TELUSHKIN: Apply now, decide later

This is the season of decisions and applications. Making decisions is not particularly fun. Applying to things isn’t very fun, either. But while decisions are necessarily limiting, applying is about broadening your options: You definitely can’t be awarded a fellowship to which you didn’t apply. Whereas deciding on a course or summer internship thereby excludes other courses and summer opportunities, the application step is pretty risk-free, ego and time investment aside. While Yale is right in forcing us to make decisions — no student should take 18 courses a semester even if she wanted to — it should not limit students from trying to broaden their options, and luck, by applying to a variety of opportunities that interest them.

That’s why I think we should do away with the CIPE policy that makes submitting more than one summer proposal difficult. Last spring, I was searching the Grants and Fellowship site when I noticed a cool fellowship. Although I already had an idea for my summer in the works, I figured I lost nothing by applying, as I wasn’t yet set on my summer plans.

However, to my dismay, I was too late. I could no longer apply. No, the deadline had not yet passed. There were still a whole three days left — infinity in the world of student deadlines. The problem, instead, was that I had already submitted a fellowship application for the summer. I had generated one profile with one proposal, and I could not make a new one.

I emailed the fellowship office. I explained, a little embarrassed, that I couldn’t figure out how to create a second profile. I was sure there was some obvious button I just couldn’t find. The answer came back. Apparently, to submit an additional proposal, I would need to meet with a fellowship adviser, and appointments were booked solid for weeks. A fellowship adviser I met with on an unrelated occasion explained the policy to me like this: We want you to devise your perfect and ideal summer, and then go see if you get funding. We don’t want you to have to tweak proposals just to follow the money.

This policy and its explained rationale are both irritating and symbolic of a broader issue with how we often talk about passion at Yale.

I imagine there are other reasons for this policy, such as limiting student applications to accommodate limited resources. We know, for example, that the Common Application has dramatically increased the number of colleges high school seniors apply to, skewing numbers and acceptance rates. I don’t think this would be an issue with fellowships, however, as each new application requires its own proposal, budget and recommendations — too much of an investment for casual applicants.

The philosophy behind this policy is even more troubling. We are constantly told to find our passion. When making a difficult choice between opportunities, I am often asked, “Well, what do you want?” As if I only want one thing! As if we only have one passion! Like most of my friends, I don’t have one perfect or ideal summer. I would enjoy doing many things, but I can only chose one.

This is why making decisions is so difficult. We must reject good options. We can’t study everything or go everywhere. Although common wisdom states that we, as young people, should find ourselves, I am not at all confident that I am one person, or that the vast majority of my peers, who surprise me every day with their wide-ranging interests, can be pinned down, either.

For everybody torn up because they haven’t limited themselves to one narrow slice of this dizzyingly beautiful world, the CIPE policy is unhelpful at best. Once we already have the blessing of Yale’s breathtaking scope of offerings, we should have the freedom — the gift — to decide to apply for different fellowships, provided we can get together the proposal, recommendations and whatever else is required. And don’t be so quick to dismiss the money side. For most of us, an ideal summer requires some level of funding or compensation. That is why, of course, we are applying for fellowships in the first place.

We are so much more diverse and complex than we can ever explore through the 36 credits and three or four summers we can take advantage of in college. Making these decisions might be limiting, but they are a necessity of life. They should not, however, be praised as the ideal in Yale policy.

Shira Telushkin is a junior in Pierson College. Contact her at shira.telushkin@yale.edu .

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