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We’ve drilled the importance of extracurricular activity while at school all the time, the rationale usually being it helps when you’re applying to university. As it turns out, this logic holds true while you’re at a university as well, especially if you’re looking to stand out when applying for jobs.  

The good news is, unlike at school, where you may have felt the need to show a diverse range of interests from sports to music, you can be as specific and niche as you like with your engagement in extracurricular activities at a university. What tends to matter more is how you express the skills you’ve gained during your time participating in these.

Explaining how your extracurricular activities make you the best candidate 

There’s little use in joining a society at university or taking part in a club for the sake of doing so – participating in things you genuinely enjoy doing will give you more incentive to actually engage and make a difference, which is what employers are looking for.  

For instance, a student who has only been part of the university newspaper but risen from contributor to editor and introduced a new column is far more impressive than one who’s been part of debate, tennis and singing clubs but has done little to contribute to any.  

Similarly, your extracurricular choices don’t necessarily have to be academic for you to extract transferable skills out of them. If you were head of a sports society during your time at university, for instance, you can discuss your ability to work well under pressure, how you work within teams, and how you consider yourself a natural leader.

Using specific examples from your experiences will help make your claims concrete- avoid using sweeping statements to explain what you’ve gained from your time at university.  

There’s room for strategy when you’re picking what kind of clubs you want to join 

While it’s always best to do what you genuinely enjoy and what you know you’ll be able to engage with, if you’re aware that you’re going down a certain career path, there’s room to choose your extracurricular activities a little more strategically. 

For instance, if you know you want to work for an NGO, you’ll want to be sure you’re volunteering and participating in as many humanitarian-related opportunities there are available to you at a university.

Taking the initiative to organise events like food drives or clothing drives will also greatly impress employers. On the other hand, if you’re aware of the companies you’re aiming for, place a strong value on academics, you may want to try and pick societies that emphasize this more.  

What you do at university is a reflection of your personal interests as well as your work ethic, so it’s important to try and be proactive while staying true to what you enjoy. Bringing this with you into the workplace is what’ll help you stand out as a candidate, and might just be the difference between applying and getting your foot in the door.

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