UC Berkeley transfer students express disadvantages during club recruitment

photo of Doe Library on UC Berkeley's campus
Charlene Wang/Staff
Transfer-student-oriented organizations address the obstacles transfer students may face at UC Berkeley during the club recruitment process, in which they often “really struggle with imposter syndrome.”

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Campus senior Nanki Ahuja formed Business Transfer Network, or BTN, during her first semester as a transfer student in the spring of 2020. She noticed that without guaranteed campus housing and two years of undergraduate experience at UC Berkeley, transfer students were sometimes unable to form strong communities on campus.

BTN, a club founded on the pillars of professional development and community, is the first business club at UC Berkeley solely dedicated to transfer students, according to its website. It aims to improve professional and social experiences for transfer students.

“This is an ongoing problem for transfers at Berkeley. You’re very limited in your experiences and you don’t have that top tier internship so many four-year Berkeley kids do,” said BTN Co-President Pavan Jariwala. “We really struggle with imposter syndrome.”

Jariwala added that exclusive clubs tend to focus their recruitment on freshmen, since they are likely to stay with the club longer and are “easier to mold.”

Ahuja echoed this sentiment, noting club recruiters want freshmen to promote their clubs’ longevity. Ahuja added she has heard from multiple acquaintances they felt club recruiters lost interest after hearing potential applicants are junior transfer students.

“Transfers when they come in are kind of like freshman, but when we apply to clubs, they judge us on the standard of being a junior,” Ahuja said. “We were at community college, and we didn’t have the same resources as four-year students.”

Ahuja added that at her community college, if a student was interested in a club, they were able to join. The recruitment process many exclusive UC Berkeley clubs require is often foreign to transfer students. At UC Berkeley, transfers might be seen as having a “lack of exposure,” Ahuja said.

Ahuja also pointed to a Facebook post in the UC Berkeley Transfer Students group, which highlighted one student’s disillusionment with the “transfer life” after getting rejected from multiple campus organizations and being unable to connect with other students.

Marvin Lopez, the director of student programs at Engineering Student Services, or ESS, is heading the Blue and Gold Certification program, which incentivizes engineering clubs to make their recruitment processes more inclusive in exchange for additional resources and funding.

Lopez, who has worked at ESS for more than five years, chose to create this program in partnership with the Engineering Student Council after witnessing UC Berkeley’s competitive club culture.

Lopez added by adopting an incentivization-based approach rather than a punitive one, he hopes the Blue and Gold Certification program might be more effective.

“I started seeing myself that you need resumes and certain GPAs and multiple interviews and case studies to get into clubs,” Lopez said. “I’ve heard rumblings that this is becoming the norm out there, which I find odd, to say the least.”

Anishi Patel is the lead academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @anishipatel.