Use your time wisely in college

Story by Briana Gruenewald

What are we doing here?

Most of us are at UW-Eau Claire for about four years. Of course there are those who are extremely driven academically and make it out of here in fewer than four and those who have a myriad of reasons to keep them here longer.

But four years… they can fly by when you choose to participate. I feel like I blinked once freshman year and am now midway through my senior year, on schedule to graduate in May.

As fast as it has gone, I feel like I’ve already made an impact at the university by getting involved with student organizations and I’ve learned so much more than I would have had I concentrated solely on attending classes.

I am currently the vice president of the Communication and Journalism Organization. Also, I am involved with Colleges Against Cancer as a Relay for Life co-chair organizing the annual fundraising event. And in case you haven’t guessed, I also work for The Spectator.

I cannot stress enough how valuable it is to get involved with something,

anything, on campus that is some organized pursuit to supplement the basic academic requirements. There are more than 240 active organizations at Eau Claire; at least one is bound to be of some interest to you.

I’ve heard countless students say getting involved is irrelevant. I’m here to tell you why that is completely false and how student organizations are a vital component to a well-rounded liberal education.

Choosing the right student organization is different for every person. It can also be quite daunting and overwhelming. Among the active organizations are departmental, religious, academic, political and special interest – to name only a few.

Fortunately, the student organizations website (http://www.uwec.edu/studentorgs ) is very comprehensive and a great place to start. Simply click on the organization title and you are presented with contact information. Get in touch with one of the officers to find out when and where meeting times are and, voila! You’ve got yourself a group to join!

Now, talk to almost any prospective freshman student about what they are most looking forward to during college and I can guarantee you meeting new friends is high on the list. After spending the majority of elementary, junior high and high school years with the same people, there is no surprise that meeting people with new perspectives and interests is appealing. But it doesn’t happen magically.

By joining a student organization you are immediately immersed into a group of students with at least one common interest. You can become acquainted quickly through general meetings, social events and fundraising opportunities. Having any sort of shared experience bonds people, and being a part of an organization will undoubtedly lead to exactly that.

The benefits of participation last well beyond graduation day. Developing leadership skills is extremely important in today’s job market and graduate school application process. The competition is fierce and people are looking for students who understand the significance of responsibility. Getting involved in a leadership role will help in this aspect.

You don’t have to become a vice president or attempt to co-organize a campus-wide event to gain leadership experience. Once you’re an active member of your chosen organization, ask a ranking leader if there is any way you can help if they have not already offered – I can almost guarantee they will be more than happy that you even asked! Choosing to be active is an expression of leadership.

Another benefit of getting involved is learning productive time management skills. Instead of using your free time to creep on Facebook, watch TV or sleep the day away, you could be contributing in meetings, executing your leadership roles or thinking of ways to improve your organization.

I was never involved with extracurriculars in high school. Several people told me how important they were and how much I would get out of them, but I declined to listen. I coasted through high school with my small group of friends, did my school work diligently and had free time to waste away. If I had stayed on the same pattern during college, I would have missed out on many friendships, networking, leadership and job opportunities, and time management skills. And I likely would have found it exceedingly difficult to participate actively in life after school.

You’ve heard my spiel. Now it’s time for you to explore your student organization possibilities and find something that interests you. Don’t sit back and let your college career drag itself to completion. It’s never too late. Whether you’re a first semester freshman or set to graduate in May, get involved in what Eau Claire offers while you still can!