Applying to Apply
Strain and Heartbreak: How Freshmen Deal with Club Applications
By Megan DeGrand & Logan Klinger
Interviewee Bios: Becca Koch is a freshmen at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. In her first semester, she was accepted into Phi Beta Lambda, a co-ed professional business fraternity. Ethan Lam is a freshman who outlines his experience applying to clubs, and the difficulties first year students like himself often face due to inexperience and harsh competition.
Once admitted, most University of Michigan freshmen hope to settle down and break away from the stress of interviewing and applications. Yet, for freshmen in the Ross School of Business, applying to clubs and organizations tends to replicate the painful process of finding employment in the business world. The application process can easily set the tone for students in their first year at Michigan.
Freshman Becca Koch didn’t anticipate the formality of rushing business clubs. “Sometimes the competitiveness of Ross can be a little bit too much, and that definitely can translate into club rush. I thought if you wanted to join a club, you [could] join it,” Koch said.
Several freshmen have found their communities in the form of a bid. Koch is one of those students. She was initiated into Phi Beta Lambda her first semester. According to the Phi Beta Lambda website, the co-ed business professional fraternity is open to all undergraduate students at the University of Michigan, and a majority of its members are from Ross. The group prides itself on a 100% post-graduation employment rate, as well as profound networking opportunities.
For Koch, picking Phi Beta Lambda was a decision that still inspires a giddy sense of pride when she thinks about her acceptance. “I walked into their mass meeting and I started talking to brothers and I realized that I felt so comfortable and so at ease,” Koch said.
While the rush process felt brutal to Koch at times, she considered it a learning experience. “It’s a really hard thing to go through, especially without having that experience. You have to pick it up pretty quickly and, as much as I hated that process, it taught me a lot about how to approach those situations and leaning into those uncomfortable things,” Koch said.
When students arrive at college, they often hope to find like-minded people, both intellectually and socially. However, this sometimes proves to be more difficult than first expected.
The University of Michigan holds high standards for its students, and has a challenging curriculum in all aspects. The clubs and student organizations are no exception, only wanting to accept the highest echelon of applicants. Unfortunately, this sentiment can take a large toll on students.
When freshman Ethan Lam first came to the University of Michigan, excited to find his place and meet new people in clubs, he initially did not end up with many prospects. As an Economics major, he wanted to apply to Ross clubs to gain an introduction into the business world.
“During [my] first semester, I tried to apply to about nine different consulting clubs and that was an extremely tiring process,” Lam said, “Not just the applications, but in order to be eligible to join, you have to attend a number of mandatory events, whether that was social or professional development events, it was just a lot of stuff we had to go to on a weekly basis.”
Applying to clubs and organizations can be incredibly draining. On top of balancing course work and attending classes, applicants are expected to get as much face time with members as possible to maximize their chances of acceptance. Lam also expresses there are certain expectations in some clubs to attend events that are optional. To get a leg up on the competition, these sometimes become mandatory.
“The applications took about an hour to an hour-and-a-half per club, so nine clubs, about 13-14 hours. The actual events were an hour-and-a-half, so a good 20 hours per week for two weeks,” Lam said, “This was everyday multiple times a day, each club would have events that would overlap with each other so you’d have to run from one event to the next.”
Putting all your honors, achievements, and the essence of yourself on paper only to get rejected can truly affect your outlook on your freshman experience at Michigan. Lam said, “it definitely took a big toll on my mental health, there was that whole sentiment of imposter syndrome that if all these other people could accomplish all these great things, then why couldn't I?”
However, despite the exhaustion, physically and mentally, the whole process seems to pay off in one way or another. Lam explained, “The rejections discouraged me from ever applying to Ross specific clubs again; I think I still have that negative connotation towards them. They didn’t do anything wrong, it's just that fear of rejection associated with it. I think it did encourage me to apply to other clubs and look outward to find other interests.”
At the end of the day, despite the emotional expense, the application process does not have to shape the freshman experience. “The stress that you go through, it's what you make out of it. You can either allow yourself to become paralyzed by the stress or allow yourself to grow from it. The clubs you’re in don’t define who you are,” Koch said.
U-M Senior Discusses The ‘Pre-Professional Fraternity to Post-Grad’ Pipeline
By Talia Belowich
Interviewee bio: Cadigan Smith is a University of Michigan senior studying Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience. Next year, she will be attending law school at the University of Michigan. During our interview, we discussed whether joining pre-professional fraternities and application-based clubs are essential in enabling post-grad plans.
Application-based organizations, including honors societies and pre-professional fraternities, are highly regarded by many U-M students; But post-graduation, how much do they really matter? Cadigan Smith, a University of Michigan senior majoring in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience, speaks on her experience as a pre-law undergraduate student. In her four years at the University of Michigan, she was able to take advantage of numerous experiences and resources that enabled her to attend law-school at The University of Michigan.
Most notably, Cadigan served as Rush Chair for Phi Delta Phi (PDP), a pre-law undergraduate honor society. She joined PDP her second semester freshman year and chose this organization over other pre-law fraternities due to its strong connections to U-M law school. Cadigan explained that U-M law school has its own chapter of Phi Delta Phi, also called Phid, which is known for its tight-knit professional community fostered by their own Ann Arbor chapter house.
“I knew pretty much from day one of coming to U of M that I wanted to go to law school here specifically,” Cadigan said. “So I thought the best option for me would be to join the pre-law fraternity that has a direct affiliation with the graduate students here.”
Cadigan’s membership in PDP reaffirmed her desire to attend law school at U-M, helping to secure her future plans. However, her membership in this organization specifically made these plans far more attainable. The resources offered by pre-professional organizations at the University of Michigan are far from few.
The types of resources offered by application-based clubs vary depending on the field of study and the individual organization. For PDP, significant resources include professional networking, application and resume help, interview preparation, and professional industry connections. This ultimately provides PDP members with connections and resources that may otherwise may be unavailable or too costly for students to afford.
“Especially with the LSAT, all of these prep classes are insanely expensive,” Cadigan said. “And people in the frat would have PDF files of practice questions or, since we are a school organization, they have access to free study materials. So I think suffice to say being in an organization like this brings with it a lot of materials in a cost effective way.”
Many LSAT courses cost upwards of $500. Free practice questions and test strategies are highly valuable and, arguably a reason in-and-of itself to join a pre-professional organization. Aside from the economic benefits, there are also significant social benefits. Joining a selective organization can provide students with an academic and social community that is invaluable in shaping one’s college experience.
Cadigan mentioned that she was additionally affiliated with two non-selective pre-law organizations during her undergraduate career: Michigan Pre-Law Society and Women in Law. While these organizations were easier to get into, their membership did not offer the same level of community and friendship as PDP.
“Joining the organization in my formative years as an undergrad was, I think, substantial in finding a friend group,” Cadigan said. “I think what's really special is that you're all at least somewhat like-minded. Not only do you hang out and tailgate and everything else, but you can check in on each other and share resources.”
Pre-professional organizations and application based clubs offer frequent social events to bond with people who share similar interests. Having common professional interests and hobbies enable members to form a deeper, more supportive friendship that extends from The Big House to the classroom.
The connections made are invaluable, as are the economic and social resources provided by membership in many selective organizations. However, an expanded network and free practice questions does not automatically leverage a students acceptance into internships, jobs, or postgraduate programs, especially programs as prestigious as U-M law school.
There are many ways to get involved and joining a pre-professional fraternity or honors society are just one option. An acceptance into a pre-professional frat is not an automatic pipeline to an acceptance letter from a law school three years down the line; Certainly, if you take full advantage of the club’s resources, you’ll have advantages like being more prepared for the application process, but there are plenty of successful law students who spend their time doing other things adjacent to earning their BA or BS.
“If you're interested, and formulate a good community, and want to rise up within the rankings or maybe hold some sort of position, then that is certainly beneficial,” Cadigan said. “It definitely shows leadership initiative, that sort of deal. But I certainly would not pin my involvement in these organizations as being an integral part of what drove me to be accepted in law school.”
The Truth Behind Competitive Club Culture at the Ross School of Business
By Priyanka Madhavan
Interviewee Bio: Priyanka Madhavan is a dual degree College of Engineering and Ross School of Business student, who holds Executive Board positions in a number of Ross clubs as a Junior. She provides an inside perspective on Ross club culture and the truth behind their competitive nature.
At Michigan, the professional club scene can impact who your friends are, how large your social and professional network is, and what career you choose after graduation. All the time spent in club meetings, coffee chats, and social events can add up. Club rejections can hit hard because it seems like membership is a one-way ticket to success, but in my experience, that is not necessarily the case.
As a student in both Ross and the College of Engineering, I have gained a perspective on resources and organizations in both colleges. Each college has its own version of a career center. They all cater to their respective career opportunities but resumes, cover letters, networking, and interview assistance are fundamentally the same. However, within the coursework for both majors, there’s barely any emphasis on career exploration. Being a dual-degree student made it difficult for me to explore interdisciplinary careers post-graduation and take a career route less traveled. Combined with no direction from Ross or the College of Engineering, it seemed like my only option was to choose a career aligned to only one of my majors. This is why clubs are so important: they give us opportunities beyond what we learn in our classes to explore career paths.
College culture and individual career aspirations are driving factors as to why club recruiting processes are distinct at Michigan. Engineering clubs are generally low-commitment and centered around finding a community to learn; if you’re interested, you get to join the club. Ross clubs are incredibly career-oriented and expect high commitment from their members. The club recruiting process tries to emulate job recruiting, making it similarly competitive and stressful. Since job recruiting timelines are early in Business (Winter of Sophomore year into Fall of Junior year), there’s consequently high pressure for Ross students to quickly determine what career or internships they are pursuing before the job recruiting cycle begins. The belief that acceptance into a club gives students higher prospects in job recruiting is widely held within Ross, and it results in a stressful, sometimes toxic, club recruiting process.
Every club wants to recruit high-achieving students who will land the most prestigious job and ultimately improve the club’s status. However, this also causes a vicious cycle of exclusion. If you didn’t go to a high school with resources to teach you how to interview, have connections who can help guide you, or have friends in Ross, you’re at a disadvantage.
Faculty at Ross vilify the competitive nature of our organizations as if this is caused by clubs themselves. During a recent Ross Club Presidents meeting, we had a discussion on moving club recruiting timelines to prevent freshmen from applying to clubs until their second semester or even until sophomore year. This is an initiative from the new Dean of Ross that many believe will merely create an illusion that club recruiting timelines are the problem. This will only make the recruiting pool smaller and more competitive for freshmen and actively punish students for faculty’s shortcomings. Clubs will also start to disaffiliate from Ross and create their own adjacent organizations in LSA or COE, so the inherent problem will not be solved.
The unfortunate reality is that students no longer primarily come to college to gain knowledge – they want high-paying jobs that will position them well for their futures. Ross doesn’t teach job recruitment until Fall of Junior year – long after students have already gone through the process and secured internship offers – so this gap is filled by Ross clubs’ internal education and professional development programs. For competition to subside, Ross needs to incorporate similar career exploration and professional development targeted towards job placement in their coursework. Instead of constantly combating Ross club culture, faculty could easily work alongside our organizations to develop an improved curriculum for future students. As a result, students will then feel less pressured to join clubs to find the career right for them. Forcing club leaders to work around issues that are inherently caused by the lack of support from the Ross academic curriculum is unfair.
Despite my criticism, Ross clubs have been a considerable part of my college experience. A lot of my best friends and mentors are from clubs I’ve joined and I’m still close to a number of graduated seniors. Being on Executive Boards for my organizations has given me insight into the culture, and gives me the platform to work to change the toxic characterization of Ross clubs. With the vast resources and networks offered, these clubs have had an extremely positive impact on my college experience as well as so many other students’.
Why not every college is created equal and culture of gatekeeping at Michigan
By Gigi Alaish & Michael Hartt
Author Bio: This article interviews a number of sources, in hopes to capture the reality of resource access across the many different majors and colleges on campus. We interviewed a Public Policy minor in the Ford School, a senior in the STAMPS school of Art & Design, a Freshman in the Honors College, and a Sport Management major in the School of Kinesiology; all of whom provided quotes comparing their resource access to those of the University as a whole.
* — names have been changed to protect the identity of sources
Given the University of Michigan’s prestige and its competitive admissions process, many students expect that upon their arrival to the many colleges and schools at the University of Michigan, they will be met with a myriad of inclusive professional development resources. Many of them will be disappointed to find out that their career guidance hinges on their acceptance into highly competitive academic colleges and majors. It is evident that, at the University of Michigan, career resources and opportunities are incredibly unequal across the different academic disciplines.
Bill Murphy*, a junior majoring in Political Science, experienced this phenomenon first hand after being accepted into the minor program at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. The acceptance granted him access to the academic sphere of the school, but did not grant him access to the policy-specialized career coaches and job databases that Ford offers to their students in the B.A. program.
Murphy* said that while the Ford school’s policy of distributing professional development resources across its graduate students, undergraduate policy-major students, and undergraduate policy-minor students has been the most apparent example of gate-keeping that he has experienced at Michigan, he believes that the practice is imbued in institutional practices across the university.
“I think there's a general air of gatekeeping across all the schools [at the University of Michigan]. Michigan is an interesting school in the fact that you really have to advocate for yourself and go out and find things... It's something that I have not only noticed, but [that I have also been] told by my academic advisor [in LSA], who has worked at other institutions and other universities,” Murphy* said.
Lisa Cho*, a senior studying art and design in the STAMPS School of Art & Design, agrees with the notion that students have to advocate for themselves professionally. She recounted her difficulties in finding a job or internship resources through her program. STAMPS has only one professional development advisor on staff, who Cho* said almost exclusively assists digital artists.
Cho* said that this not only impacts the career prospects of graduating students, but also the equity of the institution, as a lack of career resources forces students to rely on connections for opportunities, which inherently benefits wealthier students.
“Overall, it is really hard to graduate with a job in the art and design field if you are only using their resources, especially if you are focusing on fine art,” Cho* said. “[You] need other connections most of the time because it is so competitive and there are limited resources and outreach.”
Sabeen Malik, a freshman in the Literature, Sciences and Arts (LSA) Honors Program, remarks on the distinct resources and valuable connections it offers, ultimately stating how she believes the program will affect her future.
“I think that the opportunities I get from Honors will help me, like the Honors thesis and the advisors. I get more one-on-one time with my advisor” and “the advisors know you personally, since there are less students and more time with each student for the advisors.”
The LSA Honors program also provides extra funding opportunities for students such as the ‘Catalyst Grant’ and scholarships for research, travel and other special projects. LSA students who are not in the Honors program do not have these same funding opportunities, which can be crucial to a student’s experience and career development at the University of Michigan.
Lauren Flaumenhaft, a Sport Management major, discusses the benefits of being a student in the School of Kinesiology.
“There is a Career Development Center embedded in the school with staff whose jobs are to help students develop skills for writing resumes and cover letters, navigating the internship and job search, and interviewing. Students are sent emails weekly with lists of internship and job postings, announcements about upcoming recruitment and career development events around campus, and tips for getting hired. Kinesiology also has its own embedded Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) counselor who works specifically with Kinesiology students.”
If advisors and career development resources are so pivotal to students’ experience and future aspirations, why should students have to apply to achieve these somewhat basic resources?
Perhaps the answer lies within the University of Michigan’s culture. From day one, students are competing for classes. The institution provides the resources, but the responsibility is placed on the student to fight for the resources. Not every resource is distributed equally. The university gives students more ways to distinguish themselves through these application-based programs, mimicking a real-world experience outside of college life.