It is the dreaded question this time of year: “What are you doing this summer?” or, for seniors, “What are you doing after graduation?” Among those without a good answer, Undergraduate Career Services often gets the blame as a resource that has not provided enough — or one people didn’t bother to go to in the first place.
UCS does deserve credit for the new offerings it has created in just the past few years. The “Bulldogs” programs have rapidly expanded to places like Hollywood and Beijing — a particularly welcome development given the University’s new support for financial aid students studying abroad — and UCS has also introduced new databases and networking programs to allow for extensive job searches online. Given the widespread complaints regarding UCS only five years ago, Yale has made significant strides in providing services that better fit the needs of more students.
But even with these new offerings, many undergraduates remain either unaware of or unsatisfied with what UCS can do for them. No one doubts that UCS is an excellent resource when it comes to banking and consulting. Yet unsurprisingly at a liberal arts school, Yalies are an eclectic bunch. And UCS, despite its efforts to substantially broaden its offerings, has not yet convinced many undergraduates that it can be all that helpful in finding options appealing to those diverse interests.
A first step would be making UCS more accessible. For much of Yale, the trek up Whitney Avenue is already a sharp deterrent. Creating office hours in every residential college was a bright move, but we would like to see the sessions offered more frequently and on a more diverse range of topics.
At the same time, despite the addition of a wealth of online resources, UCS has not gone as far as it could in putting its services on its Web site. For a student body that doesn’t exactly keep 9-to-5 hours, requiring students to make appointments by phone during the business day seems a bit antiquated. When even the Yale library offers help sessions online, the ability to receive feedback — and not just information — through the UCS Web site would be a welcome addition.
Beyond these technical changes, UCS’s toughest task is to convince more undergraduates that it can be a first resource for students regardless of their field of interest. It is not hard to see why UCS’s offerings for banking and consulting are so strong: The University has created a mutually beneficial relationship with many firms, which count on Yale as a source of talent while offering a steady supply of summer and post-graduation jobs in return. By now, no Wall Street-minded Yalie would ever doubt that UCS could provide almost everything she needs for the ideal summer job. But students searching for a different path — whether a job on the West Coast or in the sciences or in the media — seldom share the same confidence. So even when those opportunities exist, as they increasingly do, students often do not spend the time or energy to find them through UCS.
UCS has already cemented its reputation with those interested in financial fields. The next step, then: Proving to the rest of us that the trek up Whitney is worth it — and could even give us a ready response next time we’re asked our post-April plans.