Co-curricular activities are activities that take place outside of a course’s curriculum but are related to academics in some way. Participation is voluntary and has no bearing on a student’s GPA or accumulation of academic credits.
Examples include: sports teams, international and multicultural organizations, religious organizations, political organizations, academic organizations, Greek Life, and special interest clubs.
Although involvement is not part of classroom instruction, it does supplement and enhance a student’s academic experience.
Co-Curricular Activities Examples
1. The Student Council
Most high schools and universities have a Student Council which consists of elected students that are tasked with handling student concerns and interests.
The positions in a Student Council include president, vice president, secretary and treasurer. Other supporting positions may also exist, depending on the Council’s mission statement and activities.
A teacher or professor usually serves as an advisor and helps oversee operations and offer suggestions when asked. However, there role is minimal, as one of the objectives of a Council is to give students valuable experience in a governing capacity.
There are numerous benefits to serving on a Student Council. For example, students can develop their leadership skills, learn how to engage in problem-solving that involve real-world issues, and improve their communication and conflict resolution skills.
Active members can also gain experience coordinating events, delegating tasks, constructing and maintaining budgets, and understanding the dynamics of teamwork.
2. The School Newspaper
A school newspaper is produced solely by students. Although there is a member of the faculty that plays an advisory role, the main responsibility rests with the students. Of course, today school newspapers are usually in a digital format.
The paper will publish articles of interest to students, faculty, and surrounding community. It will inform the student body of various issues and policies that might affect them directly, and maybe even provide an editorial on those matters.
Clubs and other organizations may also announce their activities to promote themselves and recruit additional members. While the student body can submit articles and opinion pieces as well.
Working on the school newspaper gives students an opportunity to develop their journalism skills and gain practical experience handling deadlines, managing teams, and maintaining a budget.
Occasionally, controversial issues may arise, which will give members of the staff and board a chance to demonstrate their ability to negotiate competing demands and perspectives.
Here is a story on the best school newspaper in the U.S.
3. Drama Productions
The Drama Club will occasionally put on a stage production. It could be a play, a poetry recital, a musical, or performance art.
Drama Club gives students an opportunity to engage in theatre and perform in front of a live audience.
Before the curtain opens, students will gain valuable experience in all phases of production, including: set design and construction, making props, designing costumes, seeking sponsors, marketing, and coordinating and directing rehearsals.
Members in a Drama Club may also learn how to deal with fierce competition, disagreements on scripts and performance dynamics, and perhaps even a bad review from the local school newspaper.
Like most student clubs, participants learn valuable practical skills that simply cannot be acquired in the classroom.
4. The Debate Team
There is nothing quite like the art of debate. It involves the wit and intellect of one individual or team versus another. Debaters must prepare themselves for intense combat on a wide range of controversial issues. At the same time, they also develop a wide range of practical skills.
In many countries, university Debate Teams participate in regional and national competitions. Team members spend weeks preparing sound arguments that support their position and trying to anticipate the other team’s most potent points.
Being on the Debate Team helps students develop a unique set of skills. They learn how to critically analyze issues, organize information, communicate with clarity, as well as how to persuade and listen to others.
Debate also teaches students about stage presence, poise, the use of effective gestures, and the value of maintaining eye contact and speaking with confidence. These are all valuable skills that most people will use throughout their careers long after graduation.
Click here to learn more about debate.
5. Mock Trials
A Mock Trial is a competition in which students participate in a simulated trial. The case could be real or imaginary. The competition is overseen and judged by real legal professionals.
Don’t be fooled by the term “mock.” The competition in these events is serious and cutthroat. Many of a nation’s top law schools will participate on a national level, frequently traveling to other campuses across the country.
A mock trial is part art and science. Students can hone their communication skills, learn to think on their feet, and improve their ability to engage in challenging debate.
Although the stakes are not real, the competition is. Students will learn how to handle stress and perform under intense pressure and scrutiny.
6. The Computer Science Club
The Computer Science Club can be involved in just about anything that involves computers, from programming to robotics, to AI applications. The club is usually comprised of computer science majors that are interested in sharing their knowledge and experience.
Clubs may organize tutorials for beginners, provide mentoring, or offer advice on career paths. Many clubs will sponsor workshops or invite well-known guest speakers to campus for a special event.
Some computer science clubs work with community partners to sponsor events in local schools or disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Other clubs are focused on increasing the representation of women in the computer sciences. They might conduct workshops for young female students in nearby schools, or visit classes to talk about career opportunities that female students may not be aware of.
There is also competitive programming, which is a mind sport that takes place all around the world.
Cheerleading has undergone tremendous changes from its early days of pom-poms and cheery cheers. Today’s cheerleading squads are highly trained athletes. They undergo rigorous training and sometimes endure serious injuries.
They engage in dangerous stunts and gymnastic-like maneuvers that take weeks of practice. Cheerleading squads often travel with the sports teams of their school or university and play a significant role in most major sporting events.
The cheerleading squad connects with fans, unifies the crowd, and encourages them to show their support for the school’s sports team. That may not sound so consequential, but getting the crowd to be loud can fire up the team and distract the opponents.
They also participate in regional and national competitions that are televised on television and draw large, very enthusiastic crowds that cheer for the cheerleaders. These events are aired on ESPN and draw significant ratings.
Here is a video of Team Japan’s cheerleading routine in the 2019 World Championships.
8. The Greek System
Fraternities and sororities are some of the most organized co-curricular activities on nearly every university campus in the U.S. These are part of what is called the Greek system because of the Greek letters that are used to name and signify the clubs.
There are many clubs on campus available to join. Although membership is voluntary, there is a mutual selection process that occurs.
Students that want to join a club attend social events sponsored by those clubs. They get to know the members of each and then choose one to join. The existing members of those clubs then choose which students to accept.
The clubs are formed based on shared interests and aspirations. Some clubs are more academic than others, but the friendships that are established will last for years.
9. Book Clubs
A book club is a group of students and maybe some faculty that get together weekly or biweekly to discuss a particular book.
The selection of books is decided upon my members. Discussions are sometimes guided by a moderator, who will pose questions, provide relevant articles, and facilitate discussion centering on issues raised in the book.
There can be different types of book clubs that each focus on a specific genre. If a club is well-sponsored, it might invite an author to be a guest speaker and meet with the group informally. The author will share their insights on writing, discuss their process, or offer advice on how to get published.
Some clubs will also engage in charity campaigns to help provide funding to a local community library or ask the public to donate books.
In the age of social media, many book clubs coordinate events to encourage people to read more books.
10. PoliSci Club
PoliSci refers to political science. These clubs are designed to be non-partisan and often have the mission of bringing students together from across the political spectrum to engage in constructive political discourse. At least, that’s the plan.
The club will organize structured discussions of current political issues or historical events. Throughout the year it may coordinate various forums and hold special events.
Guest speakers can come from within or outside the campus community and include alumni or recognized experts in the field.
Many clubs will also give students opportunities to learn about graduate school, public service or career opportunities.
- AI and machine learning group
- Astronomy club
- Atheist debate club
- Athletics club
- Birding society
- Board games club
- Chess club
- Chinese club
- Coding and programming club
- College Democrats
- College Greens
- College Republicans
- Cooking and baking group
- Cultural exchange club
- Drone enthusiasts group
- Engineering club
- Environmentalism club
- Fashion and sewing group
- Fishing club
- French club
- Gamers club
- German club
- Hiking and backpackers club
- Interfaith alliance
- Intervarsity sports group
- Magicians club
- Math club
- Microbiology club
- Music producers and DJs club
- Nordic skiers group
- Philosophy club
- Photography group
- Pre-laws society
- Queer & Trans alliance
- Rap and hip hop enthusiasts
- Recycling group
- Religious groups
- Ski club
- Socialites club
- Soiology group
- Spanish club
- Sportscar enthusiasts
- Swing club
- Women’s groups
- Writing club
Benefits of Co-Curricular Activities
Through co-curricular activities, students gain many valuable practical experience they could never acquire in the classroom.
For example, they may learn about how to coordinate an event, maintain a budget, and handle unanticipated challenges.
Their leadership, social, and communication skills may also be improved and they learn the value of teamwork and dynamics of collaboration.
All of these skills can be demonstrated on a resume.
However, often the greatest benefit of co-curricular activities is that it build social capital that can help after you complete your studies. For example, you may be able to secure a job in the future through someone you were in a fraternity with, or use your connections on the debating club to secure an internship.
Co-Curricular vs Extracurricular Activities
Co-curricular and extracurricular activities are terms that are sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably.
Here is the difference:
- Co-curricular activities are linked to the educational institution but not tied to coursework and non-compulsory.
- Extracurricular activities occur off campus and are not connected to the university or classroom instruction.
Examples of extracurricular activities include off-campus Church-related involvement or independent sports competitions.
Most universities have an abundant array of co-curricular activities available to students. Some clubs are academic, some social, and some athletic oriented. Students can easily find a club or organization that suits their interests.
Clubs will hold special events that support their mission, which might include participating in competitions, inviting guest speakers, or coordinating on- and off-campus events.
Although clubs are an integral part of a university, participation is completely voluntary and has no effect on a student’s GPA or course credit in any way.
When students participate in club activities, they benefit in numerous ways. They learn about leadership, communication and teamwork, as well as gain experience coordinating events, maintaining a budget, and handling various project management issues.
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Fox, L. M., & Sease, J. M. (2019). Impact of co-curricular involvement on academic success of pharmacy students. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching & Learning, 11(5), 461–468. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cptl.2019.02.004
Guilmette M., Mulvihill K., Villemaire-Krajden R., Barker E. T. (2019). Past and present participation in extracurricular activities is associated with adaptive self-regulation of goals, academic success, and emotional wellbeing among university students. Learning and Individual Differences, 73, 8–15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lindif.2019.04.006
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