Why Graduate Students Should Get Involved On Campus


As a student – graduate or otherwise – there should be more going on in your life than just your schoolwork.

Many students think that grad school means spending hours upon hours peering between book stacks in the library and writing lengthy essays.  Although academics do take up a substantial part of your time in a week, they shouldn’t be the only thing that you do with your time outside of sleeping, eating and – especially – bathing.

Making sure you have a good school-work-life balance is crucial, but there can be more to free time than just flopping down on the couch or playing Words with Friends on Facebook. During my master’s, I wrote articles for TalentEgg and was a departmental councilor for the Carleton Graduate Students Association, among some other activities.

I see grad school as being an extension of my bachelor’s degrees, not only academically, but also in terms of skill development, learning opportunities and socializing with like-minded peers.  As such, just like when you were an undergraduate, doing extra-curricular activities as a grad student can benefit you in numerous ways.

Improving your time management

The temptation of all students is procrastination: why get it done now when you can put it off until later?  But if you’re busy later and don’t get your work done, it means staying up late (or risk not handing in the work at all).   For some students, being busy helps them stay on-task better and decreases the amount of time they spend procrastinating.

Expanding your CV

If you are looking to gain more experience that you can include on your CV, you should consider applying to present at academic conferences or submitting some of your completed essays to academic journals.

Publishing and presenting essays are not the only ways you can expand your CV in relation to your degree program.  You can also help organize conferences, do PR work for them, or get involved in your faculty society.  There are lots of activities you can do, and many of them don’t even have to take place on campus.

Teaching you transferable skills

Life really is one gigantic learning opportunity and you don’t have to limit yourself to the classroom to learn new things.

Want to learn better public speaking skills?  Practice as a member of student government or Model UN.

Interested in improving your writing skills?  Volunteer at a student paper as a writer or an editor.

Looking for more work experience?  Complete an internship.

Do you want to learn about other cultures?  Join a club on campus.  Alternatively, if you don’t think there is one on campus that represents your interest, create your own.

There are countless options where you can learn new skills and it all depends on your interests.

Giving back to the community

A community isn’t necessarily just the city you live in; it can be the campus community, your regional community or your city.  University campuses always have a lot going on, and as a result they need a lot of volunteers to make sure things go smoothly.  You can get involved in campus government, a student paper, mentoring undergraduate students or helping people learning English as a second language.

Similarly, in the broader sense of community, there are SPCAs with animals to pat, dogs to walk, and poop to scoop.  There are also food drives with donations to sort, and soup kitchens with meals to prepare and people to feed. There are lots of different organizations you can get involved with, and they don’t have to be related to your degree program if you have diverse interests.

Keeping you sane

Perhaps the best reason (at least in my opinion) is that it gets you away from the books!   Sometimes you just need to give your brain a break!

Photo credits: WM2006 Fan Fest Stuttgard by dheuer on Flickr and The Dogwalker by bulliver on Flickr

About the author

Danielle Lorenz is a long-time contributor to the Career Incubator. Danielle is a PhD student in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Alberta. When procrastinating from schoolwork, you will find Danielle lurking on several social media platforms and trying to befriend the snowshoe hares on the U of A campus.