If you've just started working toward a college degree, you may feel as if the finish line is nowhere in sight.

But before you know it, you'll be zipping up your gown, adjusting your cap and snapping family photos at commencement.

So it only makes sense to take advantage of every opportunity to soak up as much knowledge as possible during your limited time in college to prepare for the next step in your career.

Online clubs and associations at Saint Leo offer valuable learning and networking experiences you just can't get anywhere else.

And the best part is no travel is required. These clubs meet at your place.

Minimal investment, valuable return

Designed to accommodate the needs of busy, working adults, online student organizations offered through Saint Leo's Center for Online Learning (COL) are a unique opportunity for students enrolled in any of the university's online degree programs.

"While Saint Leo is a well-established, 125-year-old university, we are also cutting edge and offer unique features," says Zulie Mendoza, COL student services manager.

"Students who join our associations and clubs see it as a way to be more connected to the university, faculty and other students. As working adults, they see the professional networking benefit – the opportunity to engage with industry leaders – and they recognize the value of broadening their knowledge in their fields."

How online clubs and associations work

COL offers degree-specific associations and student clubs.

Associations focus on topics of interest to students who are majoring in those disciplines. Current associations are offered in: accounting, business, criminal justice, healthcare management, human resources management, psychology and sociology.

Two student clubs are available. The Student Peer Mentoring Club fosters mentoring relationships among new and more experienced students and alumni, and the Military and Families Club provides a forum for members to discuss issues related to the military lifestyle.

Clubs and associations meet either once or twice per month for approximately one hour via Blackboard Collaborate, a web conferencing service that enables meeting participants to interact in real time.

COL Student Life Specialist Ben Wagner communicates agendas, including speakers and topics, via social media well in advance.

Meetings begin promptly and focus on issues that relate to the association's specific field or to a general career or job search topic. Presenters may also discuss topics aimed at helping participants become stronger students such as test taking skills, library resources, and research papers.

Reasons to join

Here are 11 reasons why you should consider getting involved in one of COL's online clubs or associations.

1. Meeting times are convenient.

Meetings take place at night starting around 7 p.m. (EST) and lasting less than an hour.

2. Learn something relevant at every meeting.

Meetings are succinct and purposeful. Presentations provide useful information to help with your career or job search, make you a better student, or expand your knowledge.

3. Expand your professional network.

Connect with other students with similar interests and faculty with experience in your field of study – and add them to your professional network on LinkedIn.

4. Meet industry leaders.

Industry experts are often guest speakers. You have the opportunity to hear their perspectives on important topics and to make yourself memorable by asking astute questions. Then you can reach out on LinkedIn with a request to add these experts to your network.

5. Gain an edge in the job market.

Membership in a student organization is a valuable differentiator on your resume. It shows you are committed to learning more about your field.

6. Knowledge is power.

Being familiar with current trends and issues in your field can be useful during a job interview.

7. Learn more about what you love.

As a club or association member, you help choose the topics for future meetings. It's an opportunity learn more about what interests you most.

8. No travel required.

Save gas. Meetings can take place right at your kitchen table.

9. Connect face to face.

As an online student, you might be looking for opportunities for some face-to-face interaction. The virtual meeting room for associations and clubs has video and speaker capability.

10. Bond with Saint Leo faculty.

Saint Leo faculty members are club advisors and guest speakers. If you are an active member, they can get to know you better outside the – a big plus when you're looking for letters of recommendation.

11. Strengthen leadership and communication skills.

Become an officer in a club or association and develop your leadership skills. Or hone your technical and communications skills by making a presentation.

Looking for more reasons to join?

Still not convinced that joining an online club or association is a good idea? Here's a sampling of topics covered during past meetings.

Accounting Club

  • Process of becoming a CPA and an overview of CPA guidelines
  • Taxes and enrolled agents

Business Association

  • Business ethics, licensing and online businesses
  • Top companies to work for

Criminal Justice Association

  • Search and seizure
  • Mental illness and the criminal justice system

Human Resources Association

  • Sexual harassment in the workplace
  • HR scenarios

Psychology Association

  • Does our career path fit your personality
  • Bullying and cyber-bullying

Sociology Association

  • The impact of the Internet on society
  • Facebook and depression

Healthcare Management

  • Hospital management
  • Legal and ethical challenges

Military and Families Club

  • Careers in the military
  • Stress management

Student Peer Mentoring Club

  • Tutoring resources to boost your GPA
  • APA and writing research papers

Other posts you may be interested in reading:

13 Reasons To Contact Saint Leo's Online Services Librarian

Saint Leo Librarian Dedicated To Online Students

Earning An Online Degree? Welcome To The Club!

Image Credit: Anne Davis 773 on Flickr/Creative Commons