Getting Involved

While spring semester for some marks the close of a year of classes and extracurricular activities at Tech, for many others the months of January, February and March mean the start of the application rush for organizations across campus.

Spring recruitment and applications prepare for leaders, membership and positions in various student organizations for the upcoming year.

“Students should get involved so that they feel like they have a role in making Georgia Tech the excellent institution that it is. It’s hard not to feel proud and excited knowing that you’re helping to introduce the future leaders of Georgia Tech to the school that you love,” said Lacey Sprague, a fourth-year Mechanical Engineering major and Connect with Tech Recruitment Chair.

These organizations vary in size, purpose and shape. Some organizations such as Connect with Tech (CWT), Women’s Recruitment Board (WRB) and FASET focus on interaction with prospective first-year and transfer students. Others are responsible for governing and administrative decisions such as Undergraduate Judiciary Committee (UJC), Student Government Association (SGA) and President’s Council Governing Board (PCGB). The last include spirit and event organizations such as Ramblin’ Reck Club and Homecoming Board.

Applicants to these organizations range from 15 to 300 in number and from those applicants typically 20% to 50% are accepted.

Although each of these organizations is different, the applications show a trend. Each application asks for major, year, GPA and activities involved, but the applications beg the question that many students ask themselves: am I qualified? Am I on the “track” to one of these organizations?

For first and second-year undergraduate students, applying for organizations is important to “getting involved” early on in the college years. A majority of applicants fall within the first and second-year range. However, many students have the misconception that after the second-year, it is too late to get involved, which may not always be the case.

“I myself did not get involved with any student groups until my sophomore year, and now I would consider myself fairly involved. Students have gotten the wrong idea about organizations…it isn’t necessary to have ‘prior experience.’ If you come to an interview for UJC and you blow it out of the water, I don’t care that you haven’t been in another organization or not,” said Adam Swett, fourth-year Electrical Engineering major and UJC Recruitment Chair.

“There are other ways to tell if a student has the potential to be a good leader. What other organizations do provide is practice. Practice for interviews, in time management, and in some cases practice in social settings,” Swett said.

While age, race and other demographics do not play a factor in choosing applicants, some organizations have shown to have more representation than others. While gender does factor into some organizations more than others (i.e. WRB), other factors such as previous organizational involvement have a greater showing in accepted applicants than others. These organizations include freshman leadership organizations (FLOs) and Greek life.

“FASET has always had a strong Greek community representation, however I think you could find at least one representative from most campus organizations on the leader staff,” said Stacey Mahaffey, a Management major and FASET Recruitment Chair. Despite some possible trends, each organization is quick to dispel any overt favoritism to a certain kind of person or organization.

“We want diverse backgrounds. We want hosts from every major. We enjoy having co-ops and interns as well as students participating in undergraduate research. However, it is definitely not required that you be an intern or a co-op to participate as a member of the host team,” Mahaffey said.

“We accept the most qualified candidates for the UJC. We have the advantage of being a small organization allowing us to track our members and graduation dates. This allows us to project the kinds of members that we will be lacking and we can specifically target students in that group…[but] we will not sacrifice a quality candidate for a certain type of student,” Swett said.

Regardless of the background of the applicant, organizations still look for the same kinds of qualities, and similar characteristics turn them off to potential members.

“One of the biggest turn-offs in an applicant for FASET would be an inability to step out of their comfort zone…as FASET leaders, you have to set the example for the incoming freshmen of being adaptable to different situations and getting along with all sorts of people,” Mahaffey said.

“Inability to think on their feet. There are no wrong answers to questions in our interview or on the application, but [UJC] wants…to see that someone can formulate an argument and then present it. If they can’t that is a big negative,” Swett said.

In the end, although applying to these organizations may be time-consuming and at times difficult, the result pays off. Getting involved promotes time management and gives students opportunities to increase their social and academic skills.

“I think being involved on campus can help students academically. Most organizations…have GPA minimums in order to apply or be members, which can encourage students to work harder in order to be members of those organizations that they enjoy. [Involvement] can also provide a support group if a student is struggling…it helps to be around other students who are balancing the same things. However, of course as with everything in life, it is good to keep everything in moderation–including your involvements relative to your classes,” Mahaffey said.