The past weeks have been filled with intense competition to join extracurricular activities. A cappella groups, improv troupes, the Yale Symphony Orchestra and countless other groups held weeks of tough auditions to select new members. Simultaneously, a slightly less glamorous part of campus life has been incredibly selective in its admissions: term-time jobs.
Around half of Yale undergrads are on financial aid, meaning that they’re expected to earn $3,300 a year through student employment ($2,800 for freshmen). The generous campus minimum wage of $12 an hour means that most students should have to work no more than 10 hours per week in order to meet this goal. In fact, Yale prohibits students from working more than 19 hours. I remember my tour guide raving about the jobs Yale offers. His job was to distribute toilet paper to suites, and he loved it. It was easy, he could study in his downtime, and he was rolling in the cash.
But there’s a small problem. Securing a job on campus this semester seems to have become almost as hard as getting into the Whiffenpoofs. The Yale Student Employment Office lists hundreds of jobs online along with quick applications. Since all the applications ask you to list your availability, I held off (as many students did) until my course schedule was finalized at the end of shopping period. I then sent in around 10 applications and expected to hear back within the next week. When nothing happened, I sent in 10 more. Then 20 more. Eventually I had applied for close to 50 jobs and had heard nothing back. I wasn’t even getting rejected; I was simply refreshing a jobless email inbox each morning.
This didn’t make sense to me. The “Financing Your Yale Education” booklet says: “All students on financial aid are given the opportunity to meet a portion of their student costs through term-time employment.” But I was a student on financial aid, and I wasn’t being given that opportunity. Students across campus had applied to dozens of jobs online and either never heard back or received automatic reply rejections saying that the job was already filled. One lucky friend of mine was actually offered an interview for a library job. He showed up only to be told that he was one of dozens of students interviewing. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t get the job.
After receiving a call from home and being told that money was getting tight, I began to get desperate. I called the Student Employment Office to ask for advice. I was told that there was nothing the employment office could do for me, as employment decisions were entirely up to the employers. They recommended that I continue applying to jobs online, but also added that it was possible that the system was getting overloaded with applications. I also asked if I received preference for jobs as a financial aid student. They responded that Yale recommends that employers give preference to financial aid recipients for the first two weeks of classes, but does not enforce this policy in any way.
Either there aren’t enough jobs to go around right now, or there is some major bureaucratic problem in the way that job applications are being submitted to employers. As the weeks pass by, the number of hours per week students will need to work increases steadily. And with no policy to enforce that financial aid recipients get preference for jobs, it is possible that some students will be unable to find employment and instead be forced to rely on loans or place an additional financial burden on their parents.
It is unlikely that much can be done to remedy this situation immediately, but there are steps Yale can — and should — take in the future. First, a policy should be enforced for the first month of classes that gives preference to financial aid recipients searching for jobs. Second, employers should be required to respond to all applicants within a certain amount of time. Third, complete listings of the numbers of jobs on campus should be provided to ensure that there are actually enough jobs for every financial aid student.
I got a job last week, but not through the Student Employment website. A friend leaving her job from last semester recommended me to her manager. When I went to speak with him, he told me that he hadn’t even received my application through the online system. Most stories of successful job searches at Yale sound like this one, and that needs to change. If Yale intends to continue including a term-time job as a part of every financial aid package (and increasing the amount of earnings required every year), then reforming the job search system must be a priority.
Diana Rosen is a sophomore in Pierson College and is a staff blogger for the News. Contact her at diana. firstname.lastname@example.org.