Demystifying student club recruitment season

The 2021 club fair is pictured. Mark Choi / Tufts Daily
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Editor’s note: Abigail Sommers is a video journalist at The Tufts Daily. Sommers was not involved in the writing or editing of this article.

The time comes every semester for Tufts student clubs to flaunt their feathers — typically at the club fair, on social media and even on chalked sidewalks — all in the hope of attracting the interest of their peers. It seems that all the clubs on campus are eager to recruit potential members — both bright-eyed first-year Jumbos and returning students looking to continue experimenting.

The diverse range of club offerings exist on a spectrum of selectivity when it comes to matriculating new members. 

Tufts TURBO is a group for breakdancing and street-style dance on campus. Emily Chervinsky, a sophomore and the current secretary of TURBO, explained that the club runs workshops, performs for events on campus and at other colleges, and participates in competitions. 

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According to Chervinsky, students looking to get involved can simply attend as many meetings as they like and do not go through a formal audition process. Chervinsky elaborated on the club’s mission as it relates to their open recruitment process.

“We pride ourselves on the fact that we accept all different people and all different styles,” Chervinsky said. “One thing that TURBO stands for is individuality and spreading the knowledge of dancing and breakdancing more specifically, and something called all-styles dancing. But if you … [made] it an audition group, then basically the whole point of TURBO is gone.” 

Chervinsky partially attributed the openness of Tufts TURBO to the group’s individually-driven dance styles, which contrast with other Tufts dance groups that place a greater emphasis on choreography.

“With groups like [Spirit of the Creative], Envy, Blackout, Sarabande, just naming a few [audition-based groups] … they’re very choreography-based groups. And this is just not that type of group,” Chervinsky said.

Another performance club, the Jackson Jills, lies on the other end of the selectivity spectrum. The Jills, as they’re commonly known, are an all-femme a capella group that sings mostly contemporary music. Their current music director, sophomore Abigail Sommers, described the Jills’ two-round audition process.

“This was the first year we went back to doing fully in-person auditions. So this year, what that meant was we had … preliminary auditions and then callbacks,” Sommers said. “They’d come in for an eight-minute time slot, sing a short solo, do some scales, quick stuff like that. And then … if you got a call back, you would come in the next day and do a little bit of a more in-depth audition. And then after that, we’d let you know.”

To offset a high volume of applicants, the Jills have always required auditions in order to maintain the size, according to Sommers.

“I don’t think that removing the audition process would be a possibility, … just because we have to be a sort of small-ish group to do the kind of stuff that we want to do,” Sommers said.

For the Jills, many complex considerations go into picking new members. They do not have any explicit criteria — rather, their evaluation is highly dependent upon how new members might mesh with the sound and dynamic of existing members, Sommers explained. 

“As far as actually selecting the members … there are so many factors that have to go into it. You can have someone who’s an amazing soloist, an amazing musician, but the group, vocally, isn’t a fit for them,” Sommers said. “Blend is a super big thing for a capella … there are certain voices that do well in certain environments.”

Even though their recruitment process is competitive, Sommers emphasized that the Jills try to be as fair and impartial as possible. 

“For us, the voice always comes first. We would never reject someone for a reason other than their voice. But, you know, we spend a lot of time with each other and so, … we want to get along with our group members, but there’s never ever a time when we reject someone because we didn’t like them,” Sommers said.

Sommers also revealed that students often audition multiple times for the Jills, and that this can have positive results in cases where applicants accept and act upon constructive feedback.

“A good number of our members have auditioned multiple times and gotten rejected multiple times and then gotten in. So a lot of it has to do with, like, how well do you take feedback and work on it and develop as a singer? … We pay a lot of attention to people who come back and show so much growth,” she said.

In light of her experience, Sommers described that while club auditions can be stressful, the potential rewards justify the process.

“I had no intentions of auditioning … [and] I reluctantly signed up because I was still very nervous, I get terrible audition anxiety … but you walk into the room and everyone’s like so excited to see you … so I felt pretty at ease,” Sommers said. “Then waiting for the results after is stressful and it was exhausting … I had to recover … but it was really worth it in the end.”

Tufts also has several consulting clubs, which differentiate themselves with varying levels of commitment, formality and clientele. 

Tufts’ chapter of 180 Degrees Consulting is part of an international network of student consulting clubs that target local nonprofit clients.

Ariana Arvanitis, the current director of recruitment and communication for Tufts 180 Degrees Consulting, explained that the group reviews anonymous written applications before proceeding to a round of in-person interviews. During the recruitment season at the start of the semester, each of the group’s board members spends several hours a day conducting interviews and communicating with applicants.

“This year it was two … short essay responses, and then we also asked for a blind resume so that we can go through a blind recruitment process in which we read everyone’s [application] without knowing who they are [to] try to eliminate bias as much as possible,” Arvanitis said. “And then based on how you perform there, we will invite you to the next round of interviews. Based on that, we will offer a spot on our team.”

Similar to the Jills, Tufts 180 Degrees deals with high student demand and a low supply of spots on its small team, Arvanitis explained. 

“I believe our application process is necessary just because of the sheer volume of people we get, … but then we have to compare that large number of interested prospective applicants to the number of clients we have per semester,” Arvanitis said. “And we’d like to keep small teams per client so that everyone really gets one-on-one time with the client … and this tight-knit experience of working with a group and learning a lot more about consulting in the social impact sphere.”

The application process for Tufts 180 Degrees is meant to simulate the steps of a real job application, but not to an intense degree, according to Arvanitis, who encouraged people to take a shot at it.

“Apply, apply, apply, even if you don’t know what consulting is, even if you don’t have too much interest in it yet. … When we receive applications, all of us on the [executive] board are just excited to see how people can grow in the club, what they’ve done so far, how they’d be an asset to our club … we’re trying to help you get in, not trying to turn you away. … So I think understanding that mentality of the [executive] board should bring a lot of comfort to people who might be intimidated,” Arvanitis said.

Elizabeth Goldstein is a senior and the founder of Tufts Opportunity Consulting. Goldstein, who serves as the club’s president, explained how TOC might be different from other consulting groups on campus. 

“TOC is Tufts’ only all-opportunity consulting club, so that means you don’t have to apply, you don’t have to have a minimum GPA. Essentially what we do is we teach about various types of consulting,” Goldstein said. 

TOC focuses more on pre-professional development through the invitation of guest speakers, resume workshops, practices for case interviews and connecting members to various career opportunities, Goldstein added. 

Goldstein shared that consulting piqued her interest when she was a sophomore, prompting her to apply to another student group called Tufts Consulting Club. She added that her rejection from TCC inspired her to start a new student organization for consulting.

“I reached out and applied to TCC, and … [in] the first round of application they actually do case interviews … I got rejected essentially because I didn’t know enough about consulting,” Goldstein said. “[And so] I wanted to be able to provide a place where people who are interested in a career in consulting can get information from current consultants, and learn more about what consulting as a career looks like as well as the application process.”

There’s a whole world of extracurricular possibilities for Tufts students to get involved in. Groups such as TURBO and Tufts Opportunity Consulting have more flexible membership opportunities that speak to a club ethos that prioritizes openness. Others including the Jills and 180 Degrees are highly competitive, yet still have procedures that attempt to lower barriers to entry. 

Ultimately, whether students are looking to continue a preexisting passion or nurture a new one, joining a community can come with nerves, and requires effort in a multitude of forms. Curious students should remember that clubs are equally eager to recruit, and delighted (as well as obligated) to lend as much transparency to the process as they can.

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