Sometimes what you learn outside of the classroom is just as important as what you learn within it.
While the meaty parts of knowledge often take root in the lecture hall, extra-curricular activities not only help you learn crucial life skills but also can make you a more appealing hire.
Post-secondary institutions are also interested in extra-curricular activities because they want to invite students who’ve shown they are more likely to succeed.
“Don’t think of it in terms of getting into university, think of it in terms of skills we all need to be successful in life. Things like being able to work in a team, leadership, those are skills that will serve you well and they’re the kinds of things we look for in the admissions process,” said Andrew Arida, associate director of enrolment at the University of British Columbia.
Meg O’Mahony, a high school biology teacher at the University of Toronto Schools (UTS), has helped students from her Grade 10 and 11 classes get involved in the Canon Envirothon competition in order to give them experience in the way real-world issues are dealt with.
The extra-curricular program is one of North America’s largest high school environmental competitions which challenges students on their problem-solving, teamwork and knowledge skills to deal with problems like a groundwater shortage or long-term river erosion.
“It’s a good resume thing but I also see some nice changes in the students themselves. Good general learning in terms of problem solving is the best kind of experience you can get. It’s phenomenal what students come up with,” O’Mahony said.
Once in university, don’t let the classroom be your only destination.
Glen Weppler, director of student community life at Ryerson University, says Ryerson makes it a priority to offer students a wealth of extra-curricular options to expand themselves.
“Our goal is to encourage students to get involved,” Weppler said.
Employers tend to look favourably upon leadership and real-world experiences so taking on some meaningful, out-of-classroom commitments can be powerful way to stand out from the crowd.
Since January 2009 at the University of Calgary, new students to the campus have had the option of having all their extra-curricular activities recognized and tracked on an official co-curricular record.
The document includes activities verified by the university such as varsity clubs, student government and volunteer activities and students can apply to have activities which aren’t listed included as well.
The co-curricular record also tracks hours spent, making it an ideal way for employers to track a student’s experience in a particular activity. “These sorts of things give students really practical skills they can bring to employers,” said UCal vice-provost of students Ann Tierney.