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If you’re ready to jump into extracurricular activities, you might want to slow down first. By doing some research and refining your activities list, you’ll be able to happily balance life in and out of the classroom.
Where to Begin?
Many schools have activity fairs that showcase different ways to get involved. Erica D., a senior at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, says, “It’s the best way to get information about existing and new clubs.” You can also contact group organizers, your school’s student activities department, and cultural groups for more information. If you’re looking for a job or internship, contact your career center and speak with your academic advisors.
Activities are a chance to continue a favorite pastime, try something new, make friends, or even prepare for a career. While sticking to activities that match your career goals might look impressive on your résumé, also consider what makes you happiest, such as volunteering in your community. These experiences also boost your credentials and demonstrate commitment.
Most students need to consider money. Jobs are a great way to gain experience, and there are plenty that are fun, too. For example, if you’re a musician, look for jobs at local venues. If you’re a budding astronomer, see if the nearest observatory needs someone to give tours.
If you’re deciding between a mediocre paid internship and a fabulous unpaid one, use your best judgment and ask for advice. Think about what will give you the best experience, and which you can afford both time- and money-wise.
Tips for Choosing
- Do I need to make money?
- How much time do I have to offer?
- How does this fit with my academic and career goals?
- What do I want to get out of this experience? (E.g., Am I looking to share my culture, meet new people, volunteer, or express myself creatively?)
- Do I want to be active? Are there intramurals that interest me?
- Am I joining something because I feel pressured?
- How will I balance academic and extracurricular commitments?
Quality Over Quantity
By not spreading yourself too thin, you’ll be able to contribute in meaningful ways and still have time for relaxation and schoolwork. “I consulted with people who were already involved to see how much time each [activity] would take,” says Sara G., a junior at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Michigan.
Nicole Surething, director of counseling and psychological services at University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, suggests starting with one or two activities. After a few weeks, reevaluate your schedule and routine. Tijana S., a senior at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts, says, “As a freshman it’s okay to check out all kinds of clubs. Find the ones that speak to you and stick with them.” But remember that academics come first.
Surething says many students overcommit to extracurricular activities and wind up feeling stuck and overwhelmed. “‘No’ is actually a good boundary,” she explains.
By telling group members what you’re willing to do, you’ll be taking care of yourself and helping the club or activity to prosper.
If you need help prioritizing, speak with a trusted advisor or counselor. More experienced students and club leaders are also a resource.
No matter which activities you choose, with balance you’ll be a well-adjusted, productive member of the team.
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