The transition to college can be jarring, regardless of how independent you may have been in high school. The classes, the people, and the environment are completely different from that of high school, and Model UN is no exception to this. College Model UN is an exceptionally dynamic community, and conferences are some of the most memorable weekends that students will experience. Stepping into that first committee session as a freshman, however, is intimidating. Rather than a few power delegates in the room vying for the gavel, almost every person sitting behind those placards is there to win. Because of this, even the best high school delegates need help in the transition into collegiate Model UN: this help is best provided by the more seasoned students on their school’s travel team.
The George Washington University in Washington D.C. has an exceptional program which helps freshman delegates adjust to the intense world of collegiate Model UN, and the wild success of their travel team demonstrates the effectiveness of it.
The tryouts for Colonial Cadets–a reference to the school mascot, the ‘colonial’–make for a stressful weekend at the beginning of the first semester. After being interviewed by the team officers, called ‘Apparatus’, in the weeks leading up to tryouts, all aspiring delegates meet for two days of committee sessions or simulations. After each day, two groups of emails are sent out. One contains rejection letters, addressed to the candidates who didn’t make the cut, and the other contains congratulations and a welcome letter for the new class of Colonial Cadets. Making the team, however, is only the beginning of a long orientation process; those who made the team will spend the next two semesters meeting once a week to study, memorize, and drill everything from the basics of Parliamentary Procedure to the most elaborate, nuanced strategies.
Despite the intensely competitive nature of the trying out process, the main point stressed to Cadets in the first meeting is a message of empowerment:
“You would not have made this team if you could not handle collegiate Model UN. You can do this.”
This theme is further emphasized by the fact that spots in each traveling delegation are guaranteed to Cadets. Apart from conferences, Cadets are also required to attend multiple committee simulations every semester, where they have the opportunity to compete against upperclassmen on the team.
The success of the Colonial Cadets program is hard to argue against: freshmen routinely win awards, and the Cadets Class of 2020 carried home gavels just within the first semester.”
In addition to creating successful college delegates, the Colonial Cadets program also creates a sense of camaraderie between the Cadets. In the first meeting, Apparatus (team leadership) suggests that the Cadets create a group chat, but that under no circumstances should they include any upperclassmen members of the team in this chat. When each class of Cadets has its own group chat, a fantastic opportunity is provided for team bonding and the development of strong friendships. Apparatus also makes a real effort to create a welcoming environment for new classes of Cadets each year. During Fall semester of 2019, they accomplished this by pairing Cadets and upperclassmen in groups together, and then planning activities for those groups to do together, such as trivia. These are small details, but I have no doubt in my mind that they contribute in unexpected ways to the impressive awards record of the travel team.
Overall, the George Washington University Colonial Cadets program is one of the most successful programs on the college circuit because it addresses all facets of the transition from high school to college Model UN. Not only does it train delegates to be their best in competition, but also it gives those same delegates a sense of belonging; something that every college freshman is in desperate need of.