How Model UN Will Help You Excel in College

by Conna Walsh on February 1, 2013

Model UN provides amazing experience conducting research

If you’re reading this article, then you’ve most likely already participated enough in Model UN to know that it can provide some great benefits to your academic career, especially in college. Everyone knows that the transition from high school to college can be extremely difficult, and no one knows this as well as I do. When I started my freshman year of college, I was taken aback by the differences in the academic environments of high school and college. Discussion sections? Twenty- page research papers? Networking? All of these concepts were foreign to me. However, as my first semester progressed, I quickly realized how Model UN had provided me with the skills necessary to succeed in a collegiate academic setting. I was very surprised to find that an activity that I had previously considered to be recreational helped me prepare for a new academic environment. Here are a few examples of how Model UN can help you excel in college.

1. Class participation

One of my first college classes was Introduction to International Relations. Having done Model UN all throughout high school, I thought I had it in the bag. However, it didn’t end up being so easy. One of the aspects of the class that completely threw me off balance was the mandatory discussion section that met once a week.  I was terrified of attending my first section – what if I said something stupid? What if the teaching assistant disagreed with all of my opinions? However, these fears were soon quelled when I realized that I had experience in something that my fellow students did not – public speaking. You all know the feeling that comes up when you head to the front of your 200-delegate General Assembly committee to voice your opinions into a microphone. To some, that feeling might be terror, but to experienced Model UN delegates, that feeling is exhilaration. The same thing happened in my class section – whenever my TA asked a question and no one in the room raised their hand, I had no problem speaking up and participating in the discussion. Because most discussions count participation as part of your overall grade in the class, I had a great advantage. Had I never done Model UN and gotten used to speaking in front of large groups of people, I would not have been able to comfortably participate fully in my class discussions.

2. Research experience

I always thought that twenty-page research papers were a myth told by college students to intimidate high school kids. What professor in their right mind would expect someone to commit the time and effort that is required to write such a monstrosity of a writing piece? As it turns out, all of them do. I was first assigned a twenty-page paper in my freshman writing seminar. The class covered recent industrialization in China, which is one of my main areas of interest. I assumed that since I was actually interested in the subject, it would be easy for me to write twenty pages about it, right?

Wrong. I ran out of steam after writing for about six or seven pages in one sitting. I wracked my brain for anything else I had forgotten to include from my prior knowledge of the subject. When I couldn’t come up with anything else to include, I knew it was time for me to return to my Model UN roots and conduct some serious research. Throughout high school, Model UN taught me more about the basics of doing effective, relevant research than any other class ever did. Not only did I discover indispensible resources like the CIA World Factbook and assorted UN fact sheets, but I also learned how to find other reputable sources that provided relevant information. In addition, I quickly learned to cite my sources, which is incredibly important at the college level. I would never have been able to write my first, second, third or more twenty-page research papers had I never learned the basics of researching from Model UN.

3. Networking

The concept of networking in college made me very nervous when I got to school. After hearing about how college students are supposed to build rapport with their professors, stay in touch with employers, and ensure to create and keep other relationships, I was very hesitant. It seemed as though every job and every internship would be attained just by knowing the people who offered the position. As someone who has been quite shy for a long time, I was afraid that my quiet disposition would end up costing me a job or an internship in the future. However, I was surprised to soon find that networking and fostering professional and academic relationships came quite easily to me at college. I can only attribute this to my experiences in Model UN. In order to excel in committee, a delegate must work through the room to gauge responses to draft resolutions, ask for additional clauses or amendments, or gather support for a position. I’ve come to find that networking is much like diplomacy – it requires extreme courtesy, an open mind, and a willingness to cooperate. These skills are essential not only in committee, but also when you are asking a professor for a recommendation, or are looking for an advisor. Networking in committee has translated over into improving my academic career, and for that I will always be thankful. As you can see, Model UN is not just an extracurricular activity. It is an academic resource that can help you succeed in the future, especially in college. I credit Model UN completely with providing me with the skills necessary to excel in a collegiate academic environment, and by applying yourself in Model UN now, you are investing in a bright and successful future.

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