October 6, 2022

CHOUNG | The Club-tastrophe 

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Rejected from clubs? Don’t worry, we are all in the same boat. 

As the month of September rolls around, it is remarkable how quickly the atmosphere shifted from the comradery of students bustling to make friends to the cutthroat tension as competition intensifies to join a pre-professional club. I first saw hints of this change when I started seeing more students strutting around North Campus in suits and business casual attire. They all seemed to clump together in a sea of black suits and walked with a sense of purpose that I admired from afar. I didn’t pay much attention to it at first. After all, I was sure it was something unrelated to me. It was only after I noticed an increase in students dressed in business casual that I started to question what was going on. 

I first came to Cornell with a relaxed approach to club applications. I figured that ClubFest would be a great time to explore the thousands of student organizations that Cornell boasts about. I took the liberty to look into some clubs beforehand on Campus Groups and noted some clubs I wanted to join, beelining my way to join all the fun recreational ones at ClubFest. I stopped by some pre-professional clubs that intrigued me and signed myself up to be placed on their email list. Little did I know that these organizations were already in the process of recruiting members. Coffee chats and interest meetings were already taking place the entire month of September and those who were in the loop had the advantage of starting their applications early.  

There was a big emphasis on such clubs recruiting both professionally and socially. Many of these clubs host exclusive social events that build a tight-knit, exclusive community. All of the interest meetings I have attended highlighted the personal aspects of the application; while they are recruiting for skill and potential, they also want you to fit in with their club socially. This is an interesting dynamic to observe, and reminds me a little too much of early 2000s high school movies. Initially, I planned to apply to a select few business clubs but felt the pressure to apply to as many as possible after hearing about everyone else’s application plans. Multiple essay questions, case studies and interviews later, I felt the full fruits of my labor: rejections all around. 

Clubs were seen as a glorious promise of friendships throughout the chaos of Orientation Week, and I relied on the cushion of clubs to make more substantial friendships. Many of the upperclassmen I knew assured me that clubs were a great way to meet new friends with like-minded interests. It was a comforting thought to hold onto, especially at a big university where it can be hard to connect with others when everyone is busy managing their schedules. 

Yet, it seems like this is a difficult thing to do when you are rejected from these clubs. Reflecting back on the process, I do admit that I focused on pre-professional clubs that I was uninterested in simply because everyone else was pursuing them. It’s easy to get caught up in this culture of professional clubs, especially in universities as exclusive as Cornell. Each business club boasts of its New Member Education which has granted its members internships in top financial firms and frames their club as a necessary tool in the internship and job recruitment process. I was swept up in the promise of the valuable network and education that these clubs could provide and lost track of my original goal for joining clubs in the first place: to make meaningful friendships. 

In one of my final coffee chats with a club, I expressed my worries about my rejections from business clubs to the club president. He reassured me about the possibility of finding internships without these organizations. There are only a select few students in these clubs so it shouldn’t thwart my perspective on the likelihood of finding career opportunities. 

I hope to take these lessons with me into the second semester and prioritize clubs that meet my values and interests. Only then will I find the community that I am searching for. 

Adin Choung is a freshman in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at [email protected] A Dinner is Served runs every other Thursday this semester.