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Clubs at T20s: Yes, you'll still have to apply.

PikachuRocks15PikachuRocks15 1032 replies6 threads Senior Member
edited November 11 in College Life
I'm a First-Year at Brown, and while I haven't been here very long, I've realized that many academic, professional, volunteering clubs etc. require applications and some (eg. consulting clubs) can be extremely competitive. While some "applications" are little more than a formality, most require multiple short essays or even interviews----for general member status.

I didn't know this when applying to college. However, from doing my own research, this appears to be the case at many of the other Ivies/T20s.

Does this mean that if you're primarily interested in cultural organizations (dance or music clubs can be exceptions) or recreational clubs (board games, hiking etc.) that you'll have to apply to be a member? Not usually. However, if you are pre-professional (med, business/consulting etc,) clubs or volunteering opportunities are one way to demonstrate interest in your chosen field or gain experience.

In some cases (like with volunteering at the hospital,) it's due to a genuine lack of spots available for all interested. With others, it feels more like a manufactured way to improve "selectivity" in the eye of students, especially underclassmen. I recently read Grit by Angela Duckworth, and in it, she cites a Stanford study that found that having an application for something makes gaining acceptance to it more desirable
the same idea holds here with clubs just as it does in college admissions.

If you decide to attend Brown or a similar university, make sure to be prepared to apply widely to clubs, just like with college apps. Do I regret choosing Brown? No, I still feel like it was the right choice for me and I still got into some of the clubs I was interested in----just make sure that you understand the environment you'll be getting into AND consider if you would be a good FIT for it.
edited November 11
33 replies
Post edited by skieurope on
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Replies to: Clubs at T20s: Yes, you'll still have to apply.

  • melvin123melvin123 1988 replies35 threads Senior Member
    @PikachuRocks15 my kid is at Brown too, and her experience is the same. But I want to add that when she was waitlisted to a particular EC, she found that same EC in the Providence community and is participating in it there. In hindsight she is glad that this happened because she is loving her community experience and feels that she is learning more by interacting with all different age groups. I also want to add that there was one other EC that she had been shut out of but was able to reapply the following semester and got in then. But yes, this came as a surprise to her too, that you had to apply to be a member of some ECs and could be shut out.
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  • blossomblossom 10705 replies9 threads Senior Member
    Oh please. The vast majority of undergrads at Brown do NOT care at all about the so-called competitive clubs, have zero interest in writing applications for anything extra curricular.

    You do NOT need a club to get a job in consulting, you do NOT need a club for any of the other various corporate type jobs.

    You DO need to demonstrate leadership, initiative, influencing skills, etc. all of which can be amply satisfied by participating in environmental organizations (non-competitive), volunteering in the local school system (non-competitive) or any of the other hundreds of opportunities to make positive change in Providence/Rhode Island. And although the top tier performing arts opportunities involve try-outs (if you can't dance, you won't be cast in a musical; if you can't read music you are not likely to join the orchestra) there are oodles of informal clubs and interest groups where just loving the arts is more than enough. I was on campus last year for an event and attended several performances of "we do it for love" groups. They ranged from highly skilled and "almost professional" to "not so great but clearly passionate".

    Which is perfectly fine. It is a minority of undergrads who even care about the competitive clubs. Just like the "weekend athlete" who plays frisbee on the Green who doesn't expect to become a varsity football player, never having played football.....
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  • melvin123melvin123 1988 replies35 threads Senior Member
    @blossom I think the advantage of the on-campus ECs are that it’s more convenient for the kids and it is nice for the camaraderie and it’s tailored to students. But as I sort of mentioned, if you get shut out of an on-campus EC you can usually find it in the Providence community and that’s a big advantage about the size and location of Providence.
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  • parentologistparentologist 388 replies41 threads Member
    Hmmm, I wonder if this is the logical result of the college application rat race. Those admitted are those who focused on compiling a resume worthy of Ivy admission. Once they're there, they recreate the same environment? Make pre-professional clubs that they can pour their efforts into, to fight their way to the "presidency" of the pre-professional club? It's absurd! There are myriad routes to getting experience, right there in Providence. It sounds to me as if these competitive admission pre-professional clubs are only about networking and exclusion. I'm surprised that the student activity committee (which also, I'm sure, funds these clubs) allows them to be admission by competitive application only.

    Either bypass the pre-professional clubs by finding what you want and need out in the real world - the community - or if you really want that club experience, found another one by a slightly different name, so that you can put on your med school application that you FOUNDED and became president over the "Brown Pre-medical club 2.0".
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  • PikachuRocks15PikachuRocks15 1032 replies6 threads Senior Member
    edited November 11
    @parentologist For clubs, UCS (student gov) needs to approve it
    I believe it's based on the club filling a specific need not already filled by another club in the loosest definition of that term + having 10 members for club status (need 15+ and at least a semester as a club to start receiving funding, which is a baseline of $200/per semester.) So yes, there are a variety of "pre-med clubs:" Red Cross, UNICEF, Pre-Med AMSA, HOSA, and then the volunteering clubs etc.
    edited November 11
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  • PikachuRocks15PikachuRocks15 1032 replies6 threads Senior Member
    @parentologist I do have Phelobotomist and Pharmacy Technician certifications, the only problem is that many jobs want at least 20 hours per week, compared to on-campus or student worker positions that are more flexible w/school schedules.
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  • homerdoghomerdog 9210 replies125 threads Senior Member
    Not at top LACs. That's a perk. Clubs are generally open to all. Students can also be in theater productions, get a spot at the radio station, write for the paper, etc. and not have to compete to do so.
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  • PikachuRocks15PikachuRocks15 1032 replies6 threads Senior Member
    @homerdog I didn't know that - do you think it's due to the smaller size or just the school cultures being different (more of a focus on undergraduates and less of a focus on being pre-professional?)
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  • homerdoghomerdog 9210 replies125 threads Senior Member
    @homerdog I didn't know that - do you think it's due to the smaller size or just the school cultures being different (more of a focus on undergraduates and less of a focus on being pre-professional?)

    Maybe both. Just no reason to limit the number of students doing any given activity since the student body is already so small. Lots of opportunity. One of the reasons why S19 didn't apply to Northwestern where he's a double legacy.
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  • mamaedefamiliamamaedefamilia 3914 replies26 threads Senior Member
    @PikachuRocks15 Thank you for sharing your experience. Like @homerdog my older kid goes to a LAC and membership of clubs/ECs is not restrictive at her school. So it came as quite a surprise to me that at at T-20 universities there can be some gatekeeping for some of these student groups. This is definitely something to keep in mind when a prospective applicant is researching colleges.
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  • homerdoghomerdog 9210 replies125 threads Senior Member
    @PikachuRocks15 Thank you for sharing your experience. Like @homerdog my older kid goes to a LAC and membership of clubs/ECs is not restrictive at her school. So it came as quite a surprise to me that at at T-20 universities there can be some gatekeeping for some of these student groups. This is definitely something to keep in mind when a prospective applicant is researching colleges.

    Kids can’t even get spots to be part of groups that volunteer sometimes! At Northwestern, Dance Marathon is a big fundraiser and now it’s super hard to get chosen to volunteer for that event! Essays and interviews, etc. and who knows how the kids are chosen. I’m guessing it doesn’t hurt to know an upperclassmen on the committee to pull a younger student in. It also makes the school feel very competitive with kids trying to get a resume going and feeling like they need to be in these clubs. So, behind academics, kids are applying for these spots multiple times trying to pad a resume. No thanks.
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  • PikachuRocks15PikachuRocks15 1032 replies6 threads Senior Member
    edited November 11
    @homerdog I completely understand why some volunteering opportunities have applications given there might not be enough tasks to keep everyone occupied doing something (there's a point where it transitions from volunteering to just standing around :lol: ,) but I wish a lot of these groups were more transparent about what they're looking for----rather than having a convoluted multi-stage process.

    IMO it's much easier to find research opportunities, but that might be because they're largely unpaid and on a volunteer basis except over the summer (when Brown, not the lab, will provide a stipend.)
    edited November 11
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  • RichInPittRichInPitt 3214 replies53 threads Senior Member
    I suspect this is limited to a very small number of a very certain type of colleges. Probably a single digit number of schools. It's certainly not anywhere near common, IME.
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  • PikachuRocks15PikachuRocks15 1032 replies6 threads Senior Member
    edited November 15
    @RichInPitt As other posters pointed out, this isn't a phenomenon at T20 LACs interestingly, so it's mainly restricted to T20 universities. It's probably due to a combination of the competition to get into the school to begin with permeating ever facet of student life on some level (even at Brown) and the medium number of students. State schools have large enough student bodies to balance the # of clubs with the # of interested students, whereas T20 universities probably have a lot more pre-professional students by % than others (IIRC ~70% of JHU freshmen indicate they are pre-med, though this number decreases due to factors such as grades, extracurriculars, and finding other interests.)

    This thread was more a FYI than anything to prospective students to understand what exactly they're signing up for, if they decide to attend one of these schools (no matter if they're as far apart as Columbia and Brown, they still share common aspects.)
    edited November 15
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  • momofsenior1momofsenior1 11137 replies142 threads Senior Member
    I don’t remember any clubs at Cornell being competitive (other than athletics and music). Anyone can start a club there too.
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  • Twoin18Twoin18 2306 replies21 threads Senior Member
    @RichInPitt As other posters pointed out, this isn't a phenomenon at T20 LACs interestingly, so it's mainly restricted to T20 universities. It's probably due to a combination of the competition to get into the school to begin with permeating ever facet of student life on some level (even at Brown) and the medium number of students. State schools have large enough student bodies to balance the # of clubs with the # of interested students, whereas T20 universities probably have a lot more pre-professional students by % than others (IIRC ~70% of JHU freshmen indicate they are pre-med, though this number decreases due to factors such as grades, extracurriculars, and finding other interests.)

    I’m not at all convinced that state schools are immune from this. There are plenty of wildly competitive opportunities. Tour guide is a typical one (500 applicants for 10 spots at my S’s college). My S is currently reviewing 100 applications for 20 places for undergrad law journal author/editor positions and many of the other clubs he’s participated in require competitive applications.
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  • MidwestmomofboysMidwestmomofboys 4324 replies27 threads Senior Member
    It's not just T20 universities where this happens as public flagships have competitive application for activities/clubs etc.

    In hindsight -- as we were not fans when my kid chose to pledge a fraternity -- I understand how greek life can provide a surrogate opportunity for a "buffet" of ECs and engagement in a large university experience. Fraternity and sorority members can get involved leading large fundraisers, from managing advertising and publicity, or they can serve as an officer, managing fairly significant budgets Treasurer etc. While it struck me as "manufactured" at the time -- create a group that needs leaders and create fundraisers so someone has to run them -- I appreciate that it provided good experience for my kid which helped him get his first job. And, since it is wholly contained within the school experience, a student can navigate the school-EC/engagement balance a little more easily than with a 3rd party non-profit etc. which may have non-negotiable meeting times etc.

    But yes, students looking to engage in specific ECs at any school should find out about the process for participating.
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  • HMom16HMom16 919 replies24 threads Member
    Dartmouth doesn't require applications to clubs.
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  • PikachuRocks15PikachuRocks15 1032 replies6 threads Senior Member
    edited November 15
    @momofsenior1 Project teams (engineering) are one example of selective clubs at Cornell---these can be extremely competitive with sub 20% acceptance rates.

    More info: https://www.engineering.cornell.edu/students/undergraduate-students/special-programs/project-teams/cornell-engineering-student-project
    edited November 15
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