Why student clubs matter in community colleges


Extracurricular activities play a critical role in shaping the college experience for students, and they are often characterized as a rite of passage for students. One of these extracurricular activities is student clubs.

Participating in student club activities not only contributes to a supportive and inclusive campus environment but also enriches the college experience and makes it more fulfilling. Students are more likely to be satisfied with their overall college experiences when they are involved in extracurricular activities. This is particularly relevant in community colleges, where campuses are more likely to be dynamic and diverse.

In community colleges, students’ academic successes and their personal and professional development are part of an interlocking set of experiences. Community college students are intentional about their purpose on college campuses and are likely to be more selective in the activities they participate in. As a result, extracurricular activities must be structured to offer them academic, emotional and tangible benefits.

This article comes from the Community College Journal, the flagship publication of the American Association of Community Colleges since 1930.

According to several authors who write about the issue, here are some of the most critical benefits of student clubs to community college students:

Promote a sense of community and belonging. Studies show that what students do and how they feel during their college years hold greater significance for them than the reputation of the institutions they attend. Student clubs create space for students to interact freely and openly, allowing them to experience a sense of belonging. They get to interact with other students, some of whom they may have never come across on campus.

This sense of community and belonging is especially useful to community college students, who often feel left out of the “true” college experience because they are more likely to be balancing academic commitments with work and family responsibilities.

Provide opportunities for engagement and interaction beyond the classroom. Institutions that offer a diverse set of activities for student involvement are more likely to have students who are more satisfied with their overall college experience. Community college students tend to be more intentional in their engagement beyond the classroom. They are encouraged to participate in student clubs and to collaborate on initiatives that enrich their academic experience and contribute to a holistic development beyond the classroom.

Build and enrich leadership skills. Leadership opportunities are always available for students who participate in student clubs. Students get to build and enrich their leadership abilities through practicing effective communication skills and behaviors such as public speaking, personal accountability, networking and conflict management. These skills are integral to confidence-boosting behaviors in students.

Reduces feelings of isolation and anonymity. Feelings of loneliness are often associated with student attrition in institutions, and this is especially true for community college students. Active engagement in clubs allows students to meet new friends and engage with like-minded people, increase the connection and community, and reduce isolation and anonymity.

Leads to cognitive and affective growth. Students who engage in extracurricular activities during their college years are more likely to experience the most substantial mental and emotional growth. This personal development extends well beyond the college years into their professional ones and may explain a part of students’ overall professional and personal success.

Correlation between engagement and academic performance. Students who actively engage in extracurricular activities are more likely to experience academic success. Student clubs offer opportunities for students to participate in a diverse set of extracurricular activities, most of which are directly linked to their professions. This is especially true in community colleges where students seek to develop skills to enter their field of choice.

This correlation underscores the significance of institutions adopting a holistic approach to student development when integration between academic performance and extracurricular activities is considered.

Student engagement in clubs contributes to the vibrance of the college experience, leads to greater satisfaction for students and provides better outcomes for both students and institutions. Students who engage in club activities tend to prefer their overall college experience, regardless of the reputation of their institutions. This is critical information for institutions as they educate and develop students.

About the Author

Clover Baker-Brown
Dr. Clover Baker-Brown is a professor of communications at Prince George’s Community College and was a faculty advisor and student leadership coach for student clubs for more than 10 years.
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