It’s not all about the extra things you do

It is that time of year when classes have all settled in, everyone has gotten into their own routine so they can prioritize to find their ‘downtimes’ and all of the student organizations on campus are beginning to recruit full-force. Students are making the decision on whether to participate, at what degree he is going to commit his time and efforts and how many organizations he wants to take on. Some students start to stress about which is going to look best to prospective employers and/or graduate schools.

Actually, extracurricular activities may be less important than you think.’ That is not to say that they do not matter at all – they do. But I think people place a much higher emphasis on being active in a number of student organizations than necessary.

According to a study presented by Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, in which 362 representatives of business and industry and 500 college faculty were surveyed, businesses looking to hire college grads rank extracurricular activities number eight out of 15 in importance. Those surveyed from grad-school admissions also ranked extracurricular eight out of 15.

While extracurricular activities ranked the same on both lists, they were much further down than I had expect them to be, and I was especially shocked that employers placed a higher emphasis than graduate schools.

While these activities were listed as ‘not as important’ along the scale, I still feel that they are crucial to a student’s success beyond college.’ I am relieved, however, to discover that this means we do not have to load up on all sorts of crazy activities to help further our careers. I feel like this indicates that students can just focus on one to three activities throughout their undergraduate careers and easily meet the extracurricular requirements.

On the other hand, students should not be participating in organizations simply to get ahead. I think that despite the basic incentives to join and participate in an organization, it is vital to leadership and social skills development for students to take on an active role in college outside of academia.

According to the survey, employers deemed personality, grades, the nature of non-college related jobs and breadth of life experiences to be some traits higher than extracurricular involvements. Graduate school admission faculty felt that grades, proficiency in writing, breadth of life experiences, contributions to the school and publications/awards were of the most important. With some organizations, you can meet some of these needs with ease.

For example, if you participate in an organization/activity that puts you in a situation, allows you to meet different people or broadens your general perspective, you will gain at least one life experience.’ Say you join a service organization and you meet someone with a disability that you had no previous knowledge of. This service you performed just once ignites a passion to advocate and raise awareness of this particular situation, while giving you a chance to interact with someone you may have never met otherwise. Through your organization, you may’ have’ expanded your entire world view.

While I advise experiencing as much of college as you can, and I plead for you not to be a ‘PCP’ (parking lot, class, parking lot), I also do not wish upon anyone taking on more than they can handle.’ Pulling your organizations into a specific area of concentration will present much more value than trying to take part in everything. One or two organizations can tell prospective employers/admissions experts a lot about you and what you have learned through your many life experiences.