Elizabeth Perez is what many might call a “model student.”
In addition to maintaining a 3.64 grade point average, the senior political science and history double major had an abundance of work experience in her various jobs and internships, and worked as an orientation leader during her summers.
However, despite a strong resume and recommendations from supervisors and a professor, Perez was shocked to learn earlier this month that her application for Teach For America (TFA) had been rejected before the second interview.
“I was very surprised because I thought I was a strong candidate,” she said. “I feel like it has gotten more competitive … if I had applied in a different year, I feel like my chances would have been better.”
Stories like Perez’s are becoming more common as student applications for non-profit organizations like TFA have swelled amidst an uncertain job market.
“We have seen a significant increase interest in Teach For America at Davis this year – over 100 students came out to our information sessions this quarter,” said Mackenzie Moritz, TFA Recruitment Director for the UC Davis campus. “We have also seen an increase in the number of applicants from Davis.”
Last year over 35,000 seniors and graduates applied for 4,100 positions nationwide, Moritz said.
Another program that has seen a rise in interest among students is the Peace Corps, said Nathan Hale Sargent, Peace Corps Public Affairs Specialist.
“Last year was 12 percent higher than the year before in general [peace corps] applications,” he said. “We are a competitive program and are getting more competitive.”
“During an economic recession, there are just not as many jobs and I think people are really feeling the pressure,” said Cynthia Goldberg, an internship coordinator at the Internship and Career Center (ICC) in South Hall.
Goldberg said that there are many reasons that more students are being drawn to non-profit organizations after graduation.
“As volunteers, students can implement ideas and be creative … things that they simply couldn’t do in a regular job,” she said. “The pay is less – but there is a paycheck – and it requires a lot of flexibility, but most students don’t have a mortgage or a family and therefore can take these risks.”
The increase in applications has meant that programs like the Peace-Corps are able to ask for more from their applicants, Sargent said.
“We are able to get people that already have lots of experience under their belts,” he said. “If someone comes to us fresh out of college with a liberal arts degree and no work experience, we might ask them to go out and get that experience before re-applying.”
Despite the increasingly competitive nature of these programs, the rise in interest is a good sign, Moritz said.
“I think most of the increased interest comes from a greater awareness about the injustice of the achievement gap,” she said. “I am ok with it being more selective because I want to find [the under-served students] the most amazing teachers I possibly can because that’s what they absolutely deserve.”
ERICA LEE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.