The Promise of Professional
by Lorie Witkop
you've already learned about the importance of joining
associations and attending conferences in your current
or previous line of work. If you haven't, then certainly
there's a world of connections and learning opportunities
just waiting to be discovered. If you have, then consider
your student status a great chance to join new professional
organizations and attend conferences at special
There are two slightly different forms of student membership.
In some cases, you simply join as a member of the larger
organization, such as the American
Library Association. Watch out for stipulations
about full-time status or starting a new, not renewal,
membership to qualify for the student rates. For other
organizations, you join a separate student branch of
the parent group, such as the Public Relations Student
Society of America sponsored by the Public
Relations Society of America. There are national,
state, and in some cases, even regional groups for almost
every profession you might pursue.
To give you an idea of how much money a student member
can save on membership, here are a few examples of actual
dues costs. A new professional member of the Society
of Women Engineers must pay $120.00 for her first
year's dues; a new student member pays only $20.00.
A first year member of the American
Psychological Association pays $62.00, while an
undergraduate student member pays $27.00. Dues for new
professional members of the Association
for Computing Machinery are $99.00, and student
dues are $42.00.
More Reasons to Join
Even at cheaper rates, when you're already paying for
tuition and books, you might think it's not worth adding
membership dues to your expenses. So why should you?
An often-stated reason is that it will look good on
a resume, but there's so much more that you can gain
from joining a professional organization.
Your membership dues could be returned
and then some if your organization has its own members-only
scholarship program. The Council
for Exceptional Children offers several scholarship
awards to junior, senior and graduate
Delta Pi, an honor society for future educators,
also offers scholarships for all levels of college education.
Scholarship information is usually available in organizational
publications and Web sites.
- Publications - Online Benefits
Some memberships include free publications while others
offer discounted rates on their magazines, journals
or books. These publications will help you stay abreast
of the latest developments in your field, and they might
even help you with class assignments. Why go to the
library or search online when you have the journal delivered
right to your home? Certainly, there's little time for
leisure reading when you're immersed in schoolwork,
but think of how great
it will sound in a future interview when you can reference
the leading publication in your field.
Almost if not every professional organization has a
presence on the Web, and many of these Web sites have
special members-only areas that increase their value.
For instance, there might be a members-only job board
access to a magazine. List-servs and Web site message
boards create a sense of community among current and
future professionals in a field. For instance, the
National Council of Teachers of English has a list-serv
that creates dialogue focusing on everything from concrete
teaching ideas to theoretical discussions of reading
and writing instruction. List-servs and message boards
can be a valuable part of any student's professional
development. While you want to make sure you're following
any posted rules like replying directly to an individual
member rather than the entire group when appropriate,
don't be afraid of joining the conversation. Online
communities are typically welcoming and you will find
colleagues who value your fresh perspective.