Why adults should participate in extracurricular activities

By Sean-Michael Green, 8/17/09

Ask an adult learner about the extracurricular activities in which he or she participates, and you might not get a response. Adult learners often are focused on the singular goal of earning a degree. Extra time on campus, carved from a life of work and family, is not a priority.

But there are strong advantages to getting involved. And it may be easier than you think!

Why get involved?

adult students getting involved

The obvious reason to get involved in student life is because extracurricular activities can be fun, interesting and engaging.

If you want a more cynical reason to participate, how about this: You may be paying for those organizations anyway. When you pay your bill at your college or university, you may note certain fees in addition to your tuition. One common fee is a student activities fee. You are already paying for the opportunity to partake in campus life.

Your employer and future employers may have an interest in your participation as well. College is a time to prove yourself and gain experiences. Perhaps you want a professional position of increased responsibility, but you do not have many leadership opportunities at work. A role in student government may give you the experience you need to demonstrate your abilities.

Perhaps the most important reason to get involved is because it is part of the college experience. By skipping the opportunities of campus life, you are shortchanging yourself on your education.

How to get involved

One of the main reasons that adult students cite for avoiding extracurricular activities is a combination of age and experience. If you have been out of school for a few years or a few decades, you may feel like the oldest student on campus. And if you have children and years of service in the workforce, you might feel that traditional students do not share much in common with you.

Nontraditional students often feel that they do not belong among their less worldly peers. The more you participate, the more you will discover how inaccurate this perception is. You are probably neither the oldest student nor the student with the most unusual background. More importantly, if you are, you offer a unique perspective that would benefit any organization.

Getting involved in student life is like going back to learn as an adult student: You have to take a first step. Choose a topic that interests you—from photography to women’s issues, from soccer to science, from politics to juggling—and attend a meeting or informational session.

You will quickly find that organizations want to attract you as a member. Why? Many student groups receive funding from student activities fees, and often the amount that a group receives depends on the number of its members. The more members it can attract, the more money it can receive.

Balancing your load

Many activities do not require strict attendance—you can work your commitment to the organization around your other commitments. Once you are involved, it is a matter of choice as to how involved to get. You may find that attending an occasional event is enough for you, or you may want to assume a leadership position in the organization.

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