Record number of students apply to be peer advisers

Peer advisers to the class of 2015 dance during Wildcat Welcome. 725 students applied to the program this year, up from 350 in 2010.

Daily file photo by Kaitlin Svabek

Peer advisers to the class of 2015 dance during Wildcat Welcome. 725 students applied to the program this year, up from 350 in 2010.

Amy Whyte, Reporter

With 725 students applying, this year is the most competitive for peer adviser applications to date.

The application process had an all-time low selection rate of 27.6 percent. Only 200 students are chosen to be PAs each year: The number of applicants increased from 650 last year and has more than doubled since 2010, when 350 students applied.

Josh McKenzie, director of first year experience, said in addition to applying in a high quantity, this year’s applicants displayed “really outstanding” quality.

“It made my job that much harder,” McKenzie said. “We had to get very nit-picky. More than ever we had to look at every single word in the application.”

Decisions regarding the selection process were also affected by a few structural changes within the program. McKenzie said there was an increase in the number of transfer PAs and a decrease in Medill PAs. In the past, Medill peer advisers have often worked in groups of three. Next fall, most incoming Medill students will only have two peer advisers. Typically, the directors have chosen 28 to 30 Medill PAs, but this year they accepted only 22, McKenzie said.

Weinberg freshman Anna Baran was one of the 200 students who made the cut this year. She said she was “really excited” to learn she was chosen to be a 2013 peer adviser.

“As cheesy as it is, I really like Northwestern, and I want the incoming freshmen to like it as much as I do,” Baran said.

McKenzie said attitudes like Baran’s are what the Wildcat Welcome Board of Directors looks for most in PA applicants.

“We want students to be excited and thrilled about their Northwestern experience — not just new students, but current students as well,” McKenzie said.

Students who were already PAs this year were eager to reapply. Weinberg sophomore Grace Kapov, who served as a peer adviser for the 2012-2013 academic year, said she did not even have to think twice about it.

“It was actually so much fun that of course I’d want to do it again,” Kapov said.

Weinberg sophomore Andy Donaldson, who will also be a returning PA next year, said “most people who were PAs last year overwhelmingly wanted to return.”

McKenzie did not comment on whether or not previous experience helped PAs during the application process. He said the program attempts to find students from a variety of backgrounds, hometowns and student organizations across campus.

“There’s a million factors that go into it,” McKenzie said. “Sometimes what it comes down to is we want a great team. We look for a group of 200 students that’s going to work well together and we try to put together a diverse staff — and when I say diverse, I mean diverse in every way.”

During Spring Quarter, 2013 PAs will complete a series of training sessions following an all-staff meeting Thursday. The classes will focus on leadership skills and “discovery of self and who you are as a leader,” McKenzie said.

“The class of 2017 and transfers are in for a great time,” he said. “I really think this is the strongest group we’ve ever had.”