As a student, especially an undergrad, you’ll have to learn to manage a new schedule of lectures. But something that isn’t discussed much outside of the confines of your university careers advisory service is the value of the plethora of opportunities that exist at university outside of your degree.
It’s really quite surprising to me how little emphasis is given to the extra activities that can be engaged with, particularly since these are the activities that can not only contribute to your CV but can really enrich your life. Plus, with a schedule of lectures, you’ll have some leeway for squeezing in additional activities, making your undergrad years the perfect time to see what else you can engage with.
Despite what you may have been told, grades are important, but they’re not everything. Both employers and admissions departments will be looking for what you have to offer beyond your grades, and by taking up activities outside of your actual degree, you’ll have a chance to explore options that are fun and interesting to you, as well as contributing significantly to your employability or chances at further study.
What your options are
Clubs and societies
You’ll probably be dazzled with an overwhelming array of club options at freshers’ week, and these clubs and societies will be accessible year-round in most cases. From dance to debating, you’re guaranteed to find a club for you, and if it doesn’t exist, you can usually create one. Check out your university’s website or student union to find out your options regarding clubs and societies.
It makes you feel good and look good. Volunteering is a great option if you’re not sure of which club or society to join, as well as being an appealing choice for those with a philanthropic streak. You can usually find some form of club or society pertaining to volunteering, and if not, look to the local community to see what’s available. There’s always some way you can lend a hand and better the place you live in.
Part-time jobs or internships
They help you earn while at uni and can also show initiative. Finding a part-time job or an internship gets you real-world experience that can bolster your CV, and most part-time gigs provide customer service experience that can be an invaluable reference point for the rest of your life. It also tends to make you a much more sympathetic customer following the experience of facing a variety of personalities. On the other hand, depending on what’s available, internships can give tremendous insights into the culture and opportunities available at a company.
You may also find further options such as becoming an ambassador or getting involved in student political life. My undergrad offered additional certification free by taking some extra exams and doing some more coursework, so if you have an opportunity like that, take it.
On top of the aforementioned benefits, all of these options help you to meet new people which is pivotal when you’ve just moved to a new city or town. However, there are two challenges:
- Choosing wisely
- Sticking with your choices for an extended period of time
With the vast number of options available to you, it’s best not to overload yourself. Although I did 5 extracurriculars outside of my BA, I would suggest choosing 2-3 so that you can devote enough quality time to them. If you’re wondering how to choose, try creating a top 10 and narrowing down from there considering your own preferences such as schedule, finances, future goals, or level of enjoyment of each item.
If you feel like a choice wasn’t for you, check out other options and switch to something else, but try to stay in the ones you like for an extended period of time to show your commitment and build up experience and skills.
Whilst your studies are paramount and always come first, the harsh reality is that both admissions officers for high-quality educational institutions and hiring managers for competitive jobs receive applications from a superfluous number of applicants, many of whom will be ignored. But it only sounds scary; if you organise your schedule, the pressure of high-achievement is far outweighed by the experiences you’ll have by going for more.
Engaging with the opportunities that are available will allow you to dip your toes into different areas that you wouldn’t otherwise have discovered, whilst learning a great deal about yourself along the way.
Rosie is a qualified Journalist, NCTJ certified, and is currently an MSt student in Literature and Arts at Oxford University. Having worked in editing, communications, and brand strategy in agencies in Seoul and London, she is passionate about producing intelligent writing with practical and creative value. Previously a Content Editor and Writer at the UK Domain.Read full profile