Get Involved
Back to Index
Get Involved
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))).

Next article
Francesca Malatesta,  Editor in Chief
francesca.malatesta@hsa.net
Jessica Luo, Publishing Director
jessica.luo@hsa.net
Katie Nguyen, Studio 67 Managing Director
katie.nguyen@hsa.net
The Unofficial Guide to Harvard Copyright © 2019 by Harvard Student Agencies, Inc., Burke-McCoy Hall, 67 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from Harvard Student Agencies, Inc. Photographs reproduced with permission from Austin Eder, Ronia Hurwitz, Lance Katigbak, Mark Kelsey, Cindy Niu, Winnie Wu, and Christina Yee. Printed in Canada by Friesens Corp. The Harvard name and/or VERITAS shield are trademarks of the President and Fellows of Harvard College and are used by permission of Harvard University. LEGAL DISCLAIMER. Although every effort was made to ensure that the following information was correct at the time of going to press, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any part for any loss or damage caused by errors, omissions, or any potential travel disruption due to labor or financial difficulty, whether such errors or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.Printed in Canada by Friesens Corp. The Harvard name and/or VERITAS shield are trademarks of the President and Fellows of Harvard College and are used by permission of Harvard University. ADVERTISING DISCLAIMER. All advertisements appearing in Unofficial Publications are sold by an independent agency not affiliated with the editorial production of the guides. Advertisers are never given preferential treatment, and the guides are researched, written, and published independent of advertising. Advertisements do not imply endorsement of products or services by Unofficial Guides, and Unofficial Publications does not vouch for the accuracy of information provided in advertisements. If you are interested in purchasing advertising space in an HSA publication, contact: Studio 67, 67 Mount Auburn St., Cambridge, MA 02138, USA, or studio67.hsa.net.