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A Guide to Extracurriculars for Students Who Say “How Much Is Enough?” and “I’m Really Busy”

Ask yourself 3 key questions: 1) what are you interested in, 2) what activities do you have time for, and 3) what your plans after graduation?

It’s easy to compare yourself to your classmate’s involvement, but remember, everyone is on their own path. Everyone is creating their own story. On graduation day, everyone’s CV will not look the same and that’s the point.

Let’s meet 2 students who are looking for some advice navigating extracurriculars.

Meet Alex: Alex is pretty sure a residency is in their future. Alex joined one organization as a first year student and has attended most meetings. Alex is interested in joining more organizations, but is afraid of stretching themselves too thin. Alex also wonders if they should put all of their energy into one organization. So let’s review the 3 questions for Alex:

1. What are you interested in? Alex stated they are interested in more than just one organization so definitely follow your interests. Pick the top 2-3 groups that speak the most to you and go to their meetings to find out a) what kind of activities do they do, b) what is the time commitment, and c) who is already involved so you can ask more detailed questions. Bottom line: don’t limit yourself to just one organization. It will not hurt to explore to find out more and THEN you can be selective about where you spend your time and energy. Varied opportunities/involvement will help you stand out as a residency candidate – more on this below.

2. What do you have time for? Alex is worried about spreading themselves too thin. We first have to talk about grades. If you’re able to handle your classes/studying commitments right now, then absolutely pursue a few different extracurriculars. Choose groups/activities that have events that fit with your schedule. If you work every Saturday, then becoming a member of a group that ONLY does Saturday health screenings may not be best fit, unless they have other opportunities and you’re super passionate about their cause. Talk to upperclassmen in those groups about how they balanced studying, work, and volunteering. Ask them what events were the most impactful for learning and growth. After every quarter/semester, look back at how everything went – were you able to manage everything or did something start to slip?

3. What are you plans after graduation? Since Alex is looking into residency opportunities, they will definitely want to be involved in organizations. In addition, Alex will want to pursue leadership roles within that group. Being president/chair/executive board chair are positions that residency programs will look for. What will happen if Alex doesn’t get elected or doesn’t have this opportunity? Should they still pursue a residency? YES. Alex can take whatever time they have left on campus to showcase their leadership skills in other ways. Alex can meet with the organization’s faculty advisor and ask how they can do this.

Meet Jay: Jay is a commuter student with a long drive. There are family obligations that Jay needs to be involved with. There is little time to spend on campus outside of classes. Jay is not sure what they want to do after graduation. Jay would love to meet new people and get involved with organizations but doesn’t see how this is even possible. Let’s review the 3 questions for Jay:

1. What are you interested in? In between classes one day, Jay will want to write down the areas of pharmacy or organizations that they want to learn more about. Jay can email this list to their faculty advisor (or another faculty member) and ask which organizations/events would be the best to target. If Jay is open to learning about anything, then they can pick 1-2 groups to start with and ask classmates for more info and ask who the advisor is. Jay can email these people and ask how they can get involved, even with limited time on campus. Think outside the box here, more on this below.

2. What do you have time for? Jay’s time is very limited. If Jay wants to be involved, it’s going to be activities that can be done in between classes or virtually. Jay and the organization may have to be creative about a new role: does the organization need a new website? Social media posts? Bloggers? Someone to email/engage with new members? Financial/budget planning? Organizing documents/photos electronically? This would be a conversation about where Jay’s strengths/interests line up with the groups’ needs.

3. What are your plans after graduation? Since Jay isn’t sure, they can use this to their advantage and ask the group if they need someone to interview alumni, preceptors, or area pharmacists. This will definitely help Jay network and may also help the organization feature career paths for their members. Since Jay doesn’t have a definite career path yet, then Jay wants to set themselves up to be a competitive candidate for any job. Adding unique, innovative roles to their CV is definitely one way to do this.

Do you resonate with either Alex or Jay? How have you navigated extracurriculars?

Comment below!

Did you hear about our goal? We’re going to interview one student from every college of pharmacy on our podcast! So far we’ve interviewed students from: Texas Tech, Binghamton, Roseman, Univ of St. Joseph, and Fairleigh Dickinson. Want your school to be featured? Email us!


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