My friend has two interns working for him. He is 21 and a third year at university. He needed them because he is part of the St Andrews radio station Star Radio, and he has so much extra curricular stuff going on that he has to hire extra hands to help. 10 other students applied for the job. These are students working for students because they are so desperate to get that extra bit of experience that will differentiate between them and the next identikit graduate. A good 2:1 is no longer enough for employers; it's what you do with your free time that really makes the difference.
The problem is in that everyone wants to be on some committee or to be an editor for a newspaper or to produce their own play, thus there is huge competition between students for places. Many of the committee positions that are available require a gruelling interview process, sometimes involving two rounds, and for one particular committee I was interviewed by no less that 15 people at once. This means that the people who do get positions genuinely are the crème de la crème, and it gives great interview practice; they ask you to really justify yourself because the other 500 people that applied are snapping at your heels. However, with so many different societies, clubs and committees going on in one small town in Fife, everyone can end up managing to do something or other, refuting one of the main bonuses for putting so much time into these things, mainly that you do it to stand out from the crowd.
Yet, judging by how much time and dedication these extra commitments take up of your precious time, you have to consider the main benefit that you can get out of them; to better yourself and ultimately bettering your future (as told to me by the editor of St Andrew's own St.Art Magazine, Nicole Horgan). The fact of the matter is that these activities are not just bits of entertainment on the side, to brighten up the cold and dank St Andrews days, but actual jobs where you're gaining real experience. Being able to say "I helped create a music festival on an incredibly tight budget, and still gave a chunk of money to charity" shows that you're not just one of the crowd. It means you know how to organise an event down to a 'T', how to deal with the police, the university and the press, as well as managing to do your dissertation. In those terms, you're ahead of the game, and more so than if you went to any other university; St Andrews is unique in offering so many and such a diverse range of events and committees to it's students, and every year they need new people to run them
Having been part of the press team for the St Andrews music festival Under Canvas this year, I can gladly say that I have learnt a lot about how to engage with the press and gather coverage. As Under Canvas is relatively new (this is only its second year branded as a music festival, and under that name), we had to be creative in ways of getting coverage into the press. Promoting our music acts (Ossie, Anushka, XXXY, Lights on the Mountain and Moodroom) through articles about them, as well as securing a hefty amount of coverage in the St Andrews student press, making sure that ticket sales went well. The night was unlike any other in St Andrews; in addition to the music, there was a powder paint booth (in collaboration with St.Art magazine) and a blow up pool filled with popcorn (courtesy of St Andrews radio station, Star, which had it's own tent). The reviews have been flying in, not short of praise, proving exactly why all the hard work of the committee really was worthwhile, and further encouraging a following for next year.
Lights on the Mountain at Under Canvas 2014 (photo credit Will Land)
For me, I couldn't imagine life at St Andrews without all the added extras, and whilst getting involved may not be your cup of tea, I would definitely advise anyone who feels at a loose end at university to try and get into something they enjoy, whether it be curating an exhibition, running a fashion show or starting up a new society just because you love digestive biscuits so much. Anything you do now will give you bearings and experience for the years after graduation; you never know where you might end up.