journalism and music. Being a part of clubs and student organizations is a great way to regularly socialize with like-minded peers and learn more about topics you’re interested in.
Moreover, it is a great way to build a portfolio of your work. For instance, writing for your school newspaper allows you to accumulate a portfolio of your published writings which would greatly benefit you in your internship or job search for journalism roles.
Many clubs also host workshops and other events, such as workshops on resume and cover letter writing. You may even get the opportunity to listen to and interact with notable guest speakers!
While we’re talking about clubs and student organizations, we can also talk about leadership opportunities. It’s no secret that leadership positions look good on your resume, but they also have non-professional benefits. Perhaps the most important one is that you get to create an impact by implementing your ideas.
Many clubs and student organizations open up applications for leadership roles every semester or year. Be on the lookout for these openings in the clubs you are involved in. Being an active participant in the club by not missing any meetings or deadlines will benefit your application.
You can also run for the student government if you’re interested in creating campus-wide impact. The student government in most colleges has different branches — academic support, extracurriculars, finance, student technology and the like — so there are several leadership positions available (other than the student body president).
Many universities have research programs specific to undergraduate students that allow them to be a research assistant or apprentice to a researcher. These opportunities are available in a variety of fields, from biology to economics. Taking up research is especially beneficial if you are considering pursuing it and/or want to apply to grad school in the future.
It is possible to find research opportunities even if your university doesn’t have such programs. You can contact professors and grad students asking them if you can help out. Make sure that you first have the necessary skills. Although it varies depending on the field, participating in research typically requires some data science skills.
Having good written communication skills is beneficial — and even necessary — irrespective of whether you want to become a writer. You will find yourself having to do a lot of writing in college (like those essays we all submit a minute before the deadline) and in the workplace (such as emails, reports and presentations). This is why it is worth investing time in developing your writing skills.
College offers numerous extracurricular opportunities through which you can achieve this. For example, you can write an op-ed for your college newspaper. This will give you the chance to work with editors who will provide valuable feedback on your writing.
Many colleges also have economics, business, law and science reviews. If you are interested in specific fields, you can try writing for such publications.
5. Study abroad
Studying abroad is one of the most enriching and educational experiences that a college student can have. It allows you to experience a new culture, possibly one that is completely different from your own, and visit new landmarks, such as natural wonders and museums. Additionally, you can take courses for your major in a different country, which would give you an international perspective on the topics you are studying. You can also expand your social circle across the globe by connecting with people from a different part of the world!
Most colleges partner with other organizations (especially universities) to offer study abroad programs to their students. There are 3 broad types of programs they typically offer: student exchange, language immersion and studying courses at other colleges. You can also choose how long you would like to spend abroad: one semester (or term) or a full year.
College students have different options for paying for study abroad. One thing you could do is take up a part-time job and save your earnings. Colleges also offer scholarships and other types of financial aid to help you pay.
6. Teaching assistant positions
If you have a strong grasp of the concepts you studied in a class and enjoy explaining them to others, you can consider becoming a teaching assistant. Many colleges are looking for undergraduate teaching assistants, typically to help professors teach introductory courses.
This is a great way to earn an income that you can save or use for your personal expenses. Even if the position is not paid, there are several benefits of becoming an undergraduate teaching assistant. You can gain work experience which is especially useful if you are interested in pursuing a career in teaching roles. Your TA experience is also beneficial for other positions as it shows potential employers that you have good communication skills and mastery of the course material.
7. Tutoring and peer mentorship
On that note, another extracurricular activity you can consider taking up is tutoring. Tutoring involves providing additional academic support to students for a particular course. This includes explaining concepts to students and clarifying their doubts, and pointing them to resources that can help them improve their performance in the course. You can tutor pretty much any subject you’re good at, from physics to history to writing. It is a great way to help your peers, improve your own understanding of the course material and develop communication skills. Some tutoring positions are even paid!
Peer mentorship is similar to tutoring in that you support students with the concerns they are having. Peer mentorship opportunities are available in different areas, such as academics and extracurriculars, and for specific students, such as incoming freshmen, international students and students in minority communities. For instance, as an academic peer mentor, your responsibilities may include helping students decide which major to pursue, choose classes for the semester and develop an academic plan to complete all their requirements on time.
8. Internships and work
Internships are an important experience for your professional development. They give you insight into what working in a particular field looks like. For example, you can take up internships in the field of your major (e.g. data science internships if you’re a data science major) to see how the concepts you are studying in the classroom are applied in practice. This helps you decide whether or not you should pursue a career in that field. Internships also allow you to gain work experience, which makes it easier for you to find a job after graduation.
Internships can be paid or unpaid. Before taking up an unpaid internship, you should really think about whether the non-monetary benefits of the position are worth the time and effort you are putting in.
Apart from internships, students also have other opportunities for part-time and full-time work. Some examples of student employment opportunities colleges offer include administrative and resident advisor positions.
Volunteering is a great way to engage with your community and support the causes you care about, be it tackling climate change or reducing educational inequality. By volunteering, you’re able to apply the skills you have learned towards solving problems. Many nonprofits are constantly on the lookout for volunteers to join their team; you can learn about these opportunities on platforms like LinkedIn.
Colleges also offer volunteering positions. We have discussed a few of them above, such as tutoring and peer mentorship. You can also volunteer by providing note-taking accommodations for students with disabilities.
10. Personal projects
If you’ve always had a lot of interesting ideas for personal projects, college is the time to start working on them! Projects are a great way to explore your interests and exercise your creativity without the external pressure of having to perform well (the kind that you may face if you’re working on projects for, say, a club). They are also especially useful if you want to pursue a career in tech. You can build your portfolio on GitHub (or a similar website) which you can then link in your resume.
Personal projects, like a blog or YouTube channel, are also a tool for self-expression. If you are comfortable sharing your thoughts on the internet, you may want to consider taking up these activities. It’s easier to set up a website or YouTube channel now than ever as there are a ton of free online resources to help you.
A lot of the activities we discussed above, such as research and study abroad, are only offered in college. Make the most of these opportunities!
However, while there are a lot of benefits of participating in extracurriculars, it’s important to look after your mental health. You also have to prioritize classes and maintain a social life, so try to avoid overloading your schedule with extracurricular activities beyond what you can reasonably handle. Good luck!
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