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Remember when you were first joining clubs in high school and how warm, welcoming and novel it felt? It probably seemed like every club was just vying for your attention, that the world was your oyster. Well, things kind of change when you arrive at college… and by “kind of,” I mean a lot.

Believe it or not, a lot of organizations on college campuses have selective screening processes. Since the undergraduate populations at schools tend to be so large, clubs need to have some way to limit the number of individuals actually entering. This is when joining that ceramics club or dance team you’ve had your eye own since freshman orientation becomes something of an admissions process, not unlike that horrendous process you went through (or have to through) to get into college.

So the club admissions game in college can be pretty bad. What do you do? Do you go through applications like you did in college? What about interviews? Fret not, because The Prospect is here to help! Introducing our clubbing survival guide:

Do Your Research

Know. Your. Stuff. Clubs really appreciate it if you do you research on what they do, and can articulate how your particularly passions or interests correspond with what they do. Make sure to look on their websites to gain a general understanding of the club’s operations and try to familiarize yourself with the names of officers. If any clubs you’re looking into have required interviews, then your knowledge of the organization will become apparent.

Keep It Simple

I cannot emphasize this point enough. When essays are given a maximum word count, that most certainly doesn’t imply that you must write an essay with exactly that many words. The people who are likely reading your club applications are students, and they’re busy with stuff going on in their own lives. Application reviews want essays that catch the eye, have great clarity and don’t take too long to read and digest. It saves them time and they’ll appreciate your focus and brevity.

Primacy, Recency, Repetition

If any essays you must write exceed 400 words, then you might want to build a motif with your essay just as you probably did (or will) with college application essays. Above all else, though, make your first and last sentences pop. Think outside of your comfort zone – you can be humorous, shocking, philosophical, or intriguingly brief. The same applies for your final sentence. Cyclical last sentences give essays a sense of structure, a general outline that is fleshed out through repetition of the motif.

Come Prepared for Your Interview

This obviously ties into the research component of killing the club game. If you know your stuff, then you should be able to craft more specific questions for your interviewer and show that you’re already knowledgeable about the club. Interviewers also love to answer questions that dig beneath the surface level, so bring a notebook and pencil to your interview to jot down some notes on your interviewer’s responses. It shows that you’re diligent, but doing so may also help you learn more about the club.

Don’t Forget to Smile

Smile, talk enthusiastically, have good posture. If you take a posture that is more “open,” as in you’re not crossing your arms or tucking in your arms and legs, you can project yourself as more confident (even if what you’re saying is less-than-substantive). Tone of voice also matters more than you may think – the subconscious effect that it has on interviewers is unquantifiable but significant. If you don’t know what to say, don’t fill the void with “uh” or “um.” When you need time to think and articulate, simply don’t fill the void with any sounds. You’ll come off as intelligent, as someone who thinks before speaking – letting slip an “um” in the middle of sentences is a sign of speech disfluency.

Pitch New Ideas

Interviewers for clubs are looking for new members with big ideas, and who can make their ambitions reality. Try to come up with a new project or initiative for the organization in advance, and think about its possible implementation. If you’re worried you’ll forget your idea, then write it down in your notebook. From personal experience, I feel as if this has been the differentiating factor between students who make it through the club application process and those who get the shaft.

With all these points in mind, it’s easy to lose focus by concentrating too much on the semantics. Just be amiable, confident (speaking loudly but not aggressively), don’t try to be anyone else but yourself and have fun!

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the author

Nelson Dong is an incoming freshman at the University of Pennsylvania and hails from North Hunterdon High School. Born in a state overrun by loud, tan New Yorkers (yes, they're all from New York with the exception of Pauly D), he holds great disdain for the shore. He dabbles in dancing, singing and writing, among other artistic ventures and plays tennis to stay in shape. However, it must be noted that he absolutely does not lift because he doesn't have time.

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