November 22, 2013
Student cashes out on job searchLike many students, I moved to campus for the first time this year hearing some last-minute parental nagging: Get good grades, get a job. It sounded easy enough, but I would soon find out that one of those things would be harder than the other, and it didn't have much to do with me.
As an incoming first-year student, you learn that there are two types of jobs: Federal Work Study and cash. They don't really tell you the difference, so you don't give much thought to it. Then they had an information session where they go over all of the details of how to work on campus, conveniently skimming over one important detail -- there are very few cash jobs available on campus.
When I went to the information session, we were told about Crusader Careers, a website that lists job openings. Thinking that would make my job search easy, I logged on. The jobs were labeled on the side, Federal Work Study, or...no, that was pretty much it. The only option seemed to be working for ARAMARK, and as someone who doesn't handle crowds well, I had hoped I could find something more quiet.
I still believed that I could find a cash job, and that it was just more difficult. Not remembering which departments hired Work Study exclusively, I decided to go to the financial aid office for help. There, I was surprised when they confirmed what I had seen online -- there are very few jobs on campus for students who do not qualify for Federal Work Study, and most of those few are in food service.
I don't expect the university to create new jobs out of thin air, and while it doesn't help me personally, I see that the Federal Work Study program is beneficial. However, it took me a lot of time and effort to get down to a pretty simple truth -- it just isn't easy for those who don't qualify for the program.
I was led to believe through emails, postcards and even speakers on campus that I had a reasonably equal opportunity for employment, and I have not found that to be true. I think that the best thing the school can do to make this situation better is to be more honest with incoming students.
Had I known that few positions were open to me, I might have worked harder to find a car to bring to campus so that I could work at the mall or a restaurant in town. I might have planned ahead and worked over the summer so that I wouldn't have to worry about the job search until later. I might have also been able to ask around before getting to campus so that if anything was available, I would know about it. At the very least, I could have warned my parents. Instead, I was surprised to find that I was at a pretty severe disadvantage, and I wondered why no one had told me.
I think that since our financial aid packages are based on our parents' incomes, something we have no control over, it is fair to create some opportunities for students who do not qualify for this extra help.
I do not blame the staff members who manage student employment, and I am grateful to those who have helped me figure out what opportunities I do have, but I think that some changes can be made to make on-campus employment more fair, as well as to better prepare new students to find jobs.