While academic performance is important and should be a key priority for all students, learning and honing crucial soft skills will stand them in good stead when they enter the workforce and advance in their careers in future.
For most Singaporean students, the paper chase is not all work and no play. They are familiar with compulsory co-curricular activities of their choice as part of their primary and secondary school curriculum.
These activities are wide-ranging, from sports to music and culture, and participants get to gain new experiences and build camaraderie with peers sharing the same interests.
More importantly, these activities are also deemed to help students build relevant soft skills in preparation for the real world that lies beyond the confines of the classroom.
A holistic university experience
While not compulsory, students at the Singapore campus of James Cook University (JCU), are encouraged to pursue extra-curricular activities for a more well-rounded and enriching university experience.
Ms Mila Vidanovic, a first-year student from the Bachelor of Arts (Majoring in Psychology Studies)and member of the Music Club at JCU, defines her undergraduate experience as having the opportunity to grow as an individual.
She says: “Solely focusing on studying is not enough for developing all the skills or qualities that we need for the future.”
“An extra-curricular activity enables you to enjoy a shared connection with new people, widen your network and figure out what motivates you. It helps you strike that balance across different aspects of your life — your interests, schoolwork and goals.”
Crucial soft skills
Juggling extra-curricular activities with academic studies requires time management, initiative, as well as the discipline and perseverance to overcome challenges along the way.
These are crucial soft skills that will serve students well beyond graduation when they embark on their professional careers.
A first-year Bachelor of Psychological Science student, Ms Abigail Low, actively participates in several extra-curricular activities in the Orientation Committee, Psychology Society and Christian Fellowship. She also holds additional responsibility as the founder and president of the Basketball Club.
She says: “Taking part in extra-curricular activities has definitely made me step out of my comfort zone and try new things. For instance, to set up the Basketball Club, I drafted a proposal and budget, and signed a constitution which included writing reports every semester. I was also responsible for choosing a coach for the team.”
Despite her busy schedule, Ms Low embraces the challenges and strict time management required to strike a balance. She enjoys building a sense of community with like-minded peers, cultivating self-discipline and going all out to meet her goals beyond her academic grades.
JCU also encourages students to engage society through their interests so as to experience a new kind of personal growth and develop greater self-awareness.
For Mr Vivek Anand, a third-year student in Bachelor of Arts (Majoring in Psychology Studies) and President of the Psychology Society, his involvement in extra-curricular activities has opened up opportunities to widen his perspectives through meaningful interaction outside of the JCU campus.
He says: “The Psychology Society organises events for students and the general public that include fundraisers for local beneficiaries, academic talks and collaborations on events such as symposiums with other universities.”
Inspired by the working professionals and speakers whom he encountered at various academic talks, he also volunteers on a weekly basis at the Institute for Mental Health, participates in the mentoring programme at the Metropolitan YMCA Singapore (MYMCA) and other events regularly conducted by JCU.
Third-year Bachelor of Psychological Science student Tan Xiang Tian, who is a Team Singapore athlete and Southeast Asian Games Gold Medallist in Wushu, juggles his undergraduate studies with gruelling training sessions for international Wushu events.
All the effort reaps rewards as he believes that the setbacks and achievements that one inevitably experiences while in pursuit of one’s goals are valuable lessons with far-reaching impact beyond graduation.
“As you work towards a goal, you’ll naturally learn through setbacks and challenges that you face along the way. In time, your outlook will mature as you gain greater awareness of what it takes to achieve your goals,” he adds.