The Importance of Campus Involvement

At the University of Michigan acclimating to University life can be a difficult task. Students are welcomed into a growing community of over 28,000 undergraduate students, as well as over 15,000 graduate school students and faculty personnel. Each person enrolled at the university has proven their academic capabilities through their high school test scores and applications. Louis Menand argues in his second theory that colleges and universities sort the intelligent from the less intelligent and distinguish the successful from the less successful using grades. However, a students grades can be positively and negatively affected by many things. Clubs and organizations have become the most recognizable tool for improving a students success by minimizing one’s community size and providing students with an outlet at which they can become more actively involved on campus.

The University of Michigan offers over 1,500 clubs and organizations that students are able to join. Joining a club or organization allows students the ability to surround themselves with other students of shared values. For instance, as a member of the club Kid’s Kitchen I constantly interact with people who share a value of service and have an interest in interacting with children.

University of Michigan Festifall

College and university organizations offer students the opportunity to become actively involved in their campus community. For the sake of this blog we will view actively involved students as priority focused individuals that designate their time to furthering their success through campus outlets. For instance, a student interested in majoring in engineering may join an engineering fraternity where they will be able to network with other individuals interested in the same field.

Menand argues that grades are the essence of success and differentiate the most successful students from the rest. However, student’s academic lives are examined by a criterion that includes more than only grades. Incoming undergraduate students are constantly encouraged to branch out and join clubs and organizations in order to fully take advantage of opportunities within the University. However, students are encouraged to do things while also receiving the best grades possible.

Majority of students enter college and university with distinct goals. Perhaps they are using their freshman year to focus solely on academics, attend every football game, or joining Greek life. Unfortunately, society’s pressure on students to do well can be intimidating and student’s can easily loose focus of their goals. It is essential that students are able to maintain a balance between social and academic life.

By joining a club or organization, students are joining a community. The beauty of these communities is that they are smaller than the full campus community and also that they allow individuals to be surrounded by others with similar interests.

Alexander Astin published an article titled, “Student Involvement: A Developmental Theory for Higher Education” in The Journal of College Student Development which details the Theory of Student involvement. “The Theory of Student Involvement… suggests that the most precious institutional resource may be student time.” Student time refers to the amount of time a student puts toward accomplishing their goals, such as studying, attending class, and participating in study groups or clubs.

Astin suggest that active participation allows individuals to remain motivated and better reach their goals. Originally developed during a study which explored the affect of college and university life on dropouts, the Theory of Student Involvement found that actively involved students were less likely to dropout. Students who fully immersed themselves in college and university life formed a stronger psychological connection to their school and had a stronger incentive to do well.

Referring back to Kids Kitchen, my academic life has been positively affected by the organization. By finding a common interest among club members individuals are able to explore other interests they may have in common outside of the club. Kid’s Kitchen focuses on the ideal of service and serving one’s community. However, through the club I have met numerous individuals with common course schedules and academic goals. It is extremely common for us to form study groups and meet outside of class for academic purposes. While Kid’s Kitchen is not an academic club, the opportunity to meet and interact with other academically focused individuals has benefited my academic studies.

While Menand is correct in that grades are a defining aspect of a student’s academic career, it is important to note the factors that contribute to a student’s ability to become academically successful such as clubs and organizations.

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4 comments

  1. allanmc2014 · September 28, 2014

    Your argument is among many who oppose the standardized grading systems colleges use to gauge applicants. I, myself fervently support your claims and others. Like you said, an examination of a student should not focus on test scores or GPA’s, but rather a more holistic approach. What interesting things have they done? How have they impacted their community? Colleges look for these students because in the long run, they will make the greatest impact to our society. Working hard in school is important, but it is the skills that students develop through volunteer efforts, organizations, and sports that condition them to become successful and USE the knowledge they have learned in the classroom.

    Currently, I am taking Psychology 211-Project Outreach. I love the class in that you spend 4 hours of a week volunteering and spending time in the VA in Ann Arbor talking to newly-diagnosed cancer patients. It’s this type of involvement that separates the best of the best, not just the people who have the classroom knowledge.

    I wholeheartedly disagree that Menand’s first theory of the importance of grades in college to separate the “more intelligent front the less intelligent”. I think this is a major issue with our higher educational institutions. We need to re-evaluate our criteria systems so that students are more accurately measured on their abilities.

    So go out and get involved!

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  2. sgoldberg18 · September 28, 2014

    You make some really great points here that I definitely agree with. Menand spends so much time speaking about the importance of grades in his second theory, yet one of the most important parts of college is extracurricular activities. Graduate schools look for students who have demonstrated leadership in different activities, and as he mentions, college is a time for students to figure out what they’re good at and interested in. Nothing can do that better than the many clubs offered. I also find your point that clubs help contribute to academic success very interesting. I think that can be true for some people, but not for others. It depends on how the resources the different activities have to offer and how someone utilizes them.

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  3. lauraucros · October 2, 2014

    I agree with the overall argument of the blog: that campus involvement through joining clubs and organizations can make a significant difference in someone’s college experience. Nevertheless, there are some things in sgoldberg18’s comment that I would like to add on.

    Louis Menand’s second theory argues that grades measure’s someone college success. The problem is that he is talking about college success as academic success solely; he fails to take into account the other part of the experience. Many people say that what you take from college is not the concepts or the theory of the classes you take but rather the life experiences and the personal growth. I’d have to say that personally I think it is a little but of both; and that’s the reason why I liked your blog post so much.

    People should engage in campus involvement not only because they are engineers and they want to improve their networking as you said, but because they are passionate about it and think they can contribute to the community by joining a club. If it is true that joining an organization can sometimes help you from the academic perspective, one must do it for a different reason: to grow personally or to make a significant contribution to the University.

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  4. mollygrant41 · October 6, 2014

    I agree with your blog in the sense that students must have extracurriculars to balance out the academics that comes with the college life. I feel like college is your time to experiment with different things, meet new people, and a time to truly discover who you are. However, Menand says that those with the best grades will be the most successful. Personally, I feel that success is based off of what you said, a combination of academic and social activities. I was at a pre-professional event a few weeks ago and they discussed the very importance of being involved in extracurriculars as an undergraduate. They said that they want to see that you are able to balance between studying and community involvement. Therefore, what I took away was that, if you follow Theory 1 to the degree, you aren’t going to be successful as someone who makes an effort to be a part of something outside the classroom. So, I agree with you. Through being involved, I believe you will will encounter more success than someone who is not.

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