Most students will be eager to avail themselves of opportunities for extracurricular activities while at college. Often, the activities are free or very cheap and provide a chance for the student to get to know a wide range of people, as well as have fun. However, there are more important reasons that you should take on extracurricular activities in college than just instant gratification. Even if you are shy, you should make an effort to become involved in the social side of college, because, for a number of reasons, it will be hugely advantageous in the future.
Allows student to identify with a peer group
It can be hard to make and maintain a sense of belonging, especially during the first term at college. Part of this will come from the friends that you make on your course and who live nearby. However, joining a club or society will enable you to make a completely different set of friends and, because you all have an interest in common, you will develop strong bonds. This can particularly be seen in students who take on sporting activities, because the team spirit involved can really help ensure your social integration and develop your sense of self-identity. The relationships that you build are likely to continue after you have graduated.
Helps develop communication skills
Meeting a wide range of people is bound to develop your communication skills, especially if the people you meet through extracurricular activities are people that you may not usually come across. Perhaps they come from a completely different background, or their approach to life conflicts with the way you have been brought up. Whatever the reason, it is important to realise that you will constantly come across a range of people during your lifetime and the sooner you mix with them and learn to appreciate their points of view, the sooner you will learn to accept people from all walks of life. This will be vital for your future career.
Improves leadership skills
Many extracurricular activities will provide you with the opportunity to develop your leadership skills, particularly if you are asked, or opt, to take an administrative role within the group. You can use this to build up your resume, which will probably be short on work experience, and will hopefully impress potential employers. In addition, when you start working, you will be much better equipped to cope with leadership roles, which will hopefully accelerate promotion in your chosen career. This is particularly a good opportunity for those who are shy, because the support from friends and peers will help build up their confidence before entering a working environment.
Develops useful contacts
In many ways, college is a training ground for your career; you will have the time to develop many skills that you can later use in your job. Perhaps most importantly, through extracurricular activities, you will have the opportunity to mix with people who may be useful contacts for you in the future. Of course, this also includes people that you will meet as part of your course, but all friends and acquaintances, especially those with whom you have forged close bonds through your social life, could prove to be supportive. When starting and developing a career, it is often who you know rather than what you know that is most helpful.
Improves student retention
Research by Vincent Tinto in 1987 showed that students who had a positive experience at college through inclusion were more likely to stay on at college and remember their college days fondly. Other research suggests that this sense of belonging not only improves retention, but results in higher academic success, because those who become involved with one aspect of college and have a good experience tend to carry that through into all areas of their student days. Those who are involved in extracurricular activities, but do struggle with their studying at times, are able to turn to a number of different people for support, who will hopefully encourage them to work through the issues and stay on at college.
Good for mental health
College can be an incredibly stressful time. You are away from home for probably the first time, everything is new and, then when you have got used to things and settled down, there are exams and assignments to get through. An outlet for stress is a great way of coping and there is no better way to do this than via an extracurricular activity. If it involves sport, that is even better, because a healthy body is a prerequisite for a healthy mind. However, the key thing is that you have a regular activity that you enjoy, enables you to mix with others and gives you something else to think about other than the stressful parts of your college life.
Studying is probably the main reason that you go to college and certainly, you want to come away at the end of it with a good qualification. However, developing your character and personal skills is also vital and extracurricular activities are play an important role in doing that.