Students scramble for fellowships

As Yalies struggle to finalize their summer plans this semester, some are waiting anxiously to receive a fellowship to pay their way.

Internship deadlines and job offers can come and go before students learn if they will receive funding from fellowships coordinated by the Office of Fellowship Programs. But, students and administrators agree, the University cannot eliminate this stressful “limbo” period by altering its schedule, as Yale’s fellowship deadlines are coordinated to accommodate fellowship committees’ deliberations.

Timothy Stumph, co-director of the Office of Fellowship Programs, said the deadline for the majority fellowship applications is in late February because students need time to formulate a solid plan for the summer before applying. Students usually learn if they will receive funding in late March or early April. Associate director of Undergraduate Career Services Lanch McCormick said her office encourages students to “conduct due diligence” before applying to internships, so that when they receive an offer they are able to accept or decline with certainty.

“We encourage students prior to submitting their applications to be thoughtful and ask the necessary questions so they don’t find themselves stuck in the situation [of not being able to pay without receiving a fellowship],” she said.

Courtney Fukuda ’12, a peer advisor for the Center for International Experience, said six to 10 students have come to her individually since September with concerns about addressing job offers without knowing whether they will receive funding. She added that students regularly come to the CIE peer advisors’ weekly round table discussions in January and February to discuss this issue.

Fukuda said she does not see a feasible way for Yale to adjust its deadlines to meet students’ schedules exactly.

“If we switched the schedules so you apply for fellowships first, students would win but then not necessarily get into the programs,” she said. “I think it’s really difficult to time it perfectly.”

Juan Caballero ’12 said he “took a leap of faith” in turning down the President’s Public Service Fellowship, which places 36 students at public sector and nonprofit organizations in New Haven and gives them a stipend, in favor of an unpaid internship with the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Without any source of funding I won’t be able to do it,” he said of the ACLU position. “I’m not hanging everything on the [Office of Fellowship Programs] offerings, but they’re my best shot.”

By contrast, Mary Awadallah ’13 said she is prepared to pay her own expenses associated with her internship with Mercado Global — a non-profit Fair Trade organization that facilitates the marketing of indigenous Guatemalan women’s handmade goods in the United States — if she does not receive a fellowship.

Awadallah said the fact that the job is economically feasible, even without fellowship funding, contributed to her interest.

Harvard students also struggle to coordinate internships and fellowships, said Robin Mount, director of career, research and international opportunities at Harvard. Mount said Harvard tries to educate students about how to communicate with organizations that have offered them internships, especially in accepting positions conditionally based on whether they receive funding.

“Our offices are like a permeable membrane between college, where things are more controlled, and the real world, where it’s chaos,” she said.

Stumph said Yale’s fellowships are a privilege for Yalies, adding that it is important that undergraduates look into alternative means of funding their summers since many will not win fellowships.

McCormick added that the complexity of arranging summer plans represents the way the professional world works.

“From a professional development point of view, you can look at it logically if you separate [the internships from the fellowships],” she said. “It’s part of the student as an individual owning their experience and taking responsibility for their experience.”

There are 23 Yale College Summer Fellowships currently listed on the Office of Fellowship Programs’ web site.

Comments

  • Y_2011

    The people at UCS were not helpful to me at all in this respect. When I was an underclassman I told them I was worried since my parents wouldn’t be able to afford to support me during most non-paid internships. They basically said tough cookies. No one told me there were fellowships for internships through Yale, and no one suggested ways of finding outside funding. I ended up finding an internship and funding on my own. In addition to not telling me anything helpful, one of the people was downright rude, and unprofessional in how they talked to me (ironic I know).

    I wish as part of Freshman orientation someone would hand you a packet listing all the resources Yale has to offer, because UCS won’t necessarily tell you.

  • yalieeleven

    Um…how do you miss the fellowships? They are everywhere. The Deans and Masters send information about them through emails.

  • Y_2011

    @yalieeleven

    This might shock you, but as a freshman, I thought fellowships were for research and study and the like. My older friends from home who had managed to get to college didn’t do internships in the summer, they worked at regular jobs (retail, food service, cashiers etc), so I’d never heard of someone getting a scholarship to do work. I did read my Dean’s emails, but specific fellowships were usually not mentioned.

    Obviously I figured things out eventually, and I learned not to rely on UCS much at all. I have a job lined up for next year that I am super excited about. My point is that if you make an appointment with a UCS person because you are worried about paying for your living expenses over the summer and you want to talk about ways to overcome that obstacle, they shouldn’t stare at you blankly and then push you towards a BAA internship that has nothing to do with any of your interests.