Why the first weeks of term are the most important

Why the first weeks of term are the most important

Last updated: 4th October, 2023

This page is a summary of Kuhan Jeyapragasan’s post on the EA forum, which you can find here.

1. Reasons why the first weeks are especially important

  • Students have more time since classes/other commitments have not yet gotten time-consuming, so it’s important for groups/programs to make themselves known to people who might be interested, before they’re too busy to add on other time-commitments.
  • (Potential) organizers are also most free for the same reasons, so this period is unique for programming that requires a lot of organizer capacity (like tabling and running retreats).
  • Deadlines for multi-week programs like fellowships/reading groups are early on in the term, so sufficiently advertising them in this brief period is crucial.
  • Students are often making summer/career plans early in the year, so getting them to consider/be aware of impactful opportunities is time-sensitive (e.g. they might apply to/accept other offers if you wait too long to introduce an opportunity to them. Sunk cost fallacy might mean they’re more inclined to accept offers they spent a lot of time preparing for even if they’d be more excited about more impactful alternatives).
  • Students, especially first-years, are looking for and exploring activities. friends/social groups, and more broadly interesting ways to spend their time. What they choose often persists long-term. The beginning of the academic year during a student's first year at university is often the only period in which this is the case. Path dependency is strong (elaborated on below).
  • Anecdotally, many university students’ friends seem to be friends from their 1st year dorm
  • Anecdotally, the clubs students are highly involved with seem to very often be clubs they got involved with in their first year
  • (And it doesn’t seem to all be selection effect; first-year students who haven’t heard of EA seem to tend to be much more receptive to getting involved than students who are later in their academic careers)
  • Most Stanford EA members who are highly involved now initially got involved in Fall term of their first or second year.
  • Top finance firms start their recruiting seasons ridiculously early (over a year before accepted students will intern at their firms) to pressure students to apply to and accept their offers (because turning down early internship offers is hard and students tend to look less for other opportunities once they’ve locked in a ‘decent’ internship).

2. A Brief Anecdote

As an illustrative anecdote, a cappella groups at Stanford do all their advertising and recruiting during new student orientation (before non-first-years have even arrived on campus) and have their auditions on the first week of campus, ending with an intense social (waking them up early in the morning on Friday and then spending the full day with them/often going on a weekend retreat). They do their recruitment this way to somehow convince nearly 100 students across all a cappella groups each year (and far more who audition) to spend 6+ hours/week singing and helping the group, before these students even have the chance to consider other clubs. This is despite the fact that singing/a cappella group organizing will not be relevant to the vast majority of students’ careers/future plans. This anecdote has been mentioned to demonstrate the power of making a positive impression before others, and how path-dependent the beginning of the year is.

EA groups could learn from highly successful recruiters like top finance firms and a cappella groups. We have a product that is probably a lot more attractive to many students - a great community of dedicated/altruistic/talented people who want to help others and themselves, concrete career advice, and exposure to plausibly the most important questions and issues in the world.

3. Biggest bottlenecks to making the above happen

  • Not knowing what actions to take, and how to perform them efficiently. See our Pre-semester checklist page for information on this.
  • Not knowing how to access funding
  • Not having enough strong people to do all the good things and not knowing what to prioritize
  • We’ve recommended things roughly in order of how important we think they are, but use your discretion. Also always feel free to ask for help - the EA Groups Slack is a great resource. You can also always reach out to Kuhan on Messenger, or at kuhanj@stanford.edu.
  • Maybe sharing this page will convince group members that the aforementioned programming is worth their time ;)