With club application season over, students can take a break from writing essays and preparing for interviews. Many students have already updated their LinkedIn to show off their clubs, while others are disappointed about club rejections. At times, getting into a club can feel more difficult than getting accepted to Penn. In 2017, 180 Degrees Consulting had an 8.5% acceptance rate compared to Penn’s 9.15% acceptance rate.
Penn’s pre-professional focus is no secret. As a result, students attempt to get into as many clubs as they can to build up their resume. Since the clubs are student-run, there isn’t much “adult supervision” - student board members accept students into their club and hold meetings however they want; the university may never know if the club is doing what they asserted the club was about. Having faculty members and increased supervision on clubs — which can look like making sure club members abide by university policies, adhere to the club’s intended purpose, and are welcoming to all— can help prevent nepotism and make sure truly interested students join, not students who want to use the club as a resume builder.
Sending your resume to a student and having to be vulnerable in some essay prompts and interviews feels weird when the interviewer is the same age as you. When clubs read applications and conduct interviews, the club can decide whether or not to accept you based on their own views on your this allows for “college drama” to play a factor; for example, if a board member of a club had a previous experience with you and did not like you, for whatever reason, even if you are a stellar candidate, you most likely won’t get accepted. Faculty members can do a better job selecting students, since they won’t have a friendship relationship with any interviewee. Also, since faculty members are experts in their fields, they would be better fit to select club members. Years and real world experience would allow club members to learn more about a topic than they would learning from a college student.
Student-run clubs are great for students to get leadership experience, but without any supervision it allows for clubs to do a lot of what they want. In high school, clubs have board members but also have a teacher in charge of the club. My friend who attends Syracuse University says that his clubs have a faculty member assisting the club, and he has found it to be beneficial to be able to have a close relationship with an adult in the field. Clubs like Model UN and Mock Trial have adult coaches as well. At collegiate Mock Trial Tournaments, many teams have their coaches who travel with them. Many times, these coaches are real, practicing attorneys. For example, the University of Chicago’s Mock Trial team is coached by practicing attorneys in Chicago; students claim that “it is also great to have coaches to consult with when we need advice or more direct help.” By having these adults, they make sure the students are doing what they have to. Also, learning from a professional is better than being taught an activity by someone a year older than you. UChicago’s Mock Trial team was the runner-up at nationals in 2022; by having coaches in Penn clubs, our clubs could be more competitive at tournaments too. With Penn’s graduate schools and alumni network, it should not be hard to find an adult supervisor interested in the club.
Clubs should be a fun way to meet new people and do an enjoyable activity. There should not be stress attached to a club application and they should be a safe space for all students to spend their time out of class. The knowledge clubs bring should not be hidden behind an arduous application process or "paywall" in the form of membership dues; instead, clubs should host info sessions and meetings for everyone, not only club members. Having a faculty member share their expertise to the Penn community instead of having students teach other students in their club is how we move to making Penn a better place for all students. We are all here to learn and meet new people.
ERIC NAJERA is a college sophomore studying history from Rolling Meadows, Ill. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.