Hard to be Chosen

Posted on July 12th, 2010 by

HOUSTON — Alneada Biggers, Harvard class of 2010, was amazed this past year when she discovered that getting into the nation’s top law schools and grad programs could be easier than being accepted for a starting teaching job with Teach for America.

Ms. Biggers says that of 15 to 20 Harvard friends who applied to Teach for America, only three or four got in. “This wasn’t last minute — a lot applied in August 2009, they’d been student leaders and volunteered,” Ms. Biggers said. She says one of her closest friends wanted to do Teach for America, but was rejected and had to “settle” for University of Virginia Law School.

Will Cullen, Villanova ’10, had a friend who was rejected and instead will be a Fulbright scholar. Julianne Carlson, a new graduate of Yale — where a record 18 percent of seniors applied to Teach for America — says she knows a half dozen “amazing” classmates who were rejected, although the number is probably higher. “People are reluctant to tell you because of the stigma of not getting in,” Ms. Carlson said.

When Robert Rosen graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, , in 2009, he did not apply, fearing he would be turned down. Instead, he volunteered in a friend’s classroom weekly for the next year, to see if he liked teaching, but also to build a credential that would impress Teach for America. Asked how hard getting in is, James Goldberg, Duke ’10 said, “I’d compare it with being accepted to an Ivy League grad school.”

Mr. Goldberg, Mr. Rosen, Ms. Carlson, Mr. Cullen and Ms. Biggers count themselves lucky to be among the 4,500 selected by the nonprofit to work at high-poverty public schools from a record 46,359 applicants (up 32 percent over 2009). There’s little doubt the numbers are fueled by a bad economy, which has limited job options even for graduates from top campuses. In 2007, during the economic boom, 18,172 people applied.

Over the years Gustavus Adolphus College has had many students placed in service positions, for many organizations including AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, Teach For America and Admission Possible to list a few. At Gustavus, while many students applied to Teach For America this year, only two were selected. This number is down from previous years, where the trend in Gustavus placement had been increasing. Last year, in 2009, 8 Gustavus Students were selected for Teach For America, 6 students in 2008 and 5 in 2007. Next year hopefully more Gustavus Candidates will be selected.

Article adapted from a similar one in the New York Times by Michael Winerip entitled “On Education: A Chosen Few Are Teaching for America”, published July 11, 2010.


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