Each year, freshmen and sophomores venture down the arduous path of applying to clubs. These students, who often held senior positions in multiple clubs while in high school, must start anew upon entering college. The club recruitment process is one of the first stressors that new students encounter when they arrive at Penn, and it has wide-ranging effects on both student life and mental health.
For the most part, club recruitment is exclusively student-run, with current members conducting the selection process for prospective students, most of whom are still transitioning to college. The Penn administration does not involve itself extensively in clubs’ recruitment processes, resulting in students creating and perpetuating any practice they choose. These normalized practices remain simply because they have always been an integral part of the process, resulting in the stifling of any innovation to recruit new members in the best way possible. As a result, applicants have been forced to write resumes, answer brain teasers intended solely to fluster them and respond to demeaning and humiliating questions during interviews. These tactics have damaging effects on the experience of new students, especially when they are coupled with rejection.
With clubs boasting acceptance rates lower than that of Penn and recruitment processes that involve information sessions, coffee chats, protracted applications and multiple rounds of interviews, it is no surprise that freshmen find joining clubs to be a daunting and stressful experience. In fact, club recruitment has become more and more like on-campus recruiting, one of the most stressful events for students at Penn. Although some may argue that this process prepares freshmen for applying to jobs, there is no reason why recent high school graduates need to think so far into their future, especially given everything else going on in their lives. Students do not join clubs in anticipation of applying to jobs, but to find communities and a home at Penn.
It is time that we all come together and reflect on our collective responsibility to improve the club recruitment experience for new students. We were all in their positions not too long ago and experienced the same barriers as they did in joining clubs. There is simply no need for us to perpetuate aspects of the club recruitment process that we disliked or despised. This begins with members of clubs at all levels standing up and challenging unacceptable practices within their organizations and recommending their removal. From there, structuring the process to require fewer rounds of interviews, a list of activities instead of a resume and more time for applicants to complete applications are tangible steps that new students will appreciate for years to come.
At the end of the day, clubs should be a way for students to come together and build a community around similar interests. Given the associated logistical limitations, it is unrealistic for clubs to accept all students that apply, but a practical first step to improve the club experience at Penn would be to improve recruitment processes.
EDWARD JING is a College and Wharton senior from Chadds Ford, Pa., and the Chair of the Student Activities Council.
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