The most common comment that I hear from my parents and relatives about my “excessive” involvement in extracurricular activities is, “Focus on your studies.” I usually respond to that by saying, “Life is not only about studying.” I personally believe that extracurricular activities may be as important or even more important to our lives than studying.
Watching the last season of “Game of Thrones,” chatting with a friend on WhatsApp, or viewing a football game between Liverpool and Manchester City are not included in my definition of extracurricular activities. What I mean here are activities that, although not part of formal academic studies, help a person improve his skills or acquire new ones. A few examples would be: participating in an individual or team sport, being a member of a student club or learning to play a musical instrument.
Bilkent University offers a variety of possibilities for getting involved in all kinds of activities on its campus. Moreover, the university tries to incentivize participation in extracurricular activities, whether organized by the university itself or on the initiative of its students or faculty members.
So, why should you – as a university student – consider allocating time to such activities?
You can include them in your CV or on your university applications
As a new graduate with no work experience, one of the things that can give employers or university admission committees a better idea about you is your extracurricular activities. They offer an insight into your personality, capabilities and achievements. That’s why they constitute a part of your background that shouldn’t be overlooked when you’re writing a resume or applying to a university.
Not everything can be learned inside the classroom
It’s a sad fact that some of the information and knowledge we accumulate in the classroom is often forgotten the first minute after the exam. Since our focus tends to be directed more toward getting good grades than learning, once the objective of getting a good grade is accomplished, our brain automatically wipes out all that we’ve learned.
However, if you participate in extracurricular activities related to your department, they can allow you to visualize and practice what you may have learned in class; this kind of practice has been proven a very effective way to consolidate learned information.
For example, the teacher of my organizational behavior class can spend hours explaining to me the importance of motivation in the workplace, but I won’t totally assimilate that information if I don’t experience being in a framework similar to the workplace, such as a student club or an orchestra.
An opportunity to improve your skills
Communication, public speaking, leadership and people management are some very valuable skills in the job market as well as in life in general, and those skills can be acquired or improved while participating in extracurricular activities. You’ll never be a good public speaker if you don’t take the floor in front of a big audience; you’ll never be a good leader if you’ve never been in a position at the top of a hierarchy. Extracurricular activities get you out of your comfort zone, allowing you to learn new things and hone your skills.
University life is very stressful
Just count the deadlines you have for next week, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Exams, quizzes, assignments and group projects may make our lives unbearable. However, that’s no one’s fault – in the end, university is just a simulation of real life. We’ll have deadlines and responsibilities – in the family, at work, or even in a volunteer organization – until we die.
I can’t imagine being able to manage the huge stress of university life without the hours I spend in the gym or with my friends in the orchestra. Those extracurricular activities give me the ability to change up my routine.
Personally, after an exam that hasn’t gone well, I get the sensation that my whole life is falling apart and that it’s the end of the world. A backstroke swimming drill, a violin practice session or a meeting of a student club completely changes my mood and gives me a more positive view of life.
Don’t make excuses
Many people think that participating in extracurricular activities is something only we management students can do, because they believe the urban legend that says management students have very easy courses that they can pass without even studying. This leads us to the most common excuse that students use for justifying their nonparticipation in extracurricular activities, which is lack of time.
If you say that you have no time because of your studies, just count the hours you spend scrolling down your Instagram or Twitter page. If we dedicate our lives to pursuing grades, we’ll let our youth pass without taking advantage of the abundance of time we have now.
And that’s something we may someday regret.