Financial Guide to College Extracurricular Activities

As students are preparing to head back to school it is vital that we provide a resource for students to ensure they know the importance of being involved in a club or organization so they can properly plan for the academic year. Our experts created a guide that breaks down the benefits of extracurriculars while clearly outlining the costs that are associated and how you can offset those costs.

Getting involved with student activities in college

There are two major types of student organizations, explains Alexander Lowry, Executive Director of the Career and Connection Institute at Gordon College, a nationally ranked liberal arts institution in New England. Some organizations, such as chess clubs or intramural sports clubs, are primarily for fun. Others, such as business clubs, help prepare students for future careers. “These types of clubs are designed to help you meet people, build your network and get a job.”


Ofoegbu knows about the benefits of professional student organizations first-hand. “My engineering club allowed me to network with senior engineering students and university professors involved in the club, thereby expanding my pool of mentors and resources.”

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Does that mean that you should only sign up for career-building extracurriculars? Not necessarily. A student who is more interested in joining the anime club than the accounting club can still benefit from being part of an extracurricular organization. “Any club can connect you to a network of people,” Lowry explains. From there, you can make the kinds of friendships that can last well beyond your undergraduate days.


“Suddenly you’re in this club of people,” says Lowry, “and then you’re always in that club of people.”

This goes double for Greek organizations. Once you’ve successfully pledged a fraternity or sorority, your network of brothers and sisters can stretch back for generations. Not only do Greek orgs provide a built-in group of people on campus who have your back, but they also connect you to alumni and mentors who can help you find your way forward.

Choosing extracurriculars might be easier for some students than others. If you enter college knowing which career or industry you want to pursue, joining a professional club is a great way to get introduced to other people with similar interests and confirm that you’re on the right career path. If you’re less sure of your career goals, Lowry suggests finding other ways of getting active – literally. “Intramural sports are great ways to get physical activity,” he says, “and they can also help you build a network.”

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The cost of student activities

Here’s a short, non-exhaustive list of costs that students can expect when they sign up for college extracurricular activities. Not all activities require students to cover every cost on this list, but these are some of the expenses associated with the most popular extracurriculars:

  • Dues and fees (registration fees, new member dues, active member dues)
  • Travel expenses (conferences, retreats, spring break trips)
  • Clothing expenses (club T-shirts, businesswear, formalwear)
  • Equipment expenses (sports gear, gaming rigs, props/costumes)
  • Arts and crafts supplies (poster-making, door-decorating)
  • Gifts (birthdays, welcoming new members, Bigs/Littles in Greek life)
  • Food (formal dinners, informal pizza outings)

There’s one more cost many students don’t consider when signing up for an extracurricular activity – and it also needs to be budgeted for. “The biggest cost is your time,” Lowry explains. “Make sure you can balance your extracurricular activities with your studying and sleep needs.”


How to save on extracurricular costs

“College extracurriculars don’t have to cost a lot of money,” says Denise Thomas, a debt-free-college coach who helps parents and students save money on college costs. “Your fees already cover many leisure activities and clubs at your college. Take advantage of what you are already paying for.”

If you want to sign up for a club, professional organization or extracurricular that isn’t covered by your college fees – and there are many groups and activities that fall onto this list, including nearly all Greek organizations – it’s worth asking yourself what you hope to get out of the experience and whether the benefits will be worth the cost. This is especially important if you plan on adding your extracurricular expenses to your current debt load.


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