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Too Many College Clubs?

LakeWashingtonLakeWashington Registered User Posts: 9,305 Senior Member
edited October 2007 in Parents Forum
Interesting article in today Boston Globe (boston.com) about how schools have seen an exponential growth in student clubs. 400 clubs at Harvard? 500 clubs at UNC-Chapel Hill?

In my day the offices at the Student Activities Center were mostly silent as a tomb and the clubs had to beg for members.

Is the trend of adding clubs/organizations a problem as some administrators believe? Are fears of stratification justified? The comment from the Harvard administrator was interesting; 'these are all bright kids who want to create something, but I tell them not all of them are going to be Bill Gates. You need to know how to work within an existing group.'
Post edited by LakeWashington on

Replies to: Too Many College Clubs?

  • maritemarite Registered User Posts: 21,586 Senior Member
    But remember that adcoms want to see "leadership." The applicants who exhibit "leadership" in high school are the same "bright kids who want to create something." This is particularly true of Harvard.
    I'll bet the exponential growth of college clubs is directly related to the emphasis on leadership by college adcoms.
    If admissions representatives went from high school to high school saying it's okay to be just a member of a club, things would probably be different in college.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 18,018 Senior Member
    400 clubs at Harvard is a lot more clubs-per-student than 500 clubs at Carolina.

    I agree. If you admit kids in large part based on qualities that include a tendency to reinvent the wheel, contempt for anything that exists already, and an inability to play well with others, you are going to get a chaotic student organization situation.
  • HannaHanna Registered User Posts: 14,765 Senior Member
    I don't see any chaos. Many of the newest clubs close when their founders graduate. There are many enduring institutions among the student groups, including a fair number that are 150+ years old. It's a busy marketplace, but there are plenty of rock-solid pillars that everyone can easily identify. That's a long way from chaos in my book.
  • MarathonMan88MarathonMan88 Registered User Posts: 1,321 Senior Member
    I think that part of the phenomenon is that Student Activity Offices are now offering funding to activities that, 10 years ago, students would have just done on their own as a "pick up" activity. I've heard of funded fly-tying clubs, magic clubs, unicycle clubs, running clubs, creative writing clubs, and my personal favorite (from a college tour), the Steve Buscemi Admiration Club.
  • maritemarite Registered User Posts: 21,586 Senior Member

    By and large, I hold adcoms responsible for kids' tendency to "reinvent the wheel" as you put it. How many threads are there from parents or high- schoolers worried about lack of leadership roles?

    When I was in college, the administration was actually not terribly keen on student leaders--they had a tendency to organize demonstrations!
  • vicariousparentvicariousparent Registered User Posts: 5,940 Senior Member
    It has become a joke- every student feels the need to 'start a club'. The only way you can get people to join your club is to make them 'officers'. Some clubs don't really do anything. They exist just so someone can put in their application that they 'started a club', hence demonstrating 'leadership'. Hopefully the smart adcoms can see through it all.
  • ncephnceph Registered User Posts: 810 Member
    I'm not sure it's really a problem, but I think the adcoms are responsible for the trend in another way, too. In every single info session we attended and on every campus tour we took, we heard the line, "We have over xxx clubs here at our college, but if we don't have the club you're looking for, you can start your own and the college will fund it!" Each school acted as though it was unique in offering that. For us it became a running joke to see how far into the admissions spiel they'd come out with that line.
  • jessiehljessiehl Registered User Posts: 3,328 Senior Member
    At MIT, the student board that governs student activities is responsible for approving new clubs, and makes you demonstrate that the proposed club serves a function that isn't served by existing clubs. Still, there are 66 clubs there whose names start with A or B alone (I stopped counting after that).

    I'm sure that part of the motivation for forming new clubs is to be eligible for funding. I don't see anything wrong with it as long as each group serves a unique function.
  • cinniesmomcinniesmom Registered User Posts: 96 Junior Member
    It is exactly what you hear at every info session we have been to:

    We offer undergrad research ops
    We have awesome study abroad programs
    There is a club for everyone and if not you can start one

    I think it's a hook like everything else. A kid sees a Newman club, an anime club and an outdoor club and thinks "I can fit here. There are people like me who like the same kinds of things" so they give the school another look. I don't think it's "too many" Some of them will die a natural death due to their founders graduating or loosing interest but I feel like if a club gives an incoming freshman a sense of inclusion it's a good thing and can help to enhance their experience.
  • uml1958uml1958 Registered User Posts: 249 Junior Member
    It would be interesting to see how many members are in each of the 400 clubs? 1 or 2 maybe! The whole college admission processes are broken in this country? They should put less emphasis on so-called "leadership". If I could run for a university president, my slogan would be “It’s Academic! Stupid."
  • cinniesmomcinniesmom Registered User Posts: 96 Junior Member
    But on a residential campus it's also social. I agree that "leadership" takes many forms and what people write down as leadership is not necessarily an accurate image of what they actually did. I therefore see your point that "so-called" leadership should not have an overly strong impact on admissions. But I also believe very strongly that in addition to academics, the social needs of kids living on campus need to be met. Life is about balance and though I think we would all agree that academics need to be the most important focus, clubs have their place.
  • originaloogoriginaloog Registered User Posts: 2,645 Senior Member
    Hanna is correct, while there may be many chartered student clubs, often the number that are active are a fraction of the total. A more accurate measure of campus involvement would be the number of clubs active and with more that 10 members.
  • mathmommathmom Registered User Posts: 31,319 Senior Member
    ^^I don't know - some of the singing groups are small, but that doesn't mean they aren't active.
  • KelownaKelowna Registered User Posts: 2,829 Senior Member
    When I was in college, the administration was actually not terribly keen on student leaders--they had a tendency to organize demonstrations!
    Same memories here :)
  • etselecetselec Registered User Posts: 780 Member
    I think that some of this trend can be attributed to the entering-freshman phenomenon, something I'm seeing now at my LAC.

    A freshman enters, goes and starts a club right away, then finds it doesn't have enough interest to sustain itself. The club stays on the books for at least a year. Entering college I had many things I wanted to do; for some of them I intended to start clubs because there were none already. Some of my interests have been able to fit into existing groups, others have died due to a lack of interest, and one has actually formed into a viable new group.

    Incidentally, I find that getting funding is much harder than the admissions talks make it seem. Sure, it's still possible, but there's enough bureaucratic stuff to slog through that I haven't bothered incorporating any of my activities because we don't really need the funding. Maybe at other schools there is less red tape, meaning that lots and lots of start-up clubs get incorporated and funded.
This discussion has been closed.