Prefrosh - people admitted to a college who have not yet started studying

Tldr - prefrosh outreach (fellowships, retreats, especially tabling) seems like a very low hanging fruit, but has some reputational risks

The earlier, the better

Students at top universities have great potential to improve the world due to three main factors:

  • Open mindedness
  • Lack of career lock-in
  • High performance

The second point is much more true for freshmen than it is for seniors, which makes me think that freshman outreach is more effective than senior outreach. Social, professional, and club commitments pile up as the academic year passes, which means outreach efficiency is at its peak probably very early on in the academic year.

But what if we extrapolated below the x-axis? What if we organized outreach before the semester starts, before college starts?

Ideas for prefrosh outreach

Many colleges have visiting periods where prefrosh visit for a weekend and attend events. Some have pre-orientation programs where prefrosh come to campus a few days earlier than the other students to participate in activities that introduce them to the college. These seem like great opportunities to table and have introductory talks, as prefrosh are on the lookout for activities they can participate in and clubs they can join. It seems like a no-brainer to at least table during visiting period and pre-orientation period.

A more extreme approach would be one where prefrosh should have the opportunity to get involved in your EA group before they even arrive at college. Having collected the emails of interested prefrosh during tabling at visiting period, you can invite them to an accelerated intro fellowship over the summer. You could probably invite the most promising prefrosh who do the fellowship to a retreat before the academic year starts/right as it starts. The retreat would ideally have a bunch (>60%) of non-prefrosh there so that the concentration of highly engaged individuals is high.

Risks

The biggest risk I see here is reputational, as I don’t know of any student groups that do extensive outreach on prefrosh. It might be an unwritten rule between student groups (one could imagine a race to the bottom scenario where the groups compete over who can get prefrosh the earliest, but for some reason this doesn’t seem to be happening - somehow student groups have settled on mostly starting outreach at the start-of-year club fair). Probably because outreach is not as much of a priority for most student groups, or because of incentive failures (members might care about being seen as helpful to the group, and pre-semester outreach might be less visible). It might also seem weird to parents that their children are being invited to club retreats before they’re even in college.

Call to action

In fact, if you want to make sure your university group tables before or during the beginning of the next semester, tell me if you want me to hold you accountable. I’d be glad to check up on you and help you work through issues you might have.

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My very initial reactions to this (having briefly done some campus organizing in my last years in college): 

  1. I don't think the reputational risks are a serious problem; there certainly weren't any "unwritten rules" as far as I know at my university (at least not for general student organizations; for Greek organizations—frats and sororities—there is literally a formal and enforced code of rules for certain things, but I know little about the specifics there)
  2. I agree that this is probably worth exploring further if groups are not already doing it, however:
  3. The main issue I see with this is practicality: most of this orientation targeting would probably have to take place over the summer, and in some cases students do not stay on campus during the summer. Additionally, my memory of orientation is a bit foggy, but there may not be many formal opportunities for groups to advertise to the prefreshies. Additionally, continued/immediate engagement could be a challenge. If there were some summer intro program or fellowship that could be nice, except it may be too late in the summer. (Weekend retreats, on the other hand, might be more doable? IDK)