It’s easy to worry about and only focus on grades in college, but many opportunities exist for students to become involved.
According to Sarah Dowd Dyer, director of campus involvement at Hiram College in Hiram, and Shannon Greybar Milliken, vice provost and dean of students at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, students should also seek out involvement opportunities to get the full college experience.
“If you’re an incoming student, there will be a ton of events targeting incoming students where they will have lots of departments and organizations presenting,” Greybar Milliken said. “Sometimes, these events are themed and they can learn more about these organizations. In-person is more likely where (students) will make these connections.”
Dowd Dyer said many colleges have a wide breadth of activities.
“What we try to focus on here is student-centered (experiences),” she said. “We try to make the experiences as diverse as they are. Hiram is very focused on pushing students to grow. It’s really about the spirit of engagement, leading them to get involved in leadership or service to the community, or even plan events.”
Both administrators said involvement is key to a positive college experience, even for commuter students.
“There is a lot of research that indicates involved students are more likely to graduate on time and they are happier when they are in school, especially as a commuter because they’re more likely to be involved after graduation as an alumnus,” Greybar Milliken stated. “There are academically based clubs, socially based clubs, religious programs. So, you will also meet people generally different from yourself.”
Dowd Dyer added, “It is important for every student to be involved because this will encourage students to make friends, but also keep an open mind and go out of their comfort zone. Often, these are the most important experiences. It’s not only about the academics.”
Dowd Dyer said Hiram College has a large commuter population, where students are encouraged to get involved with things up to the student senate. Similarly, Cleveland State also has many commuter students, offering outreach and activities tailored to the group through its Commuter Student Services office.
Campus involvement can also promote academic excellence.
“A good example for this is we have a lot of diverse clubs that students can be involved in that gear towards their special interest, but also towards their future careers,” Dowd Dyer noted.
Greybar Milliken added, “There is a lot of research that shows idle minds and bodies are not the most productive. Part of what is interesting is, most of our students are working, commuting and going to school. So, they have this structured time, but still, find time to do the things they like to do. If you’re busy with just school and work, you won’t be happy.”
Getting involved in one’s first year is a good place to start.
“I make sure when new students come and want to get involved, they get involved within the first moment they’re here,” Dowd Dyer said. “We have a week of welcome that allows current students and incoming students to mix and our involvement fair, which shows students other opportunities to get involved and learn about what is available.”
Greybar Milliken agreed, but noted students should also pace themselves.
“As much as I promote involvement, I also recognize that students who are involved in too many things can get distracted from their academics," she said. "I then suggest students only get involved with two or three things to start, maybe even just one. Figuring out those limits is helpful.”