January 17, 2018

Six strategies for capitalizing on student learning opportunities

Six strategies for capitalizing on student learning opportunities - Photo courtesy of Griszka Niewiadomski

The college experience is full of numerous learning opportunities in and out of the classroom that undergraduate students should take full advantage of. While book learning is important, there are also other avenues in which students can gain direct work-world experience and list on a resume. Here are some strategies for capitalizing on student learning opportunities in college.

1. Faculty Research

Professors normally participate in conducting research and publish articles in professional journals. Depending on the type of college or university you attend, and the research agendas of your professors, you may be able to help a faculty member on a research project. It is probably best to ask one of the professors in your major and with whom you already have a relationship because they may be more willing to allow you to help.

2. Conferences

There are numerous opportunities to attend local, regional, and national conferences through various academic and extra-curricular organizations. In many cases, the cost of attending these conferences is covered by your student activity fee. As an undergraduate student I attended residence hall association (NACURH) and student activity (NACA) conferences all across the country. I was able to present in front of large groups of students from other universities. It was largely through these experiences that led me to become a student affairs professional. There are almost countless numbers of conferences to attend for every type of academic major and extra-curricular activity (e.g., Greek Life, student government, student activities, etc.)

3. Organization Leadership Positions

Even at the smallest colleges, there are numerous student organizations in which you can participate. Clubs and organization officers are always looking for volunteers to help with their activities, which makes for a great opportunity to get involved. After getting your feet wet with an organization, you can eventually run for a particular leadership role, such as president, vice president, or treasurer. You will gain great skills like knowing how to run a meeting, fundraising, managing a budget, and planning activities and events. Skills I first learned as the chairperson for my college’s concert committee I still use to this day as a full-time professional.

4. Community Service

Lending your skills and time toward a local community charity will always be a worthwhile endeavor. Most colleges have a community outreach office, which is responsible for creating community service opportunities for students. Not only will you be able to lend a hand for those in need, but will be able to network with individuals throughout the community.

5. Campus Employment

Working for a campus department will help you to learn many skills related to being a productive employee in the workplace. All colleges and universities employ students to help them with the day-to-day tasks associated with running an institution of higher learning. Check with the financial aid office or a particular department or office you would like to work for to see if they have any openings.

6. Independent Study

An independent study is the opportunity to work on a project related to your academic major. The project is usually related to a small research project that you conduct over the course of a semester. The culmination of your work is usually written in the form of a paper or presentation. Normally one of your major professors would serve as the faculty supervisor of your project.

Take full advantage of all of the learning opportunities that your college has to offer in and out of the classroom. If there is something specific you would like to learn or an experience you would like to list on your resume, but do not know where to start, seek advice from your academic advisor or an administrator in your student affairs office.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Scott M. Helfrich is the Director of Upper Campus Housing at California University of Pennsylvania and a managing partner of Student Life Consultants. He has presented nationally and internationally on topics ranging from student activities, student government, residence life & housing, and college student mental health. He has been published in the Journal of College Student Development, Student Leader Magazine, Programming Magazine and has been a consultant and training module developer for various college and universities as well as ResLife.net and StudentAffairs.com. Scott earned his doctorate (D.Ed.) in higher education from Pennsylvania State University. His blog can be found at StudentLifeGuru.com and he can be followed on Twitter @StudentLifeGuru.

*Photo courtesy of Griszka Niewiadomski

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