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If you’re ready to jump into extracurricular activities, consider slowing down first. By doing some research and refining your activities list, you’ll be able to happily balance life in and out of the classroom.

Where to Begin?

Many schools have activity fairs that showcase different ways to get involved. Yuanjie W., a fourth-year student at the University of Windsor in Ontario, says, “[They’re] a good way of getting information about new and existing clubs.” You can also contact group organizers, your school’s student activities department, and cultural groups for more information. If you’re looking for a job or internship, contact your career centre and speak with your academic advisors.

Choose Wisely

Activities are a chance to continue a favourite pastime, try something new, make friends, or even prepare for a career. Barbara K., a third-year student also at the University of Windsor, says, “I look at the club’s [goals], how they’ll help my future career, and whether [being involved] will affect my studies positively or not.” While sticking to activities that match your career goals might look impressive on your résumé, also consider what makes you happiest. These experiences also boost your credentials and demonstrate commitment.

Most students need to consider money. Jobs are a great way to gain experience, and there are plenty that are fun, too. For example, if you’re a musician, look for jobs at local venues.

If you’re deciding between a paid internship and an unpaid one, use your best judgment and ask for advice. Think about what will give you the best experience, and which you can afford both time- and money-wise.

Tips for choosing

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider which extracurricular activities to join:

  1. Do I need to make money?
  2. How much time do I have to offer?
  3. How does this fit with my academic and career goals?
  4. What do I want to get out of this experience? (E.g., Am I looking to share my culture, meet new people, volunteer, or express myself creatively?)
  5. Do I want to be active? Are there intramurals that interest me?
  6. Am I joining something because I feel pressured?
  7. How will I balance academic and extracurricular commitments?

Quality Over Quantity

By not spreading yourself too thin, you’ll be able to contribute in meaningful ways and still have time for relaxation and schoolwork. “I consulted current members [of clubs] to figure out whether I [could] commit,” says Clara Q., a second-year student at Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario.

To avoid over-commitment, start with one or two activities. After a few weeks, reevaluate your schedule and routine. Lindsay P., a third-year student at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, says, “I looked at the [activities] list as a way to narrow it down.” Remember, academics come first.

Many students take on too many extracurricular activities and wind up feeling overwhelmed. Learn to balance your schedule and tell group members how much time you’re able to commit. You’ll be taking care of yourself and helping the club or activity to prosper. If you need help prioritizing, speak with a trusted advisor or counsellor.

Dr. Gordon Walker, a professor of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, points out, “Thinking about and planning your [activities] is as important as thinking about and planning which courses you will select.”

No matter which activities you choose, with balance you’ll be a well-adjusted, productive member of the groups you join.

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