The suitcases and boxes are unpacked; classes have started; and friends are being made. The first few weeks of college are full of excitement, anxiety, and new opportunities. While your student's main focus should be on getting acclimated to the academic environment of the university, it is also very important that he/she become involved in extracurricular activities. Extracurricular activities refer to those events and activities that students are involved in outside the classroom such as student organizations, sports clubs, intramurals, athletic events, honor societies, and Greek life. Research tells us that students who are involved in extracurricular activities do better academically and are more likely to persist to graduation - outcomes that we all want to see for our students. So, how can you help your student get involved? It's easy; encourage him/her to look for opportunities similar to those in which he/she participated in high school.
If your student played sports in high school but is not participating in Intercollegiate Athletics, suggest that he/she look into UWF's Intramurals Program. The Intramurals program offers activities such as flag football, soccer, volleyball, basketball, and dodgeball, to name just a few. Additionally, we have a number of sports clubs including the scuba club, rugby team, water-ski /wakeboarding club, Shotokan karate club, and ballroom dancing club. The Outdoor Adventure Program also offers students the opportunity to participate in outdoor activities such as canoeing, camping, rock climbing, and rafting trips. Students should visit the Recreation and Sports Services website at http://uwf.edu/recreation.
In addition to the programs that focus on physical activity, UWF offers a huge array of Registered Student Organizations. These organizations fall into a number of categories including academic organizations, honors societies, multicultural organizations, professional associations, religious organizations, and special interest organizations. Here are just a few of the over 125 clubs/organizations available to students: UWF Forensics Team, Army ROTC, Leading Lady Society, UWF Juggling Club, Student Nurses Association, Phi Eta Sigma Honors Society, and the International Student Association. For a complete list of current Registered Student Organizations, visit the University Commons and Student Activities website at http://uwf.edu/ucommons.
Involvement in UWF's Greek Life is another option available to students. UWF is the home of four National Panhellenic Sororities, seven National IFC Fraternities, and four historically-black National Pan-Hellenic organizations (3 sororities and 1 fraternity). As quoted on the Greek Affairs website (http://uwf.edu/greekaff), "Greek organizations offer a family atmosphere and the friendships formed can often last a lifetime. Greek members are provided leadership training, community service opportunities and academic assistance from each chapter."
While you may occasionally hear your student say "There's nothing to do on campus", the reality is that there are numerous activities and events occurring every day. The trick is to know where to look and to have the courage to try something new. If your student is living on campus, his/her Resident Assistant (RA) is a great resource for involvement opportunities. If your student lives off campus, encourage him/her to visit the websites listed above and to stop by the Recreation and Student Activities Offices to ask about upcoming activities and events.
Becoming involved in activities outside the classroom is a way to make friends, relieve stress, gain leadership skills, and build ties to the university. Students must learn to balance their extracurricular activities with their academic work. If all you hear about is the water-ski club and your son's fraternity, you may want to gently inquire about classes and remind him that academics come first. Balancing all of the opportunities and responsibilities of college life can be a challenge, but it can be done. Encourage your student to make the most of his/her collegiate career by getting involved from the beginning.
Dr. Tammy McGuckin, Ed.D.
Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs & Interim Dean of Students