Which extracurricular activities should I do while I’m in college or university? This is a question I get quite often. Honestly, I think this comes down to the individual and what they are looking to get out of their experience at post-secondary. I believe that most students will fall into at least one of three categories. School is the place I go to:
- Get A Job
- Grow As A Person
- Have Some Fun Experiences
You may fall into more than one category but one will likely be more important to you than the other two. The extracurricular activity you choose should be aligned with what you are trying to get out of your education.
- Those looking for a job should consider professional extracurricular activities.
- Those looking to grow as a person may want to consider growth activities where they can learn new skills or improve current ones.
- Those who want to have some fun and de-stress should consider social or fun extracurricular activities.
Regardless of which category you fall in, I believe there are 3 questions you have to answer before picking an extracurricular activity.
Am I introverted or extroverted?
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I recently started woodworking as an extracurricular activity. My goal is to model my own designs, build them, incorporate electronics into the design and donate the final product for a good cause. I will likely document the whole procedure as well. I think this is an activity that doesn’t sap away my energy, helps me grow, and allows me to make an impact on society using my engineering skills. Therefore, I think it makes a good addition to a resume as well.
The reason I am telling you this is because during my second year of engineering I tried joining multiple clubs on campus. But, I was an introvert. After going to classes all day, the last thing I wanted to do was meet up with more people and become even more stimulated. I supported their causes and wanted to help them but I found it extremely draining. Later on, I realized that I was picking the wrong extracurricular activities for my personality type. I wish I had started my woodworking/designing extracurricular activity a long time ago. I could have been at a more advanced level by now and would have made much more of an impact already. Play to your strengths. Do an activity that you like doing, recharges you, and makes a difference in your life and hopefully in the lives of others. If you’re an introvert you may benefit more from a solo activity or a small group activity with friends. For example, if you want to work for a mobile development company, you may benefit more from trying to create your own apps with a small group of friends. That way you can do most of the work and be learning on your own but you guys can also meet up to collaborate on it. If you’re a square peg don’t try to force yourself into a round hole. This goes for extroverts too.
Will this activity allow me to have fun and grow?
If you don’t find the activities you do fun, it’s unlikely that you'll stick with them or at least stick with them long enough to do anything meaningful. You won’t grow as a person, you won’t make any long-term friends, and you definitely will not have done anything worth putting on a resume.
Do I realistically have time for this activity in my schedule or can I make time?
When picking extracurricular activities, quality over quantity is what matters. Pick an activity that you can really get involved with and accomplish meaningful work yet also have time for your studies. Employers won’t like seeing that you sacrificed all your grades in order to do more extracurricular activities. All they will see is that you don’t know how to manage your time and balance your priorities.
With that said, let's dive into the three different kinds of extracurricular activities.
01 | Professional
These are the activities you want to do if you really want to strengthen your resume. Pick an activity that is relevant to the industry or field you want to work in. Try to pick something that will have some impact or produce results. What do I mean by that? Joining a design team where you will actually build something and compete in a competition looks a lot better on a resume than joining a club where you just meet and talk about engineering. I know some people who joined engineering clubs but they didn’t actually accomplish anything while they were a part of those clubs. They just sat around and talked in the club room and did homework together. Some examples of professional activities are:
FOR AN INTROVERT:
- Starting a professional blog that discusses topics in the field you want to work in
- Doing a solo project (coding, design, etc.)
FOR AN EXTROVERT:
- Join a professional club or do a group project like designing a car, drone, etc.
According to Prospects, "Research shows that 70% of businesses believe extra-curricular activities make job-seeking school leavers and graduates stand out from the crowd. In addition, nearly two-thirds feel that candidates with such experience tend to be more successful employees and progress more quickly in their careers.”
02 | Social / Fun
College can be such a busy time that many students start to feel lonely or depressed because they’re studying so much. Studies show that “social support is essential for maintaining physical and psychological health." Therefore, it can be a good idea to join some social or fun clubs to maintain your health while on campus. Better health means a better mind. A better mind means better grades and a deeper enjoyment of school. These kind of activities aren’t always easy to put on your resume because they’re not always relevant to the job. But, they can be. They are beneficial on a resume when you pick up some transferable skills. If you’re the president of a social club or help organize events than you have the skill of leadership. If you play on a sports team you will have the skill of teamwork. The main goal of joining one of these clubs should be to make friends, have fun, and de-stress. If you’re an introvert you may enjoy smaller and more intimate clubs while extroverts may enjoy larger clubs or fraternities/sororities.
03 | Growth
Activities that fall into the growth category help you learn something new and grow as a person. For example, you can take knitting, dance, or music classes just because you want to learn more about these topics. Some growth activities can possibly even alter your career path. For example, if you’re in engineering but want to start a career in consulting you may benefit from joining a club that does consulting case studies. You can learn more about consulting and also shift your career in that direction. If you read my blog post “Where Can Engineering Take Me (Outside of Engineering)” you know that investment banking is one of the career paths an engineer can take. According to targetjobs, investment banking recruiters highly value extracurricular activities because they show that you are well-rounded.
04 | Conclusion
Hopefully, this guide will help you pick the appropriate extracurricular activities for your goals in post-secondary.