This time of year can be overwhelming for those of us who are unsure of what our next year at U of T will bring. The scramble to pick a POSt, figure out what courses are required for graduation, and find summer employment can be a hassle; the impending burst of applications for extracurricular opportunities and the inevitable re-papering of university walls with posters for various elections can add to the stress.
However, there are benefits to extracurricular campus involvement that cannot be gained from simply going to classes, and it can be worth committing an hour or two each week to non-academic activities on campus in order to take advantage of them.
Extracurricular activities on campus can help ease the transition between academic years, whether that be from high school to university or second to third year. Clubs, student organizations, and sports teams offer avenues for students to make friends with similar interests, an opportunity that may not necessarily arise in classroom environments. These common interests can help students decide what they’d like to do in the future without having to spend thousands of dollars exploring different courses.
Furthermore, having a connection to the campus aside from classes can play a huge part in bringing students to the campus in the first place. It can be easy to get lost among more than 85,000 other students at U of T, and joining a club or sports team can help students get their bearings.
In turn, student organizations can help provide connections to the university’s administration that can be useful for funding, advice, or other opportunities. This is not to mention that having a weekly or monthly commitment provides an incentive to spend more time on campus, particularly for commuter students.
It’s also crucial to look at extracurriculars from a financial perspective. Depending on the college or faculty, students may pay almost $2,000 in additional fees for facilities, programming, and buildings we will likely never be able to enjoy in our time at U of T.
Aside from various college funding opportunities for student organizations, the UTSU also offers clubs funding for full-time undergraduate students at the St. George and Mississauga campuses. Joining or starting a club means taking advantage of that funding.
There are also numerous awards and bursaries available to students who participate in campus activities through various faculties, colleges, and program coordinators, providing an opportunity to gain recognition and also be compensated for the often unpaid work they put into extracurriculars.
Finally, extracurriculars are beneficial for career development. For instance, volunteering with a non-profit is not only rewarding from an ethical point of view, it can also be included on a résumé, and the work can consist of things that university students are rarely hired or paid to do, including research and community work.
Furthermore, applying to journals, conferences, and competitions are a great way to gain experience not often obtained in classroom settings, including working on publications and gaining public speaking skills. It is these skills that will make résumés and applications stand out.
It is true that students should be wary of piling on extracurriculars to pad applications for graduate and professional schools. Admission boards are generally aware of this tactic and they know how to differentiate a dedicated commitment to a student group from a halfhearted attempt to appear involved.
For this reason, it is generally better to join a small number of groups, stay committed, and do something meaningful rather than scramble to fill up a résumé.
This is a fantastic time to consider getting involved in campus life: elections for student organizations are happening all over campus, clubs are recruiting members, and it is the optimal time to start a new initiative if your interests are not being represented in the options already available. A small commitment to initiatives outside the classroom can ultimately make a huge difference in what you gain from your U of T degree.
Saambavi Mano is a third-year student at Victoria College studying Peace, Conflict, and Justice Studies. Her column appears tri-weekly.