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Comping FAQ

Hi, all-knowing student! What the hell is comping?

Glad you asked, Timmy! So at Harvard, one cannot simply “join a club.” Instead, you must prove your worth. Enter comping. Short for “competency” (or perhaps, competition), many organizations on campus employ some form of comp to ensure they have members who are genuinely qualified to contribute. 

Hm, okay cool! So like, which clubs?

Oh, Timmy. Pretty much everything. Literary publications. Government simulations. Admissions tours. My roommate was waitlisted to volunteer at a homeless shelter. Some girl on my floor got cut from a zumba class. It’s brutal. Some exceptions: HRDC (theater productions) and other musical/performance groups have general auditions the first week of school known as Common Casting. Some clubs require an application and interview (Harvard College Consulting Group, Harvard Model Congress), which take place over a few days. And many service clubs (aside from that one picky homeless shelter) will just let you join, no questions asked.

Meep! This sounds scary. What exactly is a comp? Will they beat me up?

Ha! Maybe. We kid! (Maybe.) No, comps tend to be semester-long processes that can be divided into two categories. 1) Complete a long list of requirements—some organizations have a certain amounts of articles to write, programs to code, and quality photos to take. If you can do them, congrats! Then there’s 2) The competitive comp. You are to complete requirements but are evaluated against other compers. Not all of you will make it in. Let the Hunger Games begin! Most start in the beginning of September and end in mid-to-late October, though some can last until Thanksgiving break if run by sadists. The process repeats in the spring.

...This still sounds very scary. My friend at *X University* can just join things. Why can’t I just join things?

Comps have been around for a really long time, and at this points most groups aren’t really sure why they even have them anymore. The most common answer is it keeps people who will genuinely provide for the organization and keeps out the folks who just want to go to the parties. While it’s still unclear why some of the comps are so long/demanding, when you successfully complete a comp, you’ll find that the groups are as or more cohesive/productive than those at *X University.* We weren’t paid to say that. Well, maybe. We kid! (Maybe.)

So...Why should I comp?

Listen up: Not all organizations have comps, so you can complete your entire Harvard experience without comping a single thing. But if you do choose to comp, and do so successfully, know that you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and will meet other like-minded individuals who could become some of your best friends. And if you do so unsuccessfully, it’s no big deal! You are at Harvard; prepare for rejection, because it’s normal (clubs, that girl in section, etc.). And besides, you still have the next semester (and the next semester (and the next (and so on))).

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