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Campus Life Spotlight: The Over-Involved Student
Students are encouraged to get involved as part of their collegiate experience and for good reason.
Among the recognized benefits of involvement are the opportunities to make friends, develop leadership skills, and gain resume-building experiences. Research has shown that student involvement assists with retention rates, developmental growth, leadership development, and overall student success( Gardner, Koeppel, & Moran, 2010).
In his theory on student involvement, Alexander Astin defines involvement as "the amount of physical and psychological energy that a student invests in the academic experience" (1999). So, the more a student becomes involved the more benefits he or she will gain. However, Astin recognized that "there are probably limits beyond which increasing involvement ceases to produce desirable results and can even become counter-productive" (1999).
The National Survey of Student Engagement asks first year students and seniors about the time and effort put into studies and other educational activities. One of the questions is the number of hours spend participating in co-curricular activities. From the 2011 institutional report, of those students participating in co-curricular activities, about half spend between 1-5 hours a week; the other half report 6 or more hours, with some students reporting as many as 30+ hours.
When students get too involved, it can be detrimental. As a faculty or staff member that interacts with students on a regular basis, you may be the first to notice signs of over-involvement. These signs may include missed class, poor grades, poor health, stress, strains on personal relationships, and interpersonal conflict (Gardner, et al., 2010).
If a student seems to be over-involved, consider having a conversation with him or her about involvement. Ask:
- Why are they involved?
- What are they giving up to be so involved?
- How is it affecting their personal life or school work?
- Is it worth it?
Discuss when involvement might become too much and perhaps detrimental. But, remember that line is different for each student. Encourage them to find balance, brush up on time management skills, learn to say "no" sometimes, practice delegating to other student leaders, and take time to care for themselves (Gardner, et al., 2010).
Involvement can be a great thing that helps students develop new skills and enhance their college experience, but it's important to maintain balance.
Astin, A. (1999). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Development, 40(5). Retrieved from http://www.middlesex.mass.edu/tutoringservices/downloads/astininv.pdf
Gardner, S., Koeppel, K., & Moran, S. (2010). Student over-involvement: When more is not better. Campus Activities Programming, 43(1), 38-44.
National Survey of Student Engagement. (2011).Frequencies by Carnegie Classification [Data file]. Retrieved from http://nsse.iub.edu/html/summary_tables.cfm
Watch for the Campus Life Spotlight each Tuesday online and in the staff digest.