The business clubs on campus have seen a great increase in interest with the new incoming class this year.
At the beginning of this semester, students filled up Science Center 199 at the info meeting of Redefine Her Street, a business club on campus that supports women in economics.
“It was like crazy. I was like, this is too good to be true,” said Irene Xiang ’18, one of the co-founders and board members of Redefine Her Street.
The consulting group on campus, 180 Degrees Consulting, has also seen an increase in interested students. They had 39 students who applied to join the group this year, of which they accepted 12.
“This year the acceptance rate is 33 percent. Usually it’s 40 to 50 percent. The acceptance rate is lower this year even though we took a lot more applicants this year,” said president Simran Singh ’19. “Half of new incomings are freshmen, which is pretty rare,” said Singh.
On the Handshake Recruitment System used by the Career Services Office, students need to indicate their career preferences when they first register. A search of the system also shows the interest of first-year students in business.
“Thirty-six of the 99 first-year students who have registered have indicated an interest in business careers, ” said director of career services Nancy Burkett.
180 Degree Consulting started four years ago, while Redefine Her Street started two years ago. As more and more Redefine Her Street members obtain internships and jobs, their credentials and credibility have grown, and so it has become easier to recruit incoming students.
“Once [we] have more upperclassmen … we can talk about our credentials. ‘Okay, so this is where our members have interned.’ That’s definitely made us look more credible,” said Xiang.
However, Xiang believes the growing interest could also be due to student groups on campus being more active.
“I don’t know if it’s a trend, to be honest. I think it helps that there are more student groups on campus. We only started recently. But I think like other groups like 180 [Degrees] and Clarus [another business club] are recently getting more and more active. I think that’s definitely helped. I think there’s always been an interest in those areas, but it’s definitely got more encouraged by the formation of these groups that are well-formed and providing good resources,” said Xiang.
The freshmen who joined the business clubs are generally interested in going into consulting, finance, and other business-related fields after graduating.
“I do see myself getting into professional consulting after graduation for a few years, with the eventual goal of establishing a small business or nonprofit of my own one day,” said Connor Gill ’21, one of the six first-years who joined 180 Degrees this year.
Isabelle Ewart ’20 joined Redefine Her Street this year. She is not completely certain that she would work in finance but does have an interest in the field. But she is also concerned with the potential setbacks of attending a liberal arts college when it comes to entering business-related fields.
“Swarthmore’s liberal arts education is helping me achieve this goal because it provides me with a diverse education. I am, however, worried about getting my ‘foot in the door’ for a finance career because Swarthmore is a small liberal arts school, and finance is such a competitive industry. Many other young people looking for these finance jobs come from finance-oriented schools,” said Ewart.
Swarthmore, as a liberal arts college, does not offer any majors related to business or finance. The closest major is economics, and there are only two business classes offered at the college. According to Xiang, these student groups realize the students’ needs and strive to meet them.
“We have bi-weekly meetings. That’s where we provide updates on the market in terms of what’s going on, like financial news. We also provide workshops, like technical workshops and soft skills workshops. We also have a meet-and-greet series to speak to accomplished alums. So basically it’s like a class, but much less formal,” said Xiang.
180 Degrees Consulting, on the other hand, set their first and foremost goal to create social impact.
“This is a way of dipping your toes but still a way to increase social impact, which is what I think a lot of Swatties are interested in. I think there is a misnomer and predisposition that you’re selling out if you go into consulting or finance. I think 180 is a great opportunity to understand what consulting and working with small businesses and organizations is, in a way that still allows you to be doing good for your community,” said Singh.
This emphasis on social impact was exactly what first drew Gill to join the group.
“[180 Degrees Consulting] seemed like a fantastic program aimed at helping students gain valuable consulting experience, while at the same time providing struggling small firms with free consulting service — a “win-win” in my eyes. … Also, the diversity of projects that they work on really impressed me, from global non-profit social impact groups to local small businesses,” said Gill.
Redefine Her Street attracts students with similar needs.
“[Redefine Her Street] is a support group of women with similar ideals and career goals. Finance is also a heavily male-dominated industry, and it is great to know that there is a club of women who are driven to enter a finance career. The experience so far has been great: the meetings are very informative, and we have access to unique networking and learning opportunities,” said Ewart.
180 Degrees and Redefine Her Street both try particularly to meet the needs of first-years, since there are more of them involved this year.
“Some of the professional skills, like knowing how to dress, like knowing how to construct a resume, knowing how to present well — I think a lot of those skills are acquired over time. So I think a lot of the times, we take extra attention … are the freshmen are coming in with those skills? Or is something we need to pay attention [to] and give them extra time to do?” said Singh.
“Obviously, everyone who goes here is not studying finance. Even if it’s econ, it’s only marginally closer. For them [Redefine Her Street members], the goal is to learn the lingo and the difference of the terminologies, what are the current deals that are going on that are important to know.” said Xiang.
To meet the increased interest in business, Career Services also has been creating events and programs to help students.
“On the whole, we have seen an increase in student interest in business careers over the past five years and have offered [programs] as a way to help students network with alumni and prepare for the competitive application process in these fields,” said Burkett.
However, she also mentioned the importance of being open to other career possibilities. There are resources that either student groups or Career Services can provide if students ever want to explore their fitting career paths, interests, values, and other ways they can make a difference or have meaningful impact.