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  • Writer's pictureTrudy Horsting

Should You Pursue Extracurriculars During Your Undergraduate Career?

Everyone talks about the importance of a well-rounded undergraduate application. You can’t just have a 4.0 to get into competitive schools anymore. Now you need to have participated in sports, extracurriculars, or community service programs in order to demonstrate that you’re multifaceted. It’s not just about academics, it’s about personality.

But what about while you’re in college? Isn’t this the time to buckle down, get good grades, and graduate? Extracurriculars shouldn’t matter here, right?

Yes and no.

A potential employer probably isn’t going to ask you if you played sports in college. But it does matter for mental health and for academic success. No one can work at 100% every second of the day. To succeed academically, you need to take time for yourself mentally. Additionally, engaging in extracurricular activities can provide a more enriching college experience. After all, if you’re paying that much to go to college, you might as well get everything you can out of your four years.

In this article, we discuss some of the extracurricular activities one can explore while they are in college, the associated time commitment, and potential benefits.

Professional Clubs/Organizations

Professional clubs and organizations have an appeal for many students because they are both a fun extracurricular and a career development activity in one. You can make connections with others in your field and develop lifelong relationships. Networking is key for so many fields and college is a great place to start navigating these interpersonal relationships while completing your coursework.

You can join a business organization, a professional fraternity or sorority, or other club which focuses on professional growth.


If you played a sport in high school that you absolutely loved, you don’t have to give it up just because you’re going to college. Sports can be a wonderful outlet to release physical stress, meet new friends, and enjoy an escape from academia. Even if you’re concerned about the time commitment, at least go to try outs to get a feel for what it would entail and meet some people who enjoy the same activity you’ve grown to love.

If you’ve never played a sport before, college could still be a great place to try one out! Find a club or intramural team and go to the first interest meeting. See how you like it, and if you don’t, try something else. It never hurts to try. Intramural teams are typically less competitive than club or varsity sports, they often don’t require tryouts, and are meant to be fun and exploratory. College can be a great opportunity to explore sports you’ve always wanted to try.

Activities Just for Fun

During college, you can explore things just for fun! Join a fraternity or sorority, a cooking club, an adventure club, a dancing group, a community service organization, or a group meant solely to provide community and socialization. Many colleges have hundreds of groups for this specific purpose. There may be a club that you never would have even imagined existed that is perfect for you.

Take some time to scroll through what's offered at your university. You may find the perfect club for you. It can provide you with a community, a group of friends to study with, or a group of friends who can help you escape the stress from classes.

Unorganized Activities

You don’t have to join an organized club or activity in order to enjoy your free time while in college. Many are surprised at how quickly the years go by and by your senior year you may regret how many places you didn’t explore in your college town.

Start a bucket list at the beginning of your college career. Write down all of the fun spots that you hear older students talk about. As your college journey continues, write down more ideas that come to mind or you hear through the grapevine. Then, make a conscious effort to cross things off this list. Go to the hiking trails an hour away, explore the winery on the other side of town, try all of the fun restaurants unique to the area, take advantage of any nearby national or state parks, and prioritize local events like farmers markets, cultural festivals, and art fairs, and find what is unique in your city.

Part of the joy of college is exploring a new location and enjoying a new sense of freedom. Make sure you don’t graduate only having seen the four walls of the school library.

The Time Commitment

Sometimes being busy helps you manage your time better. Extracurriculars can provide a time schedule to help keep you on track. If you only have three hours after class before practice, you’re more inclined to complete an assignment than you would be if you had until late at night to get your homework done.

That said, some extracurricular activities may be too difficult to manage. Time commitments can vary dramatically between different clubs, sports, and professional organizations. Make sure that you ask as many questions as you can before you commit to a new extracurricular so that you can be sure of the time involved. Speak to current members to get a realistic idea of the commitment.

You may also decide that your “extra” time would be better spent completing an extra major or a minor that seems super interesting. Maybe you choose to work a part time job instead of joining a sport or you decide to dedicate time every day to your favorite hobby like reading, instead of joining an official organization. Do what is right for you. But make sure that you are doing something throughout your college career that provides a way to destress. Balance is essential.


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