High school students are often defined as promising or not by their scoresheets. Preparing for SAT, ACT and AP in North America, or A-levels and IB elsewhere can be very stressful as high school students are told that scores are a significant determinant of career prospect. To a certain extent, the emphasis on scores can help us go to our preferred colleges. However, once we become a college student, it is very common to see the most achieving students are those who study less but focus more on extracurricular activities, community outreach and professional development. Reasons are explained, as follows:
1. Soft skills can be developed through extracurricular activities
- The baby step: All freshmen, especially international students, are panic when they decide whether to join extracurricular activities. We question if we are talented enough to participate in activities of our interest; worry if we will be looked down upon and excluded by smarter students. However, if we never join in any activities, we can never challenge ourselves and get the most out of our college life.
- The inclusive environment: Most, if not all, student-run societies at college level maintain a very inclusive environment. This means we are rarely judged, and perhaps excluded, by our personal characteristics or our ability. As long as we are humble to try and learn, we are encouraged by senior society members to participate in available activities.
- Developing soft skills: Not only can we meet many people with great personalities, participating in extracurricular activities can help develop skills necessary for adulthood, including interpersonal and time management skills.
2. Characters and aspirations can be reshaped through community outreach
- Satisfaction from helping people in needs: There are always students who only study as a student and work as an employer/employee. These students are living a safest yet most monotonous life. If we want to be different, and make a contribution to our communities, we should spend some of our spare time on community outreach on a weekly or biweekly basis. From teaching students to fundraising for non-profit organisations (NGOs), we can gain self-satisfaction each time we help disadvantaged people in our communities.
3. Practical skills can be built and strengthened through professional development
- Learn professional skills: Many colleges have societies sponsored by companies, providing students the opportunities to learn technological, financial, investment, entrepreneurial, consulting, programming, writing and academic researching skills. Learning any of these skills at college level is a plus for professional industry entry.
- Build up a better CV: Participating in society activities related to professional development can help build a better CV, as essential to find internships of our interest.
Therefore, do not spend all of our time in classrooms and libraries. College is more than just studying.
Jason Hung is a MSc Sociology student at London School of Economics and an affiliate student in research at King’s College, London. Jason previously worked as a visiting student researcher at UCBerkeley School of Public Health. He is interested in addressing social inequalities faced by ethnic minorities, women and sexual and health minorities, mentally disordered children and youths, and forced and voluntary migrants in British, East Asian and North American contexts.