Getting involved in the student life

By Ashleigh Viveiros

Essays, assignments, lab reports, and a never-ending stream of textbook readings - there must be more to school life than this.

In fact, there is - your time in post-secondary education shouldn't just be about, well, education.

The university and college years are supposed to be a time in your life when you find yourself, and that means making new friends, trying out different things, and finding out what your passions are.

And while studying is an important part of the overall experience, it shouldn't be the only aspect of your life during these long years in school. In fact, getting involved in the non-academic side of student life may be even more beneficial to you in the long run than getting straight As on your report card.

Here are just a few of the reasons why you should put down the textbooks every once in a while and go have some fun.

Make new friends

The first year at a new school can be rough, especially if you're in a new city. And since it's rare that you'll be in all the same classes with all the same people, it's important to find other ways to make friends and stave off first-year loneliness. By joining a school group or team, you're guaranteeing yourself some new social connections with like-minded people that might make the difference between a year of misery and a year of fun.

Already have a group of friends to fall back on? It's still important to make those post-secondary acquaintances. The wider your network is now, the more connections you'll have once you finally jump into the workforce. You never know who might be able to point you in the right direction when you're looking for a job.

Take a break

The homework load in university and college can be insane. Sometimes it's tempting to just lock yourself away from the world to get everything done. But is a higher grade really worth it if you have burn yourself out to get it?

More often than not, having something aside from schoolwork to look forward to each week - a photography club meeting, a basketball practice - can actually make you a better student. Just a few hours away from that stack of assignments will clear your head and allow you to come to back refreshed and raring to go.

But just as too much studying can be detrimental to your overall well-being, you shouldn't let your extracurricular involvement take over your life. Extracurricular activities are meant to complement academics, so your grades shouldn't suffer because you're too busy doing other things. It's all about balance.

Make a difference

Let's face it, as a student you're probably spending more time at school than anywhere else. It's like a second home, and, as such, don't you want to help make it the best place it can be? So don't just complain about the cafeteria's lack of microwaves; join the student association and do something about it. If you're going to be there for a few years anyway, you might as well lend a hand and leave a noticeable mark on your campus.

Beef up the ol' résumé

Depending on your program, a diploma may not be enough to get you the job you want after school. For example, a bachelor of arts is a good start towards a journalism career, but unless you have some clippings to show potential employers, you're pretty much screwed.

This is where getting involved in career-related activities can help you get a foot in the door of whatever career you're aiming for. You want to be school counsellor? Volunteer with your school's peer support program. A teacher? Become a tutor.

These activities will look good on a résumé, show future employers you're serious about your career path, and allow you to figure out just what you want to do after graduation.

Who are you?

Imagine this: you're at a job interview and the employer is looking over your résumé, which perfectly outlines all your work experience, education, awards, and skills ... but what about your personality?

If you can only define yourself as a student who does homework all of the time, who does that make you when the final bell rings on your post-secondary experience? Employers are looking for people who are well-rounded, both professionally and personally. That means sometimes experience and brains just aren't enough.

Similarly, graduate schools also want to see that you're able to balance both school and your personal life. This doesn't mean you have to join every club on campus; just being involved in something is enough to show that you do have a life away from school. And, once you graduate, that life is all there is.

Still not convinced? Consider this: what do you think you're more likely to remember 20 years from now about your time in school? Will it be the great mark you got on that torturous English paper? Maybe, but I'm willing to bet the memories of the friends you made and the experiences you had will stick with you a lot longer than the fact you got a B+ instead of just a B.

So put down the textbook, back away from the computer, and go get involved.

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