With more than 450 clubs on campus, Penn's extracurricular scene can be sometimes difficult to navigate.
Most of these groups fall under the purview of the Student Activities Council, a branch of Penn Student Government that controls the funding — $1.2 million in 2016 — allocated to students clubs. SAC also facilitates the fall and spring activities fairs which attract new members by setting up booths on Locust Walk.
The club recruitment process, which occurs every fall and spring, has been characterized by students as competitive and discouraging, according to a survey by the Undergraduate Assembly done in February.
“A lot of people come to Penn with the mindset that as long as you work hard enough for something and you really want it, then you can get it,” rising Wharton sophomore Stephanie Wu said. “It works in high school, and it’s a great mindset to have, but in Penn, it just doesn’t work especially when it comes to club recruitment.”
Many organizations at Penn require several rounds of interviews to evaluate applicants.
“Clubs that are going to get so many people trying out or applying for them shouldn’t be trying to go out of their way to reach heaps and heaps of freshmen,” Wu said, “because they know they’ll already get lots of applicants and they’ll reject lots of people.”
In March, SAC passed a series of guidelines designed to curtail the stressful nature of club recruitment. It banned clubs from requiring resumes from freshmen, limited the rounds of interviews or auditions to two and prohibited the use of brain teasers in the application process. Organizations that do not adhere to these guidelines could be barred from participating in this year's Fall Activities Fair.
Once accepted, students who wish to assume leadership positions often have to participate in an equally rigorous process of elections. These processes can take upwards of five hours and involve several rounds of question-and-answer sessions followed by deliberations.
“Everyone was on the exec board of their clubs in high school,” Wu said. “But you can’t have everyone on the exec board in a club, so you have these really great people who are really accomplished and really ambitious all vying for a certain number of positions.”
Some organizations such as the International Affairs Association have tried to shorten the election process by disseminating candidate statements prior to election day.
Regardless of their previous extracurricular activity, incoming freshman can expect to be inundated with flyers, emails and Facebook posts advertising Penn's clubs. Come fall, they will also soon discover that unfortunately, the days of filling out applications are not yet over.