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The Student Activities Fair in 2018.

Credit: Sam Holland

Penn first years feel that the club application process is unnecessarily competitive, while club leaders maintain that they conduct a thorough review process.

First years, who are often told to explore new territory by Penn, report that the selection process for many clubs expects applicants to have gained background experience and specialized knowledge in niche topics in high school — like an in-depth understanding of private equity or leveraged buyouts. 

“You go to a club to grow,” Wharton and College first year Cosette Burrese said. “But here it feels like you already have to have so much experience and knowledge to even get offered an interview.”

Several students claimed that the process had been misleadingly advertised to them, and questioned the exclusivity of clubs that claim to be educational.

“I really do not see why they have to be selective,” Wharton first year Adrian Rafizadeh said. “If I can’t get into the clubs that will help educate me and foster that interest, then how do I even get started? It seems like they’re saying that I’m not educated enough, so they can’t educate me.” 

Burrese echoed this sentiment, adding that clubs shouldn’t be “advertising ‘no experience necessary’” if they only accept candidates with background experience. 

While club leaders recognized that such requirements might present a challenge, they added that they thoroughly review and consider all of their applicants.

“I totally understand what people might be feeling," Wharton Undergraduate Consulting Club President and Wharton senior Frank Hong said, "and I don’t think this is the best process.” 

Wharton Undergraduate Finance Club Co-President and Wharton junior Baptiste Audenaert emphasized his club's thorough and diligent review process, which he said was not only natural, but also necessary. 

“There are so many great applicants, and they all got into Penn. So, it’s really hard to [select] people from that group, and it requires you to get to know them well,” Audenaert added.

Some clubs — such as Penn Electric Racing — review applications as an entire group, considering how applicants would fit in with the team dynamic. 

“This [process] makes us more of a team,” Penn Engineering Mechanical Team Co-Lead and Engineering junior Anton Ludwig said. “We’re all trying to get the car done, so it’d be kind of weird to have just the leads decide [who gets on].” 

Many clubs have made strides to improve accessibility and to create spaces where anyone can get involved regardless of application results. These opportunities are present in multiple Wharton clubs, including the Wharton Undergraduate Finance Club and the Wharton Marketing Undergraduate Student Establishment.

“Everybody is here to learn. They want to engage in these clubs to learn,” Audenaert said. “I would really recommend a lot of the other clubs, like the consulting clubs, to have a team that everybody can join and learn, and then grow in the club."

And to those finishing up the club application process, Audenaert emphasized the importance of authenticity.

“We want you to write these essays and come to these interviews because we really want to spend time getting to know you,” Audenaert said. “We want to give you the opportunity to shine.” So, take it — don’t try to change yourself.

Club leaders added that for many who are still passionate about the club after rejection, it's possible to ask for feedback and reapply next year.

“[Many reapplicants] ask for feedback after their first round, get that feedback, work on it, and address those weaknesses and hone in on the strengths that we talked about, and then come back stronger the next round,” Kite and Key President and College senior Brittany Darrow, who is also a DP copy staffer, said. 

Audenaert echoed this, saying that “many of our current board members, even vice presidents, and presidents, didn’t get in the first time they applied.”