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Claremont McKenna College has 11 research institutes, 21 sports teams, 50+ clubs, many on-campus jobs, and other endless opportunities for the student body to engage in. In typical CMC fashion, many students want to jump headfirst into these activities, excited to become an integral part of the campus. However, not all clubs are as welcoming as advertised. A combination of selectivity and early application deadlines damages morale and instills a fear of failure into first years, forcing them to know exactly what they want to participate in within two weeks after move-in day.

CMC is billed as fostering a collaborative environment, dissimilar to the likes of cut-throat Ivies and big research universities. Yet, many of the institutes and other extracurriculars push a select group of first years closer to this ruthless mentality. If you do not get accepted anywhere, it may take up to an entire year before you can reapply. This system does not allow time for the dust to settle, or for first years to explore different interests. A lot of people apply to institutes without even knowing what they are, simply taking the advice that they “should” apply solely because of the prestige. Some are discouraged from even applying in the first place due to the daunting rumors of the reputations of these CMC giants.

Realistically, not everyone can be allowed into these institutes—the real world outside CMC is also very competitive, after all. Nevertheless, it speaks volumes about campus culture that first years are pressured to know what they want to do so quickly, work on extensive applications and undergo multiple interviews (if they make it that far), and jump through all the right hoops—all within the first two weeks. This propagates a culture of excessive competition and, in many cases, failure.

Most recruiting for selective extracurriculars happens in early September, inverting the “you can do anything here” mindset to “you are required to know what you want to do after minimal time on campus.” This rapid and exclusive system cherry picks students instead of guiding them and helping them discover their interests. If all CMC extracurriculars were required to push their recruitment back to late September, freshmen would have more time to adjust to college life, explore their passions, and confidently apply to clubs and institutes.

CMC students are motivated, brilliant, entrepreneurial and hardworking. They do not need to be coddled. But after move-in, WOA, endless orientation information sessions, that first harrowing class registration, navigating a new social scene, and the first week of classes, it is too much to ask for them to also juggle intense club and institute applications. Club and research institute selectivity does not forge endurance and strength in CMC first years. Instead, it damages their confidence, discourages them, and smacks them in the face with a culture of high stress and failure, all within the first two weeks of school. 

Extracurriculars should push back recruiting season by at least two weeks to allow first years to more deeply explore their passions and prepare for new activities.