Melinda Hunt — In education today, learning does not only take place in the classroom. Students are expected to learn, and apply what they have learned, in “real world” situations. Known as co-curricular learning, these out-of-class experiences have become an important part of many graduate programs and even a requirement.
However, since many graduate students are working adults with family and community responsibilities, or are taking courses online, finding and participating in co-curricular learning activities often presents a challenge. Understanding these challenges, many universities have developed co-curricular opportunities with working adults in mind, creating a well-rounded learning environment.
Academic Clubs and Societies
Nearly every university supports a diverse collection of clubs and societies devoted to the study of individual subjects. These groups might produce newsletters with information about the field, sponsor lectures or special programs with experts in the field, serve as a study group, or simply serve as a networking and social group. Even those earning their health administration degree onlinecan participate in these groups, by contributing to online discussions or attending virtual events.
Throughout the year, national organizations host conferences around the country, allowing academics, professionals, and students to come together for a few days and share their knowledge and research with each other. Over the course of the conference, academics present original research and give attendees the opportunity to ask questions and discuss developments in the field. Attendees also have the chance to network and get to know others in the field, making conferences a valuable co-curricular learning tool. Ideally, students would have the opportunity to present either their own work or a project they assisted with, but going to the conference and soaking up the atmosphere is a valuable experience. And since most conferences only last a few days, it’s easy to squeeze them in once a year.
Students busy with healthcare administration and management jobs might cringe at the notion of adding another responsibility to their plates, but volunteering with an organization that needs your expertise can enhance your learning experience and improve your learning outcomes. Spending a few hours a week working with a nonprofit organization, for example, helps you develop communication and leadership skills in a way that classroom learning can’t.
Sometimes, students need extra help in grasping the complex concepts presented in graduate education. If you’ve aced certain subjects or you have work experience in that area, offer your services as a tutor. In some cases, graduate programs offer tutoring services and will hire students. Working with other students not only allows you to keep your own skills sharp, but to develop your communication abilities as well.
Committees and Student Government
Nearly every graduate school has a plethora of committees, boards, and opportunities for students to get involved and provide input into the operations of the school and student activities. While graduate students with other responsibilities may not be interested in planning mixers or other social events, they can provide a valuable perspective to curriculum planning or governance committees. By serving on one of these committees, you can build leadership and consensus-building skills, in addition to gaining an insider’s view on managing complex organizations.
Ambassador or Representative
Universities are constantly looking to recruit new, qualified students to their programs. Who better to share the benefits of a program than a current student or recent graduate? Grad students can serve as ambassadors or representatives for their program, communicating with prospective students about the program to answer questions, or mentoring new students as they begin their graduate journey.
Getting a graduate education these days requires more than completing the required number of courses and passing tests. To get the most out of their education, students need to seek opportunities for applying their learning and developing transferrable skills that will prove invaluable to career development and success.
About the Author
Melinda Hunt recently earned her master’s in health care administration. While a student, she served on the student affairs committee.