Column: We need more emphasis on extracurriculars


Camille Zanders, Senior Staff Reporter/Writer

In my past semesters as a Hornet, I served as the Alumni Connections editor for The Hornet Tribune. In this position, I stayed in constant contact with many notable Alabama State University alumni and professionals within the community. With each conversation, they would express how great it was to see a student taking out-of-class initiative. 

Of these professionals, many credited their career-readiness to the internships or programs they were involved in as college students or regretfully wished they had participated in more of the opportunities presented. On an even higher occasion, they would share that the job market is becoming increasingly competitive. Therefore, it is increasingly important that today’s Hornets participate in as many professional development-focused extracurriculars as possible. 

The United States Census reported that, in 2020, approximately 42% of the population over 25 years of age held a degree from an institute of higher learning. This being an increase from the 36% reported in 2011 and a massive jump from the 5% reported in 1940. Fortunately, the growing availability of higher education has led to a steady increase of college graduates, especially in minority communities. In return, the number of educated candidates for a specific job has multiplied. This is now forcing the recruiters for these positions to hire individuals based upon experiences and skills that cannot be taught in the classroom.

In the Forbes article, “A College Degree is the New High School Diploma” author Robert Farrington said, “The graduates that do earn the salaried positions are the ones who hustled in college, had side jobs, and the soft skills needed to succeed. Who would you rather hire: the college student making $100,000 per year side hustling or the straight-A student who cannot communicate with you?”

Experience is now a requirement, yet only a few Hornets extend their work past our lecture halls.

An extracurricular activity is characterized as an activity pursued in addition to the normal course of study. They hold experiences that would set one student apart from every other of the same class, therefore giving the opportunity to be extraordinary. Whether it be an organization, sport, club, or internship, extracurriculars allow students to strengthen their passions, conviction, and overall development. They are outlets where students can apply the curriculum learned in class to real-world situations and settings. 

I encourage all Hornets to explore the wide variety of extracurriculars available at ASU. Though the presence of these have been quieted due to the pandemic, a list of the available programs is posted on the university’s website. With extracurriculars ranging from professional organizations, academic societies, greek life, and social clubs, there are options for students of all interests. Considering they are student-run and organized, they provide our first instances of executive management, networking, outreach, and many more contextual work that we are bound to face in our later careers. To a student, this participation brings growth, and to an employer, the participation shows ambition. 

Internships are arguably the most productive of all extracurriculars as they are designed to provide work experience in the field of your choice. Today, many internships are structured so that students get proper training, can network with professionals and mentors, and have increased chances for future employment. Again, as the job market narrows, it is as important as ever to capitalize on these specialized opportunities. 

In 2019, The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported only 53% of graduated seniors who had applied for a full-time job had received at least one offer. Of that group, over half had participated in an internship as a student. Comparably, The State of Millennial Hiring Report shares students who participate in at least three internships are more likely to find full-time employment post-graduation. Of the graduates reported, 81% believed their work as an intern improved their career prospects. 

Considering most internships serve as a peek into a field, they also allow students to decide if that is the career they are truly passionate about. Students can observe the industry culture, work-life balance, responsibilities, and more that might not be as they expected. In this case, it is imperative  to get pre-employment experience as it prevents much frustration and unfulfillment that would eventually come.

The importance of extracurriculars and internships should be stressed to ASU students. These opportunities should be a constant topic of conversation between students and their respective advisers. The Office of Career Services is an excellent resource that not only notifies eligible students of these programs but also provides guidance throughout the application and preparation processes. Notices of these opportunities to students via email and consequently, due to modern technology, can be found at our fingertips. 

Internships and extracurriculars can be found outside the university through community involvement, social media groups, and professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and Handshake.

 With modern technology, resources, and communication channels, there is no excuse not to participate in an extracurricular activity. The classroom can only take us so far, and as the professional world evolves, it is up to us students to grow with it. When the time comes for full employment, it will be golden nuggets that only real-world experience could provide that will set you apart from the next.