Clubs can be extraordinarily helpful for starting your engineering journey at USC. Personally, I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my capabilities as an engineer through joining clubs like Makers that emphasizes learning and creating fun hardware and built my personal and professional network through organizations like the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) and IEEE.
Despite how helpful clubs can be, knowing where to start can be tough. I remember going to the involvement fair freshman year and being overwhelmed by the different organizations that Viterbi had to offer. Especially when the application questions ask things like “why do you want to join this club?” and you really don’t know, you just want to try it out. So, here are some insights I have learned from applying to clubs and being involved in club leadership. These may not apply to everyone, but I hope they help!
There are some clubs you should definitely join, no ifs, ands, or buts.
You may be thinking, hey wait, how can you say that? Aren’t clubs supposed to be large time commitments? What if I don’t have the prerequisite skills? While that’s true of most clubs, Viterbi has professional organizations that I would recommend everyone join that corresponds to different demographic groups. These typically ask as much time as you want to put into them. You can choose to join leadership committees and help plan events, participate in community outreach, build your career connections, or just connect more with other engineers in your major/demographic. Clubs like the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Women in Engineering, the nstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AiCHE) and many more that you can join when you still don’t know what you’re doing.
Do your research.
Every Viterbi club has a unique community with distinct goals and expectations for its members. Whether you’re working on a pancake art printer in Makers or a record-breaking rocket with the Rocket Propulsion Lab (RPL), you’ll find the work structure and mission of the club to be distinct. Most clubs hold extensive recruiting events where they are happy to talk to you about exactly what they do and how they do it. Figure out if those activities sound like something that would be fun for you. If not, you may want to keep searching. You don’t have to join clubs just for the sake of it.
It may be tempting to try to join as many clubs as you can during your first semester, but I’d advise against it. Your experience in clubs is directly proportional to how much time you put into them. It’s much better to only join one club your first semester that you’re really passionate about and put your focus into that instead of spreading yourself too thin and not gaining much from any of the clubs you joined. Also, some clubs are definitely better fits for upperclassmen or people who have more experience as engineers or developers, and that’s okay! I got rejected from my fair share of organizations my first semester only to reapply and get in later and I’m happy I did because I had a much better experience later than I would have had my first semester. Some clubs will teach you everything you need to know and some won’t, depending on the goals of the club. Don’t take it too hard and just reapply when you feel more prepared.
Hope these tips were helpful for navigating the club scene at Viterbi!