College Experiences That Lead to Well-Being After Graduation (Part 6): Participating in Extracurricular Activities

This is the sixth and final post in a series of articles about experiences in college that can affect graduates’ engagement and well-being after college. Be sure to read the first five in the series as well: Part 1 — Getting Excited, Part 2 — Feeling Cared For, Part 3 — Having a Mentor, Part 4 — Long Term Project, and Part 5 — Having an Internship.

A recent poll of nearly 30,000 college graduates conducted jointly by Purdue University and Gallup, Inc. looked at the relationship between college experiences and college graduates’ lives post-graduation. The study examined workplace engagement and graduates’ sense of well-being as well as factors influencing students’ life while in college.

According to the results of this study, six factors emerged as important influences on graduates’ engagement and well-being. Over a six week period, our series, College Experiences That Lead to Well-Being After Graduation has examined each of these factors and how students can take control of their college experiences to make sure that they participate in the activities in college which will help them in the future. We hope parents will share these ideas with their college students to help them work to pursue these important experiences.

I was extremely active in extracurricular activities and organizations while attending college.

Twenty percent of graduates responding to this poll said they had been very active in activities and organizations. Clearly only a small percent of students appear to be interested in organized college activities.

Perhaps this is a generational trend. Some studies suggest that today’s millennial students value causes over specific organizations and may be slower to join organized activities. However, institutions might consider whether their extracurricular activities and offerings match the interests and schedules of today’s students. Schools might also increase their use of social media as a way of engaging today’s students who so often turn to these vehicles to connect and network with others with similar interests.

Another factor influencing students’ involvement in school activities may also be students’ need to work, at least part-time, in order to afford the high costs of attending school. Many students work significant hours each week. It is important, however, that students who work be aware of some of the studies that indicate that working more than approximately 20 hours per week may have a negative effect on student grades. Whenever possible, balancing student work time with both studying and other activities is a good idea. Understanding that meaningful involvement in activities during college can affect satisfaction after college, may also help students as they consider the balance of how the use their time.

So students may not participate in college activities and organizations because there are few meaningful activities available at reasonable times, or because students are spending significant hours working. However, students may not participate in activities because they do not see the importance of participation or because they have not made enough effort. Understanding the importance of extracurricular participation may encourage students to make the effort — and make the commitment — to find a meaningful activity or organization and become involved.

For students who may want to become more involved, but who are not sure where to begin, here are a few suggestions to get started.

  • Get out of your room and spend time ”out and about” on campus. Look at bulletin boards, check university calendars to see what activities are taking place, attend events sponsored by organizations. Find out what is available and what aligns with your interests. There may be more opportunities on campus than you realized.
  • Think about your own interests. What have you enjoyed doing in the past? What have you not had an opportunity to do but would like to try? What causes are meaningful to you? What relates to your major or future career? What kinds of people do you enjoy spending time with? Some self-exploration may give you some ideas that you’d like to pursue.
  • Take a look at your schedule and your time management skills. Are there things that you can do to rearrange your schedule or manage your time more carefully to allow for more time to get involved in new things?
  • If you can’t find a club or organization that matches your interests, create one. Put up a poster or send a tweet to find others interested in the same thing. Many schools are open to establishing new organizations if you can find a few other people who will join you. This is probably how most of the current clubs on campus originally started. Don’t limit yourself to what is currently available.
  • Think beyond your campus. Are there community organizations you’d like to work with or support? Can you participate regularly in community service — help at a local food pantry, volunteer to work at the local blood bank, volunteer to be a big brother or big sister, work on a local political campaign? Investigate what is beyond the edges of the campus.
  • Don’t participate in any activity because it looks good on your resume or because you know it is ”good for you.” Find something, or several things, that you can do for yourself — because it fulfills you and makes you feel good.

Of course, participating actively in extracurricular activities alone will never guarantee anything — including satisfaction with your life after college. But finding ways to feed your interests, to be active and engaged in many ways during college, seems to be a factor that helps to create an attitude toward engagement and satisfaction after college. Encourage your college student to do all that he can to make his college experiences pave the way for his future.

Related Posts:

Is Your College Student’s Dorm Room Too Comfortable?

Are College Extracurricular Activities Really Extra?  Why Your Student Should Participate.

Is Your College Student a Member of the Apathy Generation?


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