First year work-study students struggle to find jobs

The college’s lack of a centralized system for job applications is increasing the difficulty for first year work study students to find employment. Information about the work study process is often vague for first year students, with the job fair during orientation being the only event geared towards facilitating the program.

A common difficulty among incoming students is the relatively short prioritization period given to work study students in the application process. According to the Financial Aid Handbook, “First year students who wish to work on campus should attend our orientation session and job fair. Aid recipients will be given hiring priority over non-aided students during the first week of class.”

Valeria Ochoa ’19 was unable to get a job before the priority deadline, and was rejected from five jobs before finally being employed by the college’s Peace Collection. As a low income student starting out the semester with only $28 in their bank account, this posed a major issue. Ochoa needed a job not only to fulfill their work study requirement, but also to pay phone bills and help out with family expenses.

“For me, the priority wasn’t enough given that lots of students are trying to get started with classes and figure out which they are keeping, entering new groups, and getting hold of schedules, [so they] can’t figure out how they fit into a job,” said Ochoa. “The priority deadline should be much longer and much more emphasized for work study students.”

Zain Talukdar ’19 faced similar issues in being unable to secure a job before the priority period ended. Although initially facing difficulties in having the connections to find employment, he was able to get hired for Phonathon and began tutoring for Dare 2 Soar.

“I feel like it gets easier to get a job after a month or two but the first two weeks was pretty insecure and unsure as to what I was going to do,” said Talukdar.

Furthermore, employers often do not deem the prioritization of work study students a central aspect of their applications. Ochoa described that throughout the application process, many employers didn’t ask about their work study status. Despite priority for work study students being a campus-wide policy, the level of consideration given to work study varies from job to job and is far from universal.

“Some of the employers didn’t think about or realize work study priority and didn’t seem to know entirely what to do,” said Ochoa. “Some applications asked if I was work study, but some didn’t.”

Celine Anderson ’19 experienced similar shortcomings, with many employers not taking into account her status as a work study student. “I don’t know how much it is really prioritized… some employment looks at it and some didn’t even ask if I was on work study.”

Many students feel they aren’t informed enough about work study, and that the college doesn’t do enough to provide information. For first year students, the job fair is the only event at orientation geared specifically towards work study. However, Talukdar, Anderson, and Ochoa all expressed the sentiment that the job fair did not effectively communicate information about work study.

Ochoa specifically expressed how a lack of knowledge about which identification documents are needed for technical registration, such as social security cards and birth certificates, affected their ability to apply for jobs. Although the college has a page on their website that lists required paperwork for employment, the information is not easily available.

“I think it should be made clearer that students need this [paperwork] to get a job on campus, because it definitely hindered my job application process,” said Ochoa. “For my work study application I had to wait a week for my mom to be able to give me my information.”

The general lack of information about required identification documents not only inhibited student ability to apply for jobs upon arriving on campus, but also decreased the accessibility of the job fair. The job fair offered help with the completion of employment documents, but this service was slowed down by the lack of prior knowledge on which legal documents students needed to have.

Furthermore, although the job fair was designed to advertise job openings, the number of employers present was limited, and many students had difficulties actually securing employment from the fair.

“It kind of felt like it was… very hard to actually utilize it to get a job,” said Ochoa. “Once I actually got to the tables to talk to them all we did was exchange emails and I didn’t really get anything back from them.”

Other than the job fair, the college doesn’t provide an easily accessible centralized system for connecting with employers. Talukdar described the difficulty he faced in knowing where to go to find available jobs.

“After the job fair, I don’t feel like there was any obvious advertisement about a central place to go [to find jobs],” said Talukdar.

The Financial Aid Office and the SEO could not be reached for comment.

The Financial Aid Handbook references the Student Employment Office and Student Payroll Office as the two main resources for job-seeking students. On their website, the SEO identifies themselves as seeking to help students find employment and help employers advertise job openings. Because Career Services is more geared towards helping students identify longer term career goals, the SEO is the main campus employment resource for work study students. However, the SEO website also states that “the SEO does not place students in job positions,” and one of their main function on campus is to advertise job openings.

The Reserved Students Digest and the Dash commonly advertise jobs, but they are far from universal mediums, since many employment opportunities never make it onto them. Anderson was able to get a job gallery sitting at the List Gallery, but described it as happening by chance. Although many employers, like Paces, use the RSD, many alternative job options, such as galleries, the Lang center, or individual departments, can only be discovered through word of mouth, which poses a large disadvantage to first year students without campus connections.

Beyond the lack of a central process for work study, the college’s resources for budgeting and financial planning are often obscure and not well known, limiting student access. Ochoa described that for low income students, work study represents not only a need to make money while on campus, but a need to develop strong financial skills, which is something the college could make a more central part of the work study system.

Anderson, Talukdar and Ochoa all work enough hours to fill their requirements, but the job application process was made difficult by the college’s lack of a centralized system and short prioritization period. According to Ochoa, “they need to essentialize and organize.”

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