Why You Should Get Involved on Campus

This week’s blog post on getting involved on campus is in collaboration with Nicole from Behind the Classroom, where she shares tips and information for students, teachers, and parents. She is a high school teacher in Washington State, near Seattle and teaches English and Social Studies. While many of her posts are geared towards parents and teachers, she also shares info for students, like this post on why you need to cite your work. Make sure to check her website out!

Today we’re sharing more information about campus involvement, including:
👉 What is campus involvement?
👉 What are the benfits of campus involvement?
👉 How can you get involved?
👉 What can you do in high school to prepare?

What is Campus Involvement?

Also known as student involvement or extracurricular activities (because they are in addition to the curricular activities – your courses), campus involvement is a broad term to describe some of the ways that students can be connected to their university and fellow students. I’ve provided some examples below, so keep reading!

What are the Benefits of Getting Involved on Campus?

Why is it so important to get involved on your university campus? There are so many benefits to being involved on your campus:
✅ fostering a sense of belonging
✅ building your resume
✅ making new friends
✅ enhancing your life skills (aka “adulting”)

There is research that indicates students who feel a stronger sense of belonging on campus are more likely to finish their degrees. Being involved typically results in students feeling as though they belong and have a place on campus as it gives them more connection with others in the community. You may have the chance to work with higher-year students who may become official or unofficial mentors or friends, and you could connect with different staff or professors on campus who can support you.

You can also build your resume through campus involvement, whether that’s through the experiences you gain or the colleagues you work with becoming references. Depending on your level of involvement, you can gain hands-on experience working on team or being a leader, organizing events, managing finances and budgets, overseeing volunteers, and more.

Of course getting more engaged on your campus also means working with other students, so this is a great opportunity to meet people and make friends. You have the chance to meet some very diverse people on campus and build your circle of friends.

Being engaged on your campus is also a great way to build some life skills and feel more like an adult. Of course you’ll have to have good time management skills to fit things into your schedule, but you can also push yourself to speak to more people that you might not have met, or take on tasks as part of a team even if you’ve never done them before. These opportunities can give you enormous personal and professional growth during your student years.

Examples of Campus Involvement Opportunities

Most universities will have an office for student engagement or involvement that will support many of these activities. If you haven’t come across this office yet, have a look for it on your university’s website and see what services they offer to support you as you navigate your journey in campus involvement!

Student Clubs

What are some common student clubs and organizations?

There are student clubs and organizations for almost anything. I have broken them into four categories here: based on culture, interest, discipline and career. Each university will have a different set of clubs and organizations. While some might be more common or be connected outside of the university, many of them will be unique to your university.

Culture-based clubs and organizations are focused around particular backgrounds. Examples of these might be: a Taiwanese student club, the Organization of Latin American Students, a Black Student Association, etc. These clubs are for students to connect and build community with those who may have similar cultural backgrounds and therefore have some experiences in common. They may also hold events for themselves, or to share or educate other students.

Other clubs are based around interests, which could be sports or other activities. Examples would include things like a Ski Club, Chess Club, Knitting Club, Gamers Club, Manga Club, etc.

Discipline-based organizations are those related to the areas of study. These might be clubs, organizations, associations, or student unions, and examples could include the Psychology Club, a departmental student organization, the English Students Union, and much more.

There are also what I would call career-based clubs, which are similar to interest-based clubs in that they are for students who are interested in learning more about a particular career. This might include an Consulting Club, Entrepreneurship Club, or Pre-Med club (which could also be considered discipline-based).

Basically, there are clubs and organizations for everything! You have no excuse to not find something that interests you on campus. Additionally, many universities will allow you to propose and launch a new club, which means you can get funding for something that doesn’t exist!

What does a student club do?

What a student club or organization does will really depend on what its purpose is! Generally speaking, though, they organize events and opportunities for students. This could mean networking events, social events, interest-related outings, competitions, hiring speakers, or even pub nights and concerts.

Student Unions

Student Unions are run by students and are usually autonomous (not run by the university). They are an elected gropu of representatives of the students, whoc an be called upon to represent the university’s students. They may oversee the student clubs and organizations on campus.

Student Unions will often be responsible for social events for students, and they may be involved in the political life on campus as well. They may decide to take student issues to the university to try to make changes. For example, most recently, during the pandemic, many student unions have been advocating for students as they faced numerous challenges related to remote learning and evaluation.

This type of involvement may be of interest to you if you enjoy politics or want to learn more about how public organizations run, but also if you just want to be involved in the governance of your university.

Mentorship Programs

Mentorship programs are great for students! You could be connected with a mentor who helps you navigate the campus, or helps your career take off. These programs might be run by your university, or they could be run by student groups, so make sure you keep an eye out for any mentorship programs that might be relevant to you.

In your later years, you may also have the opportuniy to become a mentor for younger or newer students! This is another way to expand your network, maybe make some friends, and get connected with other students.

Residence Life

There are a number of opportunities to be involved in residence. Typically, there are leadership positions available for students who want to take on a role where they support other students in the residence. These can be challenging positions where you support students through their personal and academic problems, but it can be very rewarding work.

Orientation Leaders

After your first year, you might decide you want to help new students feel at home and know their way around the university. If this is you, you might want to help with your uni’s orientation! Orientation leaders organize activities and serve as guides for new students who are just starting at the university. Sometimes these positions are for volunteers, and sometimes they are paid, but that will depend on how your university organizes orientation.

Volunteering

Universities always need volunteers for events on campus, so most unis have a website dedicated to this. These roles could be anything from holding a sign telling people where to park, to welcoming people to a reception or speaking event.

Campus Newspaper

You don’t have to be in a journalism program to work for the campus newspaper. If you like to do research and write, and care about issues that affect your university and/or your fellow students, this is a good option! You can build a writing portfolio for yourself as well.

Other On-Campus Work

While on-campus work is not all generally considered “involvement,” it works in the same way as the other opportunities I’m including here. There are numerous jobs available on-campus for students, from teaching or research assistantships, working at the library, co-op positions, and a variety of other positions. These often pay higher than minimum wage, and they are familiar with the restrictions of a student schedule and may be more accommodating. Plus, if you are already on campus you won’t have to commute any extra.

Intramurals & Sports

Joining a sports team can also be a great way to make connections on campus and have fun. Plus, being physically active tends to be one of the things students skip when they get busy. While you may not be gaining an academic reference, you can still connect with other students and build that sense of belonging on campus.

Tips for Getting Involved:

Go to everything in your first couple of terms. Don’t overburden yourself, but check out a few clubs and figure out which ones you would like to get involved with. Many universities have some kind of clubs event in the first couple of weeks of class where you can find out about many of the campus activities.

Keep a schedule so you know when meetings are and to ensure you have no conflicts. As a university student, you’ll have a lot of time commitments and studying to do, so you will need to stay organized in order to incorporate more activities into your schedule.

Take advantage of any mentorship programs available to you – not only will mentors help you get to know campus, they can let you know what opportunities exist, or you can be a mentor when you get to a higher year. 

Think about transferable skills & communicate these if you’re putting yourself forward for a club executive or organizing committee, or any other competitive role. 

Tips for Getting Involved When You’re Not on Campus

Since even our “on-campus” programs have been shifting on and off of campus recently due to COVID, you might be wondering how you can get involved if you aren’t on campus, or if you are in an entirely-online program.

Of course this makes it a little bit more difficult, but many of the opportunities for involvement discussed above will still be available in a remote environment. Just like the rest of the university (and everything else), most clubs and other spaces where you can get involved will have adapted to campus closures. You can track them down through your university’s website or on social and reach out to get involved.

Some club may be less active when campuses are not open, so you may have fewer options. But you should still take a look and see what’s there – it’s even more important to start building connections at your university when you are not able to attend on campus.

How to prepare in high school

Becoming involved on campus is much easier when you were already involved in high school. Make sure to branch out and join at least one extracurricular at the high school level. Not only does this give you an idea of what your interests are, but you can also develop skills that help you meet others and work through uncomfortable situations (like being new on campus!). You’ll also already have experience juggling a schedule of courses and extracurricular activities, which will make it easier to do this in university.

Working in Student Affairs

If you find that you really enjoy your involvement on campus and would like to continue this type of work, check out careers in student affairs! This is a rapidly growing career area in Canada, and for many of the roles you just need some work experience and an undergraduate degree. Student affairs careers include folks who work in student engagement, residence life, academic advising, career advising, and a variety of other positions that support students at universities and colleges. For more information on working in student affairs, check out CACUSS – the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services, which is the professional association of student affairs folks in Canada.

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