I have to start this second-part post with a disclaimer – each institution will have different options to get involved, and I can’t guarantee every suggestion I make here will be available at every online university. However, I strongly encourage you to begin to look into your options – and to look into the options available when you are still deciding on which school to attend as well!
So now you know why it’s important to get involved in college, but you’re not quite sure how to get things started. After all, as mentioned before, you can’t just walk into an office for student engagement or grab a flyer with the date and time of an upcoming student organization meeting. But never fear, this is still the internet and your online school’s website will have a lot of great information for you!
A good place to start looking, especially for those of you who are looking before registering at an institution, is to check out the university’s public website. Most websites will include a section about student experience. This is a place for universities to include information about “campus life,” services offered relating to your career search, student involvement and organizations, disability services, social media resources, information about events and webinars, and more. If you can’t find a student experience or similar section, you can look for some of those breakout topics individually as well. And don’t forget about the handy dandy search function!
Another spot to learn more about ways to get involved outside the classroom is within your student portal. This isn’t something you can see unless you’re enrolled at a university, but once you have access, I definitely encourage you to explore all aspects of your portal. Not only will that help you learn more about what your institution offers in general, but it will also provide you with details about how you can engage with the university beyond just your classes – you can find things like webinars that are only offered to students at the university or information on joining online clubs or access to a career network that provides resume building tools and more. Usually, what you see on the public website is just a hint at what you have access to as a student, so the portal often has more details about student engagement.
If you’ve been digging around on the website and on your portal, and you’re still not sure what is offered, you can always check your university’s catalog. Usually it will include basic information about the student services that are offered, including engagement and involvement opportunities. You should be able to use the catalog to find out what is offered – like student organizations – at the very least, even if that does mean you still have to do a little more research to figure out how to then involve yourself. Also, read those emails that your university sends you. I’m sure you get a lot, but you never know when one advertising a club or inviting you to an honor society or promoting a webinar on time-management might pop up – sort of like a virtual flyer! So keep your eyes open for direct communication from your institution too.
Finally, one of the quickest, easiest and most helpful ways to learn more about how to get involved at your institution is to ask someone! Ask your advisor, ask your admissions counselor, ask your instructors, ask your peers. Let your advisor or instructor know that you’d love to get involved outside the classroom and you’re interested in knowing what’s available. Even if they don’t have a direct answer, they should be able to set you off in the right direction. A lot of student organizations are actually connected to different academic departments and schools as well, so your instructors and peers within your classes can be a great resource regarding organizations that relate to your education.
Student involvement at an online school can be a more difficult thing to discover than at a traditional campus, due to the nature of the online campuses and the huge focus on academics (Yay!). Academics aren’t always the first things noticed with traditional institutions, so it can be easy to find out how to join a student group when they’re very present around campus. But by having to do a little research to see what is offered at your online school, you’re only enhancing your skills that can be related back to the classroom – after all, you’re doing research! – and allowing yourself to learn more about your university. It can be easy to log on, go to class, do your homework, and log off, so by simply looking for how to get involved outside the classroom, you’re already starting to engage with your institution on a higher level. Which, as we know from the previous post, has a lot of benefits!