Friends made outside of lecture halls are the ones we’ll value long after we’ve graduated.
It is my personal belief that the average studentry-at-large ignores the benefits and possibilities offered through extracurricular activities. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “extracurricular” as “outside the normal curriculum,” and in a college context, these activities can span from the college newspaper (write for The Collegian!) to a competitive robotics club.
The University of Tulsa, despite being a rather small university, is actually resplendent with extracurricular groups and clubs to fit a wide swath of interests. There are tabletop roleplaying groups and community outreach groups and competitive frisbee groups and culture groups. There is also an admittedly intricate platform for student government. I’m still waiting for someone to start a LARP club on the old U though.
While other universities, such as OSU, can be rather exclusive with their extracurriculars, going so far as to charge admission fees for some clubs, TU has seemed — in my admittedly small exposure to all it has to offer in the way of extracurriculars — accessible and easy to skim for one’s interests. Amid the many problems the average student could voice against TU, it should be said for the university that it makes creation and advertisement for one’s group or club easier than most.
This is undoubtedly a good thing; second only to one’s education, extracurriculars can make for some of the most important and formative moments one can have in college. I should iterate up front that this article stems from my own involvement with extracurriculars on campus and the opportunities they have afforded me. I don’t necessarily believe, however, that my positive experiences are limited only to English majors like me.
The first and most pragmatic advantage of extracurriculars, one that connects to education and which certainly spans all fields of study, is the professional experience it provides. To put it more bluntly: extracurriculars are resume-boosters. Now, I hate this business- and career-oriented post-college hellscape as much as any other left-leaning 20-something, but the sad truth is that if you’re attending TU, you’re likely here with some student loans on your conscience. A career out of college is the simplest and most societally-lauded way to alleviate that side effect of our late-stage capitalist society. I’ve found myself in preliminary interviews discussing the work I’ve done in my extracurricular groups far more than any other subject; my GPA has yet to be mentioned once.
That’s not to say that GPAs are completely irrelevant, but that discussing the work you’ve done in extracurriculars gives you more room to shine. You can go into explicit detail on how you brought your robotics team to the regional finals, or how the piece of legislature you put forward fared in the student government, or how many people you were able to feed in one day as part of a community outreach group. Extracurriculars are made by students and, thus, tailored for students’ interests, and the average student’s interest errs toward their future success. Ergo, extracurriculars are made to help you succeed.
More to my own humanist interests, however, extracurriculars tend to be the place where one meets the people with whom they’ll form lasting friendships in college. I know it’s a well-loved platitude repeated by parents and high school counselors the world over to “join groups — you’ll make friends!” but in my own personal case, it’s proven to be quite true. Classes simply haven’t afforded me as much time to get to know people as has seeing them outside of class in a mutual club or group. That’s not to say I haven’t forged bonds through repeated exposure during lecture hours alone, but seeing these people outside of class is what really solidified those friendships, and the easiest way to see someone outside of class is to be in the same extracurricular as them. Also, my classes in the College of Arts and Sciences differ greatly from the classes taken by those in STEM fields of study, both in size and general attitude. As far as I can tell, there is simply less discussion in the latter, making the importance of extracurriculars for genuine connection all the more prevalent.
And while your main pursuit in college would ideally be your education, you’re probably going to look back more fondly upon the nights out with your friends than upon your lecture hours. Being social is part of being human, and only going to class doesn’t cut it. Friends are hard enough to make at a new school; barring oneself from the places where friends are traditionally made is grounds for poor mental health, and we’re all stressed enough as it is. I think friends are good to have, and I’m glad that my involvement with extracurriculars has afforded me the opportunity to make them.
But if your focus is still ensnared by the capitalist deathtrap that is the post-college world, extracurriculars can be great for networking as well.