It is a hectic, stressful, hair-graying, frustrating, schedule-juggling, if-she-emails-me-one-more-time beautiful and life-changing experience. It is college and it is freakin’ awesome. They say that students nowadays are willing to pay ridiculous amounts of money to obtain a higher education that offers the “full college experience.” Let’s get one thing straight: I can tell you right now they don’t mean classes. Universities across the nation are raising tuition costs left and right because, among other expenses, they are competing with one another to offer all the different programs, services and opportunities young America is so desperately looking for.
Why, then, is so much emphasis put on academics? Although academic success is necessary, I mean, you are paying for it after all, the most important aspect of college is not killing yourself to get the best grade possible. It’s not pulling unhealthy all-nighters or being the first person to raise your hand after the professor’s every question. College life is about succeeding in the classroom while also participating in extracurricular activities that help to develop you as a student and as a potential employee. What matters is your ability to maintain that strong grade point average while also keeping up some sort of interactive, non-academic life. The ability to juggle your overall student experience - classes, work, clubs, fun - is what employers want to see because once college is over, you’ll need to juggle a whole lot more - work, bills, commute, life. And this is what you’re paying for.
As a Rutgers student I was involved with the Student Life department since my college career began. I served on a few different student organizations and volunteer groups, both run by the Student Life department. Through my involvement with the department, I became an official member of the Student Life family, which at RU is a very highly recognized and respected group of talented, enthusiastic and innovative students. Along with Student Life, I was involved with Dining Services, Career Services and Athletics. Unfortunately, I had to graduate but – here’s the good news – unlike many post-grads, I graduated with a job offer.
My full-time job, however, was not earned from my degree or my course studies or my grades. I got this job because I had experience in programming, event-planning and leadership. Being involved in college can help you to learn many desired work-related skills such as time management, problem solving, and responsibility. But it can also do so much more, trust me. Becoming involved in organizations and clubs while in school can help you to build lifelong friendships, develop your leadership skills and most importantly build a strong, close-knit network of professionals for your job search. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
The first and easiest part about getting involved at school is that you get to make friends! It is highly likely that the groups you join will comprise students with similar interests, otherwise, why join the group? These settings are a great place to blow off some steam about school and have some fun while doing it. Not to mention, there is almost always free food at student events so you’ll even get a free meal every once in a while. Score! You can try new things like different cultural foods, recreational activities and explore new locations on campus. Although many organizations have obligations to meet and goals to accomplish, somehow it doesn’t seem so bad getting things done with friends.
Secondly, organizing different programs, meetings, and conferences can be very difficult even for professionals. Getting involved on campus will deliver you the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities required in the professional world. Even as an underclassman, you can find a plethora of leadership opportunities on campus from becoming a general member of an organization to starting your own club. These kinds of activities are huge resume boosters as they prove to potential employers that you are able to lead a group of students and act in a professional manner to complete a goal. As a student leader, other students will come to you for advice, suggestions and mentoring. Over the course of your years in school, you can move up the ladder and take on leadership responsibilities as you become more skilled. The progression in leadership will show employers that you are capable, reliable and dedicated.
Not only will you make friends and become a leader, you’ll have unlimited opportunities to network with the extremely talented professional staff at your school. As a student leader you can meet professionals from many offices including career services, academic advising, dining services and many, many more. The professional staff are excellent references and resources to have in your future as they will be the people you work very closely with to progress your student’s organization. These people will be able to vouch for your success as an involved student and employers will trust their expertise more so than, say, a professor who barely knows your name. Your place as an involved student will also get you to experience diversity, first hand. Interaction with other students, faculty, and staff, creates an opportunity to learn something about yourself, others and the world around you.
You may be thinking, “Why would I want to take on more work?” or “I don’t have time for anything else.” My argument is that when you’re doing something you love, work is not a job. Being involved at school shouldn’t be perceived as a chore. It is an amazing, life-changing opportunity to meet people who are both similar to and different than you. Your training and experiences will give you specific skills and abilities that employers are looking for. And you’ll significantly expand your network of references by interacting with professional staff members who care about you and your future. So I ask you today...please don’t be a 4.0 try-hard. Don’t be that kid. Be the kid who couldn’t ask for a better college experience.