Tag Archives | extracurriculars

Image by Anna Vander Stel, unsplash.com

Image by Anna Vander Stel, unsplash.com

There’s a big difference between arguing and debating. Debating requires a certain level of decorum and eloquence to actually win. When debating, you can use the following approaches in order to strengthen your position without simply attacking your opponent’s position. Achieving greater eloquence in your words can help you succeed and get to your end goal in any in-person debate:

Acknowledge Your Opponent’s Position, Then Distinguish, Distinguish, Distinguish!
Acknowledging your opponent’s position puts them in the unfortunate position of having to acknowledge yours as well, lest they want to appear dogmatic in their approach. When you show that you understand their position, but have a different perspective based on logic and objective facts, it strengthens your argument by showing you’ve considered other ideas and settled on yours as being the strongest. The trick here is to distinguish why yours is different and how the opponent’s position fails to account for what yours takes into account. By stating how your positions differ in a way that implies your position is superior, your opponent is left to do the explaining. Remember the old adage: If you’re explaining, you’re losing. Make your opponent explain why their position is not wrong.

Use Objective Facts and Avoid Anecdotes
While anecdotes are entertaining and moving, they lack objectivity. Staying objective strengthens your position by showing that your rationale takes into account the outliers that will always exist. Additionally, statistics are stronger and can easily discount the persuasiveness of an opponent’s anecdote. If an opponent in a debate resorts to anecdotes, it is easy to dismiss them with statistics that show the story is not a true reflection of the issue, but rather a red herring meant to distract. Using real measurable data allows you to present your position as an objective, logical conclusion based on facts.

Keep Calm and Listen to Your Opponent
When debating any topic, getting excited or riled up may be unavoidable, but you should do your best to avoid it. Being able to put your personal feelings aside, while difficult, is very important when it comes to understanding what your opponent is actually saying. If you get upset by their third sentence, you risk not really hearing what the rest of their position entails. Listening to your opponent is critical as it will enable you to distinguish your position as well. If you missed something, it invariably will be the most important thing.

If you’re looking for courses to perfect your debate skills, ones offered for a master’s degree in law are perfect. Education like this can teach you to pick apart arguments as you hear them, rather than getting worked up in the moment. They can also teach you how to argue passionately and get your point across without being viewed as aggressive. It’s a delicate balance, but becoming better at your debating skills can help put you ahead in your career or your personal life. Use these ideas to help your in-person arguments and give you an edge. It’s a great personal skill to have in almost any industry.

This article was contributed by guest author Brooke Chaplan.

Image by The Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command, Flickr

Image by The Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command, Flickr

Teenage years are challenging for adolescents as they navigate the tumultuous waters between childhood and adulthood. For many, self-confidence falters as new and troublesome emotions emerge around never previously considered issues such as body image, fear of failing, and real-life stress about academic and career futures. Teamwork activities can help you succeed by restoring and bolstering confidence, making you a part of something bigger, helping to develop leadership skills, and expanding your social circles. Here are some teamwork ideas to inspire your own success:

Team Sports
Team sports are as varied as your interests, so there is certainly an option for nearly everyone. Playing a team sport is a well-known way to gain confidence, a sense of worth, discipline, healthy relationships, and to help reduce stress. Of course, the physical benefits are great too. Particularly for teen girls, sports can minimize negative body image that far too often develop during this time of life and help you feel happier in a healthy and strong body.

Trivia Teams and Other Non-Sport Competitions
If you’re a less physically inclined teen, there are abundant opportunities for non-sport competitions for almost any interest group. Many teens will find shyness melt away and new social skills develop with competitive teams ranging from spelling to mathematics. Competition of any kind, and particularly academic, is critical in pushing you toward the most you can achieve. It’s also great for helping to develop better cognitive and problem-solving skills. If you’re a more solitary type, solidifying leadership skills like these can be done through courses such as an online organizational development master’s degree, or local community learning events.

Volunteer Groups
Socially aware teens may find depth, discipline, and the value of working with others by tackling a group volunteer project. Many volunteer opportunities carry the benefit of putting teens in touch with important people in their field of interest, or in line for college scholarship opportunities. Volunteering can give you a sense of perspective that will stay with you throughout your life, making you a successful steward of your communities. Look into your local library and other community centers to find a cause you’re interested in.

Performing Arts Groups
Often overlooked when discussing teamwork, performing arts groups including orchestras, choirs, and theater groups require intensive collaboration and foster the social skills necessary for long-term success. Many teens find being on stage a way to become more secure in themselves, discovering a poise and grace that will serve them well in school and in the future.

Learning teamwork skills is an important part of your development and those skills will not only drive success in high school and college, but throughout life. In most modern business models, it is the “good team players” and the “leaders” who are most successful, and in an increasingly small world, most projects will require extensive collaboration. With so many options available, there is certainly a teamwork activity to interest any teen.

This article was contributed by guest author Brooke Chaplan.

Image by Jirka Matousek, Flickr

Image by Jirka Matousek, Flickr

Going to college can be an exciting time in life. All the new interactions and knowledge you will gain as you jumpstart your future can make for quite the experience. The downside is that you get more stress and less time in the day to relax. You also may have a passion that is left to the wayside with all your studies. This shouldn’t get you down; instead it should be seen as an opportunity to come up with an answer to all these problems: a college club.

Colleges have all the resources and people available to you to network and establish a club – just find an entertaining, engaging subject that will draw a group of fellow students and faculty. If there aren’t any established clubs at your college, it’s time to start one ASAP. It will take a bit of work, but the rewards are well worth it. Here are some examples of clubs you can start or get inspiration from:

Art Club
Clubs based around the arts are excellent for getting people to connect and express themselves. Not to mention some fantastic work can be produced and contributed to the school. For instance, painters can come together and create a mural for an empty wall, like they did here in Piedmont, VA. When creativity is on your side, the options are endless, and a college Art Club will bring out the best in the school and its students.

Photography Club
Like Art Club, Photography Club gives students a chance to express themselves through an artistic medium, in this case, pictures. While studying all the intricacies of shooting and developing photos, Photography Club would make itself beneficial to the school that hosts it. For example, offer to document and save old hardcopy photos by scanning and saving them digitally to help preserve your school’s history.

Film Club
Most people enjoy movies, but it takes a special kind of person to immerse themselves into a great film. Enter the cinephile – a person who loves to watch, critique and praise cinema. Of course, Film Club should be more than just an excuse for cinephiles to eat snacks while watching new releases. Set up a committee that organizes movie nights for the whole college. Find out which movies critics are going on about by reading reviews, then plan to show it. Make announcements for the movie night, provide refreshments, and write a review of the night and movie on a Movie Club blog or social media page.

Debate Club
Being able to craft arguments is an especially useful skill, especially in fields of academia that require communication or logic. If you’re a political scientist, philosopher, or just like a thoughtful exchange, start up a Debate Club in your school. Not only would it be engaging, but it looks good on your resume; in a Debate Club you prove you can communicate, work under pressure, and think critically, all of which are beneficial in the eyes of future employers.

Writers Club
While there may be plenty of courses that will allow creative writing, school can only offer so much freedom and time to write. A Writers Club would be a good outlet for writers and poets wanting to expand their skills. Hold meetings around a particular topic for the week or month. Read classic novels and discuss them among the group, critique and share short stories, and put on poetry slams for the school. If Club members wanted to expand into journalism or content writing, they can collaborate with the offices of the college to produce a newsletter or school blog.

LAN Club
LAN is short for ‘local area network’, a term used in Information Technology, to describe a group of computers that are able to communicate and share with each other. To most IT students, a ‘LAN party’ is an event when multiple computers share network access and PC games allow players to compete or cooperate. With permission from the IT department, the right software and servers, you can organize a LAN party. The event would serve as both a tool for tech-savvy students to learn proper networking and attract students who want to unwind after school.

In Conclusion
As you can tell with each club, there are more than just personal benefits to establishing or joining a college club. A club is an opportunity to contribute to the culture of its home college, to provide something more than routine education. With the right planning and the right people in place, there is so much potential that college clubs have to offer, for your education, social life, and more.

This article was contributed by guest author Aaron Farrington.

Image by Victoria Nevland, Flickr

Image by Victoria Nevland, Flickr

Starting college is both an exciting and challenging experience. As a freshman, for the first time, you’ll be making all the decisions regarding your life. If you want, you could party all night without worrying about your parents’ reaction when you get home. You can eat anything you want and go anywhere you want. However, you will have the responsibility of attending class and setting aside time for studying. It can become difficult to maintain a balance between your studies and your desire to socialize and enjoy the best years of your life. Here are some tips to help you maintain that balance.

Create a Schedule

A strict schedule that you hold yourself to can mean the difference between your success and failure as a student. In addition to your class schedule, you have to manage your time in a responsible manner. For example, just because your classes may start in the afternoon does not mean you can party all night and sleep all morning. Make sure you get enough sleep and save the partying for non-school nights or the weekends. Furthermore, you should set aside at least 15 hours each week for studying.

Keep Extra Activities to a Minimum

You may be excited to join every club and organization on campus. However, you’ll want to be careful not to wear yourself thin. Until you get comfortable with your course-load and new environment, limit extracurricular activities to just a few.

Diet and Exercise

While it may not seem so, your diet and exercise habits will have a huge effect on your ability to do well in school. How well you diet and exercise in college will translate to your ability to deal with stress, concentrate, have energy, and keep a good mood.

Stay Connected with Home

The combination of sudden freedom, your hormones, your desire to experiment, and your course-load can make college a little hectic, so call home every now and then to gain perspective. Remember that there are people who love you and who have your best interests at heart. Don’t let the demands from your instructors and drama from those around you stress you out.

Online Degree Program

The traditional classroom education isn’t for everyone. You may benefit from the flexibility of an online degree program. Obtaining your degree online will give you the freedom to work at your own pace without the typical distractions and setbacks of a campus. Many schools offer online degrees you can earn. An example could be the online Masters of Science in Nursing program that the University of San Francisco offers.

In college, you will undoubtedly have to work hard. However, there is still room to have fun. You just need to find a manageable balance between work and play. Remember that college is just one step in your life that will soon be over. Maintain a balance, stay focused, and enjoy yourself!

This article was contributed by guest author Rachelle Wilber.


Photo by Carmen Rodriguez NSP, Flickr

Photo by Carmen Rodriguez NSP, Flickr

This weekend marked the end of the Sochi Olympics. Athletes around the world will return to their training regiments in anticipation of the next competition. Many of these competitive athletes are young students. Athletes must start young, as it takes years of training to reach their peak level of skilled fitness. How does the average young athlete balance schoolwork with their athletics? In honour of the Canadian gold medal hockey wins, I interviewed several Varsity athletes from the University of Toronto to investigate the balance between professional athletics and schoolwork.

Two things were mentioned by all athletes interviewed: time management. If you want to invest the time to be a professional anything while remaining a full-time student, organization and planning are key. This especially applies to student athletes, as their bodies are an entirely different syllabus to manage. Training, nutrition, and rest are equal to studying for a midterm. This means micromanaging study sessions, social life, and everything in between.


Elizabeth Benn is on the Varsity Blues fastpitch team (a version of softball with a windmill pitching style), studying philosophy, English, and French. During fastpitch season she practices for 20 hours a week – not including travel time, administrative work, fundraising, and meetings. Benn has missed class for her sport, but says different practice time slots allow for leeway. She plans her weekly schedule in advance every Sunday, although,

It’s common to fall behind and have to miss out on things that ‘normal’ students get to do.

As a student athlete, she recommends taking a lighter course load and courses with reduced workloads.


David Urness, a Varsity Blues rower and Nordic skiier studying engineering, also time manages by planning his semesters far in advance. He says,

This gives me the chance to plan strategies to survive the stressful times.

In times of high pressure, Urness micromanages.

If I’m really pressed for time, I’ll schedule my days hour by hour.

Heather and Sophie

If a normal student finds themselves overwhelmed by schoolwork, they can stay up late to cram. A Varsity athlete cannot afford to lose sleep and experience drowsiness at their next practice or competition. Varsity Blues figure skater Heather McHugh, who studies political science, says,

It’s hard getting up for 6:00am on Friday mornings if you’ve been out late the night before.

Negotiating with professors is also a necessary nuisance. Sometimes a championship can coincide with a midterm, and a professor’s understanding is imperative for the student athlete to participate and achieve the necessary grades. Although most professors are accommodating – McHugh has never conflicted with a professor – some can be difficult. She says,

Last year a girl almost missed the [figure skating] championship because a professor was resisting letting her reschedule a midterm.

Sophie Ryder, a Varsity figure skater studying social sciences, says,

I have personally been lucky that all my professors have been super understanding, but I have heard stories of the Dean being involved.

Tips for Athletes, from Athletes

Sometimes students must appeal to the next level of authority to accommodate their athletics. To avoid this, Benn recommends showing professors your commitment to the class and that you are capable of maintaining your workload.

I try to do little things to show that I am still doing my work for their classes, like handing in sheets with notes from the past week’s readings; that way they’ll know that I’m still doing my work and do care about the class.

Along with other U of T athletes, Urness cites attitude as key. Overbooked student athletes must find play in their work. The support and attitude of fellow teammates is vital. As Urness says,

Attitudes are contagious: sure, Debbie Downer can ruin practice if you’re not careful, but a smile can also make it.

A team’s temperament can affect an athlete’s ability to cope on and off-field. Team spirit is essential, since, as McHugh says,

Unless you’re in residence, I find that the team is your social life.

Ryder says that despite the stress,

I personally do it because I love the sport. At the end of the day as long as you’re happy with your decisions and life, that’s all that matters.

Urness says,

I’m proud to represent the University of Toronto as a rower and a Nordic Skiier, and being a student athlete is the best decision I made after choosing to attend U of T.

The U of T Varsity Blues experiences tell us that being a student athlete takes more than one kind of discipline. Not only physical and academic, but logistical: the ability to formulate a schedule and follow through. Of course, students make mistakes. Life cannot be fully planned for. Schoolwork and sports are a balance that only passion can steady and Olympic resolve can maintain.

Image by stevendepolo, Flickr

Image by stevendepolo, Flickr

Post-secondary education is all about finding and grabbing onto opportunities. Recognizing and taking advantage of opportunities can lead you to where you want to be in a surprisingly short amount of time. Extracurricular activities are full of opportunities that can help you get ahead, and certain clubs and societies you choose to join can have an impact on your professional portfolio even after you leave your post-secondary school. But, is it worth your spare time?

Extracurricular activities are the key to enhancing your university experience. They are the places where students gather to share their interests, and it is where many opportunities and relationships are formed. If you’re a new student, extracurriculars are a great way to get involved with not only those your own age, but students in the upper years. Depending on the type of person you are, this can help you get comfortable and adjust to post-secondary life much easier and faster, and it can very much prepare you for your future.

Though they may seem like ways to have fun and do what you love, extracurricular activities can also be great for networking. That doesn’t mean you need to walk in on your first day and start asking about jobs, but the connections you build and relationships you form could one day lead there. For example, joining the university radio station could introduce you to various contacts in the radio industry, while at the same time, give you experience you can present to potential employers. Participating in a club or a society is the easiest way to create these networking contacts because of the social interaction that comes along with the activity. People within these networking circles are looking for others with potential, and doing your best in such a place can present you with a good employment or educational opportunity that could make your professional career so much better.

Seems great, right? Here’s the “beware” disclaimer: Remember that you have to juggle your lifestyle. Too much focus on extracurriculars may not leave enough time allotted to your schoolwork, part-time job, or other aspects of your life such as family and friends. Don’t overburden yourself by joining too many clubs and societies; it can have a negative impact on your studies. However, this is entirely individual. Some students thrive off joining different societies and it helps them stay motivated to do well in their studies. If you’re already feeling swamped with work and school, and you have club meetings to attend, it may not be worth the sacrifice. Plan carefully and don’t overburden yourself; ultimately your grades will get you your degree, and if you can balance your commitments, extracurriculars could land you your job.