When first-year students arrive at the University of Pennsylvania, they are excited to get involved in at least one of the 450 student-run clubs they’ve heard so much about.
Yet, these clubs are not only incredibly competitive and difficult to “get into,” but they have multiple rounds of interviews and require students to go through an extensive application process to even be considered.
This process leaves students feeling rejected and discouraged, and it needs to change.
In 2017, the Student Activities Council’s Executive Board passed six new guidelines for the 2018-2019 academic year, including a “no-resume rule” for freshmen, personalized rejections, a maximum of two interviews or auditions for general membership, a more transparent interview process with sample questions, no brain teasers to determine membership, and communication with SAC over their processes.
Yet, there is no way for the Student Activities Council to check up on what clubs are doing, and students are willing to do whatever it takes to get into these clubs, even if it means spending hours and hours on their applications.
Essentially, there are still clubs that have more than two rounds of interviews and require resumes, but they get away with it because students at Penn are often wired to work as hard as they can to reach their goals, even if it is not good for their mental health.
But the interviews more than anything else should be limited because of the implications that having so many rounds has on Penn’s students.
Because there are so many rounds of interviews and so many cuts, Penn students are left feeling like their hard work was all for nothing. Also, when the process gets dragged out with more and more rounds of interviews, Penn students get more stressed, as if Penn’s academic rigor is not stressful enough.
Similarly, given that the process is initiated by Penn students themselves, a disconnect is formed among members of the Penn community when students are rejected from clubs after having expressed their passion directly to multiple members. There is a sense of distrust among Penn students as they feel cheated or “not good enough” to other Penn students.
Lastly, when students move farther along in the process and feel like they are approaching the last round of interviews, they get their hopes up because they feel like they have made it so far. Because there is often no feedback, just an invitation to schedule their next interview, students have no idea how to approach the following interviews and feel blindsided if they are rejected after what they felt was a good interview. Also, when students make it so far in the process, because they have their hopes up and because of the time they put into that particular club, it’s hard for them to dedicate as much time to another club, resulting in them being rejected from all clubs and ending up with nothing when they are rejected in the last round.
SAC should do a better job enforcing the guidelines it put in place. Restricting access to the Fall Activities Fair for clubs as a punishment, a possible consequence SAC has thought of but has not finalized yet, is not enough. These clubs will still figure out a way to get in touch with students. SAC should seriously consider anonymously surveying students who are involved in Penn’s clubs to make sure clubs are following their guidelines, and de-funding those who aren't.
But even if SAC does threaten to de-fund clubs that break the rules, if the rules are not enforced or if clubs can get away with breaking them, those that still can’t make their decisions after two rounds of interviews will simply keep the process going.
The process needs to change for the sake of the Penn community, and we are the only ones that can change it.
ILYSE REISMAN is a College sophomore from Millburn, N.J. studying English and Music. Her email address is email@example.com.
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