Extracurriculars Aren't Just For College Apps

The importance of extracurriculars were etched into my brain during high school. Swim team, Model UN, school newspaper... the more the better. But once we're actually in college, do extracurriculars hold as much weight? According to a new study by Gallup-Purdue, they do — in fact, they matter even more than they did in high school, because doing extracurriculars in college might help you get a better job after you graduate.

A result of the inaugural Gallop-Purdue Index, a joint research effort from Purdue University and the Lumina Foundation that investigates connections between the college experience and post-grad lives, the study surveyed college graduates about their extracurriculars, internships, and student-professor relationships. Participants were asked six questions — three focusing on support from faculty, and three regarding experiential learning, with all six considered important to a post-grad's job prospects and overall happiness in the workplace. 63 percent strongly agreed with the statement "I had at least one professor who made me excited about learning"; 27 percent felt their professors cared about them as people; and only 22 percent considered a professor to be a mentor.

When it came to experiential learning, the results were even lower. 32 percent had worked on a project that took them a semester or more to complete. 29 percent felt they had an internship or a job that allowed them apply what they were learning in the classroom. 20 percent strongly agreed that they were extremely active in extracurricular activities. 14 percent of students answered yes to all three support-related questions, while only 6 percent could attest to the three experiential ones.

With the cost of education constantly looming over our heads, it's not surprising that a large percentage of participants were unable to become extremely active in extracurriculars or take on an internship, so many of which are unpaid. But — and this is the really important part — the study also found that the odds of being engaged at work were between 1.8 times and 2.6 times higher if students reported one, two, or all three of each group of experiences. From this data, we can see pretty clearly that one of the best ways to ensure a job after graduation, even in our still-recovering economy, is to experience everything college has to offer — including extracurricular activities and mentorships. There's more to school than just classes, and it means that students who miss out on those opportunities suffer for it later on.

As someone who was hired a month after graduating by a major non-profit media company, I can personally attest to the importance of extracurriculars. Neither my GPA nor my transcript ever came up in interviews, but you know what did? How my position as Tour Manager for my a cappella group helped prepare me for a department coordinator position, how my internship with a newspaper taught me how to work on a deadline, and how my job at the campus art gallery strengthened my "people skills." I was extremely lucky and privileged to have had these opportunities, and based on Gallup-Purdue's survey, I am very much in the minority.

Another important finding from Gallup-Purdue's study was that the type of institution students attended, whether it was community college, a state school, or a not-for-profit private institution, mattered far less than what they did while there. That's pretty encouraging, right? It's a reminder that regardless of where we attend school, we can make it not only a fun experience, but one of growth, both personal and professional.

I feel you, Charlie.

Image: Wellington College/Flickr; Giphy (2)