Five months ago, I relocated to the Bay Area from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And although I do not attend UC Berkeley, I can relate to the club rush experience as I attend Berkeley City College, or BCC.
Just last week UC Berkeley and BCC hosted their respective club rush events. Club rush is an exciting yet intimidating experience that is familiar to any undergraduate. Booths adorned with blinged-out trifold posters are customary as club leaders boast the latest percentage of new admits. When I attended club rush, I decided to sign up for Critics Club, Women’s Leadership Club and Film Fanatics Club after the short time I spent talking with the founders. In these encounters, the ability to come off as friendly and accessible yet professional proved to be tough to maintain. Yet playing these seemingly opposing roles would undoubtedly play a strong hand in my acceptance to these clubs. On the other hand, club rush experiences felt like nothing more than flyer juggling challenges where interaction with any club founders was too brief to be meaningful.
With all the opportunities, it is no wonder that each student feels conflicted over which club to join. Additionally, a mere brief encounter with the founder does not provide enough information to paint a picture of what sort of social atmosphere to expect. Though the goal that each student shares is to find a community that will foster growth while balancing a college education and a social life, selecting THE club is not as simple as a Google search. Although a half-second Google search can yield the latest projects each club has worked on, it still does not provide a vivid picture of the type of community that students will devote so much of their time to. For example, viewing stories on Snapchat illuminates an integral part of any club dynamic. Researching each club on various social media sites is a necessity for making such a pivotal decision and oftentimes makes the decision for you.
It is easy to become lost in the moment during club rush experiences, but I am hopeful that my friendship group is one club away. Finding a profound group of people is important to the college experience and clubs can help any student foster a sense of community, whether they choose to get involved as a freshman or later. This social aspect is just as significant to the college experience as living in dorms or striving for a minimum of a 3.5 GPA. Although it is common to feel a sense of stress when deciding which clubs to join, especially with the influx of applications that each club seems to require along with highly selective interviews, it is also an exciting time where students can gain real-world experience. In short, applying to clubs emulates the sort of processes students can expect when applying for jobs.
At BCC, I want to be a member of the most popular/highest ranking club for the recognition. It is also important, however, that students actually get involved with clubs they are passionate about regardless of reputation or stigma. For example, students yearn to be feminist leaders in the Women’s Leadership Club, but they avoid joining due to the stigma that, when transferring to a four year institution like UC Berkeley, it is not taken as seriously as a leaderhship postion in the Associated Students of BCC. Of course, people will attempt to convince you that either club will expose you to experiences, networking and fun collaborations. They will try to assure you of the value in challenging the status quo. You may, however, still feel the urge to be the cookie-cutter example of what society expects of you as a scholarly individual. And that is not a unique dilemma as a freshman or transfer student.
One thing is for sure: It is great that joining clubs is a popular student activity. The positives far outweigh the negatives when one considers the valuable work and leadership experience that can be gained, coupled with a sense of community and belonging outside of the classroom. Again, I am a member of the No Club Association (coined by myself). But I will be informing the committee shortly about my resignation when I discover MY club. Wish me luck.
Nyia Garrett is a freshman and a visual artist who goes by “NG” at Berkeley City College.