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A Love Letter to Extracurriculars

The advantages of extracurriculars, by an underachiever

Written by: Lainey Novak

American students are pressured to “get involved” our entire lives. Whether for college applications or parents’ dreams, we were forced to go to club fairs, sporting events and orchestra concerts.

Many of us never even do anything we actually like. Students just end up doing what they were molded to or whatever will get them into a good college. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who actually enjoyed National Honors Society or the sport their parents threw them into at age four.

I grew up with a distaste for organizations. I was a fervently independent child: a blessing and a curse. I tried every sport and hated them all. But, my mom insisted that I stayed involved.

I have never thrived in the traditional classroom environment. For years, I felt insufficient because I could not grasp school like my peers did. My feelings of inferiority accumulated into a hatred for academics.

To be fair to the school system, I am a magnificent underachiever. In high school, I just went through the motions; I was a C student and I didn’t have friends because I didn’t care enough to make any.

I had grown to an age where my parents could no longer force me to be in extracurriculars and let me finally have the independence I begged for. For a long time I tried to convince myself I enjoyed my solitude, but it was obvious that I was unhappy.

I decided I needed a community, a requirement that will follow me. I joined my school’s choir and drama club. These were activities that scared me, but inspired a new creativity I forgot I had and provided me with friends I retain even now.

A community is simply a group of people who share similar characteristics or beliefs. Everyone needs one, even anti-social underachievers like me and countless other invisible American students. Extracurriculars are a tool in an academic setting to find belonging outside of the classroom.

It is widely accepted that students who participate in extracurricular activities have better academic performance, character and social development. These are all good things, but students often feel pressured to involve themselves in these activities not for their personal benefit, but for applications and resumes.

With the climate of American academics in ever-increasing tension and severity, I don’t think the attitudes toward high school extracurriculars will change easily, or ever. But what about college?

You might be reading this and having regrets over the things you didn’t do in high school, the communities you never found. Likely, you are still in the midst of your academic experience. It is not too late! Cleveland State, like many universities around the country, offers hundreds of clubs and organizations — and not just ones that will embellish your resume.

If you feel like your athletic career was cut short after highschool, CSU offers club sports. A step up from intramurals, club sports gives students a team and helps them stay active and social. The university offers clubs that range from volleyball and soccer to sailing and dance. This might just be your sign to get back in the game, or even try a new one!

Greek life is an option at most colleges for those who crave a close knit social group and meaningful volunteering opportunities. Cleveland State is no exception. The university hosts several national organizations that promote academic and personal growth while providing members with a brotherhood or sisterhood of their own.

Maybe your artsy side has been overlooked for far too long. Cleveland State is home to organizations like Anime Club, Improvisation Group and Film Maker’s Club. Artistic endeavors can expand one’s mind and inspire creativity in different aspects of life.

The campus hosts several diversity-based organizations. Best Buddies is a club dedicated to forming friendships with those who have developmental and intellectual disabilities. The Queer Student Alliance organizes events that focus on the queer experience. Other inclusion-based clubs include Latinos Unidos, African Student Association and the Muslim Student Association.

If you are into gaming, CSU has a surprising amount of video game-based organizations. From League of Legends to Super Smash Bros, these casual gaming clubs are low pressure ways to have fun and meet people with similar interests.

Politically-inclined students can find others with similar beliefs in Cleveland State College Democrats or Cleveland State College Republicans, and find people your age in your political party. If you want to make real change on campus and be part of the big decisions, the Student Government Association might be for you.

Campus has multiple faith-based organizations for religious students. CSU is home to Campus Bible Fellowship, Collegians for Christ, Muslim Student Association, Hillel and the CSU Pagan Alliance.

STEM majors (and those interested in these fields) have a large selection of clubs that might interest them. CSU Robotics, Sisters in STEM and Math Club provide brain-stimulating activities for those looking to challenge themselves. There is even a STEM Lifting Club for those who are looking for a swole brain and body.

This one is going to get a little meta, but you can even be a part of an organization whose sole purpose is to organize events. The Campus Activities Board (CAB) hosts events all year for CSU students to enjoy.

I haven’t even scratched the surface of the hundreds more organizations at Cleveland State. You can access the entire catalog of organizations and how to join them at VikesConnect.

My final bit of advice is to just get out there. Try something new even if you don’t want to. Force yourself to meet people. Not everything you do in college has to be to better your academic resume. Have some fun and make some friends. Do things that make you uncomfortable. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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