Sunday, May 31

Pre-professional organizations help students explore their interests, future careers

From eating at barbeques with professors to building concrete canoes and steel bridges as part of an annual competition, Shane Shin said he reaped all the benefits of joining the American Society of Civil Engineers, also known as ASCE.

Shin, a third-year civil engineering student, said he initially joined the society to learn more about his major and to socialize with other people in it. Not only does he go over homework problems with the friends he has made through ASCE, but he also goes tailgating with them occasionally.

The American Society of Civil Engineers is one of the many pre-professional organizations at UCLA.

Pre-professional organizations allow students to explore their career options in their set field and help them to attain a better understanding of how to pursue their careers. According to UCLA alumnus Abraham Chon, joining pre-professional organizations actually made it easier for them to find jobs and internships after graduating.

These organizations include fraternities as well as societies. Although they are two different types of organizations, both strive for similar goals. They aim to spread awareness of their professions as well as to help their members stay on the right track by offering career panels and mentoring programs.

Judith Perera, a fourth-year history student, former Daily Bruin reporter and the president of the UCLA Pre-Law Society, first joined the society as a freshman so she could learn more about how to go to law school.

“I’ve learned everything about law school from this (society) because our school doesn’t have an adviser specifically for pre-law students,” she said.

The UCLA Pre-Law Society holds information panels where representatives from different law schools come in to speak about their programs as well as to answer specific questions about admissions requirements. Some of the law schools that have contacted the society to speak include Harvard, Georgetown, Cornell, Duke, New York University, Stanford and UC Berkeley.

Whereas the pre-law society welcomes all UCLA students, Kappa Alpha Pi, a pre-law co-ed fraternity, has a more selective membership, like most professionally oriented fraternities and sororities.

The membership for KAPi requires a review of the pledge’s personal statement, GPA and an interview.

Hyun Oh, a recent UCLA graduate and KAPi member, received a prestigious internship from another KAPi alumnus. Oh said he was able to attain the internship because being in his fraternity already implied a strong resume.

Chon, who was the former president of Alpha Kappa Psi, also attributed his own prestigious internship to his pre-professional fraternity. Alpha Kappa Psi is a pre-business coed fraternity that has more than 300 active chapters with more than 228,000 members since its founding in 1904. He also said being part of the fraternity with such a large and informative network helped him decide what business career he wanted to pursue.

High on the list of priorities for these organizations is establishing good social skills, an influential part of a professional career. Because pre-professional organizations are in essence profession-oriented clubs, members have a lot of opportunities to meet and communicate with people who have familiar career interests.

Christina Fong, a third-year neuroscience student, joined her pre-health fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Delta, in the fall of her freshman year.

Fong said joining a group in her first quarter helped her find people like her and to become more outgoing on campus.

Not all students, however, join pre-professional organizations. In fact, a large number of the UCLA students with set career goals are not in these organizations.

Shivani Thaker, a third-year molecular, cell and developmental biology student, is a pre-med student who did not join a pre-health organization.

“I feel like joining any frat or society would be time-consuming because I wanted to use that time for other activities such as getting accustomed to the new college lifestyle,” she said. “I’m sure it helps people career-wise and that they have good resources for people who want to go in a certain path. I just personally thought it wasn’t right for me.”

Andrew Han, a third-year civil engineering student, did not join simply because he became involved in other activities outside of his professional sphere. Han joined a Christian fellowship in his first year and performed in UCLA’s Korean Culture Night for the last two years.

“There never was a decision against it. At the time I met a lot of good friends through other sources and became more involved in other clubs, which kind of pushed those pre-professional clubs out of my mind,” he said.

Current members also admit that one disadvantage to joining a pre-professional organization, fraternities in particular, is that it requires a lot of time and commitment. Pre-professional fraternities require members to consistently stay active in their chapter, whereas societies do not.

“I would say it’s like taking a lab class ““ it requires the same amount of commitment,” said Jasper Shergill, the president of the pre-health fraternity AED and a fourth-year biology student.

One added quality that fraternities offer is a stronger network system which in turn could lead to an advantage when looking for internship positions or jobs. Pre-professional fraternities, however, require members to go to mandatory meetings and activities and in turn ask for more accountability. Board members of many of these fraternities suggest that a student have a clear idea of what career he or she is looking for before joining.

Joining a pre-professional organization has helped countless students decide if their set career is right for them. Because UCLA does not offer advisers for specific professions, these organizations could be a vital source of information for students. Current students advise first year students to approach these organizations as they would any other club or activity and to try to take as much from it as possible.

“I didn’t know if I were going to be a civil engineer or not ““ I didn’t know I was going to stick with it when I joined,” Shin said. “But I realized that a lot of things I’m good at involved civil engineering, and I like the people in my major so I think I’m set now.”

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