By Elizabeth Lehman
Youngstown State University student leaders and faculty members discussed how getting involved on campus positively affects a student’s college experience.
Many studies show that college students who are involved in extracurricular activities have higher GPAs, higher retention rates and better job satisfaction after graduation. James MacGregor, a graduate student, said he decided to get more involved on campus during his sophomore year.
MacGregor got a job at Beeghly College of Education, joined the Youngstown Student Education Association, Student Government Association and started volunteering for campus events. He said getting involved on campus had a positive impact on him.
“I cannot say why my grades improved, but I do know that my time spent on campus grew significantly and my network of friends to study with grew,” MacGregor said. “I wanted to be here and I wanted to succeed, so getting involved really showed me a new light.”
Karen Becker, director of First Year Experience, said being involved on campus had a huge impact on her GPA when she attended college. She said her GPA in college dropped from a 3.7 to a 1.7 when she stopped participating in clubs to focus on academics.
Becker said when students are engaged and feel a sense of purpose, they have a better chance of succeeding. She said having a work study job give students a taste of working in their desired career field.
“I think when students are engaged, whether it’s work study or campus activities, they just budget their time better,” she said. “You also start to see the relevance of your courses, if it ties into your activities.”
Being involved on campus has many benefits, such as giving students the opportunity to acquire recommendation letters from club advisors and work bosses, she said.
Christina Bache Hardy, director of Career and Academic Advising, said employers want to know what experience students have and what skills they developed during college. She said this is what employers will look for during job interviews and on resumes, because they already assume applicants have a relevant degree.
“The GPA is important since most employers will eliminate resumes with a GPA less than 3.0,” she said. “But, in many cases, strong experience means developing strong skills, which is what the employer needs to see.”
YSU President Jim Tressel said academics are important, but participating in activities outside the classroom help students reach their full potential and stand out in a competitive environment.
“Some of the most important traits that employers are looking for is the ability to work as a team member, the desire to serve others, the ability to communicate effectively and the willingness to step out of their comfort zone to thrive as a member of a variety of groups,” Tressel said.
Tressel said his extracurricular involvement was what made all the difference for him. During college, he was a student government member, played football and wrote for his campus newspaper.
“The experiences that I had … were truly the difference-makers that have served me in every phase of my professional career,” Tressel said.
MacGregor said he didn’t realize back when he was a sophomore that one day he would make a profession out of being involved on campus.
“I love what I do, and I have started to work professionally as a graduate assistant in the Student Activities Office. This is only the first step in my professional career, and I can’t wait to see where this road takes me,” he said.
MacGregor said he believes students are depriving themselves of a full college experience when they only attend classes on campus.
“I have met so many of my close friends and I have had some real life changing experiences,” MacGregor said. “Joining student groups changed my life, and I will promote that idea to students for as many years as I am on this campus.”