Want a meaningful college experience? Join the club!

Can’t find a club for your interests? Start your own!

Grades, grades, grades. That can’t be all college is about — can it? University professionals suggest that academic growth is only one of the many types of student development in college. Still, for the typical college freshman who first stumbles on to campus and sets his eyes upon the hundreds of students marching around, the idea of finding a suitable extracurricular niche, group or activity can seem daunting.

Take a breath: The short- and long-term benefits of joining a club far outweigh the initial anxiety. Here are three expert-approved reasons for becoming involved in a student organization:

Networking

According to Hikaru Kozuma, the executive director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Office of Student Affairs, one outcome of club involvement is increased professional interaction.

“As part of a student organization, [students] can interact with staff, faculty and other members of the surrounding community to learn how to collaborate and work with others,” he says. This is an especially vital skill, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics affirms that 70 percent of jobs are found through networking.

Leadership skills
In addition to socializing with students who have similar interests, Gina D’Annunzio, director of student activities at Temple University, argues that extracurricular involvement also brings a long-term benefit: workplace competencies.

“My student organizations helped me create examples in job interviews for times when I completed a project from start to finish, worked in a team and showed initiative,” she says. “Those are things that you can use that are tangible and marketable.”

Although some may worry that too much club involvement could take away from a student’s focus on scholastic endeavors, D’Annunzio points to an impressive statistic gathered from a 2010 Student Leadership Assessment showing that 98 percent of actively involved students report that extracurricular participation actually improved their GPAs.

Socialization and belonging

Building the framework for a support group and sense of belonging can be the difference between success and failure. Denise Fitzpatrick, who oversees the Cherry Crusade athletic “fan club” at Temple University, says that she witnesses the students involved in her club not only having fun, but also using their friendships for both personal and academic support.
   
“They really enjoy it because they get to travel to away games and create friendships and bonds. A lot of them are taking classes together and have similar majors, and some of them even eventually       become roommates.”


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