True Life: College is one big Competition

Alissa Ricci

A common piece of advice given to freshmen is “get involved.”  What most students don’t realize is that getting involved on campus is sometimes as difficult as applying to college.  Students arrive with the notion that you can join whatever clubs and organizations you want, but they fail to anticipate the competition for membership.

College life mirrors the real world. The applications and interviews are preparation for the challenging job market. It gives students the opportunity to experience the interview process, focusing on appropriate appearance and good communication skills.

Most of the well-known organizations on campus, including Blue Key Society and the Ambassadors program, have rigorous application processes.  For freshmen just adjusting to college life, the applications and interviews can be overwhelming. Some choose to apply despite the competition, but others get discouraged by the odds and stick to clubs without an application process.

One of the most challenging groups to become a part of is Blue Key Society. President Paul Parisi says that about 400 students apply for the 80 membership spots each year. The application consists of several short essay questions, and all applicants are given a first-round interview conducted by two Blue Key members. A little more than half of the applicants pass to the second round of interviews, and from this smaller pool, less than half are accepted into Blue Key Society.

“[The purpose of the application is] to get a sense of what a campus tour would be like if it were conducted by the applicant,” Parisi says.

Freshman Lauren Freidhof decided to apply this year, even though the competition was intense. She had her first-round interview and was moved into the second round.

“I was nervous,” she says. “I knew it was competitive, and I didn’t want to say anything wrong. When you’re competing against hundreds of people, it seems like you can get eliminated for the smallest thing.”

Friedhof had her second-round interview but was not selected to become a member of Blue Key.

For the few that manage to pass the two interviews and gain admission, it is a great accomplishment. But for the others, like Freidhof, the rejection is tough.

“[It’s] disheartening to put so much time and effort in and not get in,” she says.

Special Olympics, which will hold its annual fall festival this weekend, is another well-known program with a competitive application process. Among the thousands of students who volunteer, there are some who undergo an intense application process to become a local program host. The process involves a written application with in-depth questions, as well as an interview.

“[Despite being] unnerved by the application, I definitely wanted to be a part of the program and give it a shot,” freshman Jerry DiCarlo says.

One of the few to be selected for the program, DiCarlo says that he is even more proud to be a part of the Special Olympics knowing how hard he had to work to beat the competition.

So maybe an application process is a good way to make students appreciate their membership in an organization. After working so hard to be accepted, they tend to be more committed and dedicated to the work of the program.

But what about other service programs that require an application to volunteer time? Campus Ministry’s service break experiences require an application, and the process is quite competitive. Seniors get preference over freshmen, and those that went on a trip already are less likely to be selected to allow more people to have the experience.

Sophomore Christy Rosati says she hopes that Campus Ministry will expand service break experience opportunities.

“People shouldn’t be turned away from helping people,” she says. “Expanding the opportunities not only gets more people involved, but more people get our help as well.”

Leadership positions for service break experiences are also competitive. Even though there are fewer applicants, there are a smaller number of spots to be filled. Service break trips usually include 15-30 students and two to three leaders, depending on the site.

Although there are many activities for which the competition for membership is significant, there are many other ways for students to get involved without an application.

Some clubs are even considered “e-mail clubs,” such as the Pre-Law Society and Villanova Ski and Snowboard Extreme Club. These groups e-mail members about upcoming trips and optional events with few or no formal meetings.

Some students who feel the competition for the better-known programs is too cutthroat decide to join less-popular organizations, such as the e-mail clubs. In doing so, they can become involved on campus without the hassle and anxiety of applications and interviews.

One other lesser-known program is R.U.I.B.A.L., a freshman-only service program that sends Villanova students to work in after-school programs in the Philadelphia area. Freshman Richard Bognanno joined the program after he attended a meeting for Bigs and Littles and realized he would be competing against at least 100 people for 20 spots.

“It’s a great way for students to get involved, even if it’s a part of a group less people know about,” Bognanno says.

So despite the competition for the more renowned organizations on campus, there are still many ways for students to get involved.

The opportunities are out there, but it’s up to you to find a program that’s best for you. And when senior year rolls around, there will be a sense of accomplishment as you think of all the fun times you had in student organizations, how many hours you poured into your extracurriculars and what you’ve learned along the way.