Beyond The Classroom
No one will argue that college is about learning but the definition encompasses a lot more than what you read in four years of textbooks.
Students expect more from today’s colleges and universities than a diploma; they want a four-year (or more) EXPERIENCE. While it’s important to step into the job market with knowledge college is perhaps one of the biggest milestones in terms of molding your character determining what really matters coping with stress and transitioning to the “real world.”
Here are some programs and “bonus features” from around the country that are giving students not only a college education but also a college experience.
Move over 1950s sock hop the Iowa State Dance Marathon is in town! The largest student-run philanthropy at Iowa State University (ISU) raised $388,457 this year for the Children’s Miracle Network. More than 975 student dancers showed up to participate in the event and it’s not just the charity that benefits.
“There are over 200 student committee and executive members,” says Kevin Merrill leadership and service coordinator for the ISU Student Activities Center. “The executive board is comprised of 15 undergraduate students who oversee different committees. The students involved in the planning and execution of the dance marathon have gone on to great success as managers teachers and even to work in the Target corporate offices.”
Like Iowa State Tennessee Tech University (TTU) students have found ways to combine music fun and fundraising. During Greek Week this year students participated in a lip-sync competition. Both participants and attendees brought either a monetary donation or a canned food item for the on-campus food pantry a new project that aims to help hungry students at the college.
Recent graduate Kaitlin Salyer who works in the Service Learning Center where the donations are currently gathered to stock the food pantry says that many people don’t realize there is such a need. “You automatically assume if you can afford college you can afford all the other basic necessities of life and that’s just not the case,” says Salyer.
Of course TTU isn’t the only school to address hunger in the community. At Wake Forest University (NC) faculty staff and students join together to cook Thanksgiving meals and deliver them to nonprofits. But it’s peanut butter and jelly at Adelphi University (NY) where students prepare and donate more than 200 sandwiches to the local soup kitchen.
Aquinas College (MI) which is rooted in the Catholic and Dominican traditions emphasizes career preparation focused on leadership and service to others. It’s a description reflected well in the school’s Project Unite program. Each year during fall orientation groups of first-year students participate in an act of service in the Grand Rapids area. They interact with the elderly prepare a classroom help the hungry clean a park paint a playground work on a community garden or prepare shipments to Haiti.
At Southeastern Louisiana University students created “Swabbin’ 4 Robin” (referring to a DNA cheek swab and “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts a 1983 alumnus) to help expand the world’s largest database of potential bone marrow donors. Students say they appreciate having a non-financial alternative to help others.
Studying––on campus and online
Times have changed since the pencil and paper were the primary means of taking tests writing papers and doing homework. Today’s college backpacks are spilling over with smartphones tablets and laptops and a survey by StudyBlue found that 59 percent of students use a mobile phone to study and 93 percent use study apps. Colleges are catching on to this creating customized apps for their tech-savvy coeds.
The University of Alabama’s app offers a directory of faculty members (and staff and students) lectures course schedules and more. Likewise Ashford University (IA) students can check on their courses and post to class-related discussion forums. At Berkeley College (NJ) students and faculty can access a variety of features on the school’s mobile app including Blackboard Learn the bookstore videos maps course information and the shuttle schedule among many others.
Relaxing and blowing off steam
When February unleashes some of Michigan’s coldest temperatures and students are both test-weary and stir crazy Aquinas College hosts one of its points of pride: the Refresh Yourself program. In addition to enjoying free healthy local food and entertainment Aquinas worked this year with a local salon to provide chair massages and free haircuts for students.
“We also have some traditional activities including our AQ IDOL finale that features some of the best vocalists on campus our chicken-wing eating contest and thousands of dollars worth of prizes,” says Director of Campus Life Heather Bloom Hall.
You don’t need to be a professional dancer in “Step Up Revolution” to be part of a cool flash mob. College students across the country are finding that the fun (and often silly) spontaneous gatherings are incredible stress busters.
The University of Georgia has practically mastered the concept whether groups manifest as a small flash mob in the dining hall an a cappella version of “Turn Off the Lights” (a spoof on Kanye West’s “All of the Lights”) to raise awareness about saving electricity or a workout featuring 200+ students making a statement against obesity.
At the University of La Verne (CA) students are encouraged to put off studying to attend the aptly named “Destination Procrastination.” The annual event was created to help students get their minds off finals and have fun in a safe environment. This year from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. students played arcade games danced to a DJ played laser tag and competed in dodgeball sock wars and beach volleyball. The night was topped off with finger foods free massages a pajama party and a coffee smoothie and pancake bar.
Students at Marietta College (OH) often start their annual Doo Dah Day with mud volleyball and end up enjoying live music a hearty cookout and lots of giant inflatables. Almost four decades since its creation the springtime celebration is just as fun––even if the features of the event have changed a bit over the years. The 1974 inaugural event included a hayride old movies of the college a taffy pull and a demonstration by the school’s president on how to tie a bowtie. (OK maybe it’s a lot more fun now!)
Getting ready for the real world
Although all colleges and universities have job-prep programs for seniors about to hit the workforce some are much more extensive in their offerings.
Tennessee Tech University is one of the latter giving students an edge on the competition with an entire week in March dedicated to professional development. Yes there’s the standard career fair and résumé help but there are also more unique components like an etiquette dinner for business students a discussion and panel on how to build a professional social media presence and sessions about the business of running a ministry and a nonprofit organization.
At the University of Rochester (NY) mock interviews are replaced with “mocktails” at a senior reception that takes the concept of “there’s so much for new graduates to juggle” quite literally. Students learn how to make introductions shake hands space a conversation and make graceful exits all while holding a drink and hors d’oeuvres.
Seniors at the University of North Carolina are given a full course on etiquette—from ordering serving and passing food and using condiments to personal notes and understanding the difference between professional and business casual attire.
Of course not everything post-college is just about being on your best behavior. Students from six Pennsylvania colleges learned how to survive (and thrive!) after college at the Senior Transitions Conference. The two-day event covered a wide variety of “must-know” topics: budgeting getting an apartment and car understanding benefits packages and repaying student loans.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a college or university that solely focuses on knowledge gained from books and lectures. Getting you ready for life after college is no small endeavor. But if you find the right college for who you are now it will help you grow and mature into someone who is ready to face the real world head-on after graduation.
Ben Michaels is a freelance writer from Vermont.