At colleges across the country, extensive budgetary resources are dedicated to activities and facilities that encourage student involvement on campus. Although the telos of university life is, of course, the academic education of students (and, secondarily, the preparation for a career), in order to educate the whole human person, it is proper that universities provide social and emotional engagement for students, too.

Not all students are able or willing to participate in extracurricular clubs and organizations, but research suggests that the experience is beneficial for those who do. One of those benefits is a student’s overall satisfaction with their academic experience, which may be attributed to stronger social networks. Developing friendships has a tremendous impact on happiness: Strong social connections improve both mental health and emotional well-being. It seems obvious, but loneliness and isolation hurts both body and brain; those who aren’t connected socially are more vulnerable to suffer from anxiety and depression. Getting involved in events, activities, and organizations on campus allows students to meet people with similar interests and values, and these connections help to build friendships and a supportive peer network.

How to Participate on Campus

There is no right or wrong way to be an active part of your college community. Those who are athletically inclined can join an intramural sports team. Love politics? Join the debate club or student government. For someone who wants to get involved by helping others, tutoring or joining a community service group could be a great option.

I’m proud that Ave Maria University is home to more than 40 clubs and organizations focused on academics, art, culture, faith, service, recreation, sports and more. It’s impressive to see the dedication of our students to mission trips and to serving the poor in the nearby town of Immokalee. Many students have weekly commitments at the soup kitchen, to tutoring, or teaching English to recent immigrants. This gift of themselves and their time is inspirational to me personally and provides a model for serving with love.

Final Thoughts

Playing an active role in the campus community can enhance a student’s education beyond what they learn in the classroom, provided that extracurriculars don’t interfere with academics! Striving for balance and order in one’s schedule is key, but getting involved can be a fun way to make friends, make a difference, and find a sense of belonging.