Club recruitment has long been one of the most lamented sources of stress for underclassmen, particularly those who covet admission into Penn's highly selective finance and consulting clubs.
Now, following feedback from first-year students and club leaders, the Wharton Council has unveiled a new set of policies for club recruitment that will be implemented in the 2018-2019 school year.
The Wharton Council began implementing changes to the notoriously tough recruitment process in the fall of 2016, introducing policy reforms like allowing no more than two rounds of interviews per applicant and requiring clubs to provide examples of interview questions.
This year’s adjustments build on these reforms. This year, clubs can only begin accepting applications on Sept. 30, a month after school formally starts.
Prior to accepting applications, clubs must now also meet two other requirements: holding at least one General Board Meeting and one New Student Programming event.
“New Student Programming events are a way for students to build their interests and engage with clubs and other students without concern over what the outcome of an application might be,” Wharton Council Co-Chair and Wharton senior Carolina Zuluaga said.
While Penn's newest class of students have only been on campus for a few days, some freshmen said they are already aware of Penn’s hyper-competitive culture and students' preoccupation with finance and consulting clubs.
“You need to adapt to Wharton’s academic life and work on club essays and applications, considering that acceptance rates for clubs can be even lower than the university’s acceptance rate,” Wharton freshman Cristian Bernaschina-Guillermety said. “Many people have told me they wouldn’t recommend joining [them].”
The growing reputation of Wharton clubs as detrimental to campus culture is part of what drove the Wharton Council to reform rules around recruitment.
After surveying last year’s freshmen post-club recruitment, they found that students continued to describe the process as stressful and exclusive, despite the initial changes they made in 2016. In response, the Council reached out to Wharton club leaders in a series of roundtables and hosted an end-of-year retreat to discuss how to tackle this issue without neglecting the clubs’ interests.
“We spent more time talking with club leaders than freshmen because this affects their organization’s practices, and we want to make a difference but understand that we have to through small changes,” Zuluaga said. “New Student Programming is a win-win for applicants and existing club members; the increased interaction between the applicant and the club means stronger interest and excitement so clubs get members who are 125 percent ready to join.”
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For current club leaders, the policy changes are recognized as necessary but also present new challenges.
“As a project-based organization, the delayed application date means that we have to integrate our new members after our projects have begun, which is unfortunate for our clients and potential members,” Wharton senior and President of MUSE Jessica Kim said. “But the Council has always been receptive to feedback and this is nothing unbearable.”
MUSE is one of the several Wharton clubs offering consulting services to clients within and outside of campus, who often request deliverables from its members soon after the start of the school year. The change in the club recruitment timeline will certainly hit these groups the hardest, but they said they are also aware of the benefits these reforms will provide.
As Wharton junior and Penn Microfinance President Divya Rajagopal said, “I think the change will help improve the caliber of our applicants overall, and help with our selection process."
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