- First-year connections are useful for many reasons (accessing other first years, group succession, more likely to get involved/flexible about career choice
- Admitted student weekends are likely the best way to reach these students
- Run programming for admitted students
- Have concrete ways for interested students to follow up (e.g. fellowships, 1:1s)
Reaching out to prospective/incoming first years can be highly impactful
Many universities have admitted student weekends/events for prospective students to learn more about universities they’ve been accepted to. This is often the only opportunity for existing students to interact/make connections with the incoming class before fall of the next year.
Prospective and incoming students may be eager to get involved with university events early on, especially when they’re free over the summer and looking for things to do (and haven’t yet become jaded/overwhelmed by school). Anecdotally (at least from my experience at Stanford), younger students are more excited about social impact, feel less pressure to conform/pursue a mainstream career, and are more open to exploring different options.
Interested incoming students can also help you advertise your group activities to first years when university starts, as they can post on class Facebook pages, Groupme groups, Instagram, TikTok, and whatever other platforms young people use nowadays (Myspace perhaps?). We’ve found this a great way to advertise summer and fall fellowships, Intro to EA presentations, and other events.
Additionally, getting highly involved young members with many years left at the university is important for healthy group succession/sustainability.
Overall, I highly recommend making connections with incoming first years a priority, and I think this is fairly easy to do.
Should your group reach out to prospective/incoming first years?
Planning (substantial) programming for incoming first year students is worth prioritizing if you:
- have an established group already
- have planned activities (introductory fellowships, intro events) that newcomers can participate in after being introduced to EA, over the summer or first part of the new academic year
- have time available/capacity
For other groups, lower-effort options (e.g. just an intro to EA presentation and sharing a contact email) while focusing on having a strong start to the next academic year (e.g. with an intro fellowship) might make more sense.
(The best time for planning is often around admissions decisions--generally mid-late March for US schools.)
- Brainstorm what events would be both useful and interesting for incoming first year students. Ideas for events are listed below.
- Talk to students who are completing their first year about what events they would’ve attended and what advertising would’ve worked.
- Talk to any incoming first years you know already about what kinds of events they’d be interested in.
- Reach out to your networks (e.g. EA group members, other EA group members, non-EA friends, etc.) to see if they have contacts in the incoming class that might be familiar with/interested in EA.
- These students might be interested in joining the group and may be willing to share messages/posts/flyers/etc from the EA group to others in the incoming class.
- Make sure group organizers are easily contactable for incoming students who are already interested in effective altruism, and encourage those students to be proactive and reach out (e.g. through welcoming wording on your Facebook page, website, etc).
We’ve had incoming students reach out to us before the fall for the last three years, and have coordinated with them for advertising to first years (which we otherwise would not be able to do).
When reaching out to incoming students, I recommend offering to set up (video) calls to discuss their interests and potential collaborations (over cold-emailing them with a request to help your group).
Message to send incoming EA-interested students:
Hello <their name>! (INSERT REASON YOU'RE CONTACTING THEM)
I'm [the POSITION // a member of] GROUP NAME. I’m reaching out to incoming first-years who have an interest in EA to help our group figure out how our events can best serve interested students like you (e.g. through career planning, educational events, productivity advice, community/social activities and more). I’d also be interested in chatting with you to discuss how we might reach other students like yourself who might be interested in EA, or prioritizing social impact more broadly. If you’d like to chat, here’s my Calendly (<insert Calendly>).
Also, here are resources about and a short description of EA that you can share with others/check out yourself. Effective altruism is a social movement and community dedicated to figuring out how to help others the most using research/evidence/careful reasoning, and acting on it. Here's a great intro video if you're interested, or an article if you’d prefer. I also really like this blog post.
Looking forward to chatting soon,
Hopefully you’re able to make at least one, and if you’re lucky more, connections from the incoming class. The more prospective students you know, the less you’ll have to ask any individual student to share/post, which can be stressful. At this point, hopefully you have a sense of which events you want to run during your admitted students weekend. Here are a few ideas that have worked well for Stanford or other groups:
Admitted Students Weekend Events + Planning:
Student groups are often given the opportunity to host programming and/or attend club fairs at universities’ admitted student weekends to showcase all the ways students can pursue their interests, and make the university seem more appealing. Given this unique opportunity, it’s important to optimize programming targeted at incoming students. Here are a few ideas for programming:
- Introduction to Effective Altruism (Potential title: “Doing the most good with your career”)
- EA Student Panels (potential titles below):
- What I wish I knew as an incoming first year
- Tips for spending your time well at university (what current EA students are doing (highlight cool students’ research/projects/internships/etc)
- High impact internships/careers panel
- Resource/advice sharing: High-Impact internships, research, career planning, major planning
- Social events:
- Speed friending/Zoom breakout rooms with impact-focused icebreaker questions (e.g. “What social issue do you think is most pressing, and how might you address it with your career?”)
- Talk to an upperclassman (where you can split up/have breakout rooms for broad categories - students studying X/interested in Y career)
- Online board games
Another event type that Stanford EA is considering (based on a similarly successful collaboration between activist groups on campus) is a high-Impact projects/student groups showcase. We might host a collaboration between Stanford EA, One for the World, Alt. Protein Project, and the Stanford Existential Risks Initiative. If your group would be interested in such an event, it might be good to partner with other related orgs like tech for good groups, global development, animal welfare, etc.
If you’re able to get the contact information of interested students from your event, here are some resources that you might want to share with them to encourage them to engage in EA over the summer.
Resources to share:
- EA Group mailing list/website/social media/Slack
- Intro to EA materials (e.g. videos/articles I linked above, and the 80,000 Hours Key Ideas page + career-planning article)
- 1:1/Coffee chat sign up form
- Summer fellowship application link (Stanford’s, which is open to all this summer, can be found here)
- Fall/beginning of next academic year programming (e.g. intro to EA presentation, fellowship application)
I’d love to hear others’ ideas for what has worked for other groups in the past/what you’re thinking of for this year! If you’re interested in working with Stanford EA based on any of the above ideas (e.g. to advertise our summer fellowship to your students/share our planned programming for our admit weekend), feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.