Thursday, January 10, 2008

Teach for America Update

I spent much of the morning compulsively checking my status on the T.F.A. website even though it clearly stated that the information would likely appear after 3 p.m. Eastern Time. I pried myself away from the computer and went to visit my grandparents. Then this afternoon I got the official email.

They don't want me to do a phone interview. I get to skip that step and advance directly to the final in-person interviews! I don't know how or why they made this decision, but I'm pretty excited. Although I feel bad about wasting the assistant dean's time helping me learn techniques for telephone interviews, it is fantastic that there is one fewer step in which to mess things up.

Isn't it interesting that T. F. A. has such cachet that I'm competing against Ivy Leaguers for a job that might pay $25,000 a year? Whether I get in or not, I am going to teach for at least a couple of years, and I'd like to think I'm driven to do this by altruism rather than by external factors. This is what I feel inspired and passionate about doing. However, I must admit that if I'm going to be doing this sort of work either way, I wouldn't mind getting the resume boost as well.

There are many steps I need to take between now and the interview, which will be sometime February 5th through 7th. I'm going to try to break things down into manageable daily goals so I get everything accomplished, make progress on getting data for my thesis, and remain calm. Right now, I'm going to review carefully the articles they asked me to read for the interview and begin researching placement regions.

Teach for America will want to know my placement preferences by February 1st. My top choices at the moment are Hawaii, Eastern North Carolina, and the Mississippi Delta. I do think I'm leaning toward more rural regions, but I haven't been enough places to feel certain. If any of you lovely readers who live in regions where T. F. A. volunteers work would like to make suggestions, I'd be most appreciative.


Anonymous said...

That's great! Congratulations! Phone interview skills can still come in handy during face to face interviews. It's ALL important.

Amy said...

Re: Hawaii
An important consideration is whether you will buy a car there, or ship your own car. My friend's brother found it worthwhile to ship his car, but I wanted to point it out as a hidden expense.

Congratulations on progressing straight to in-person interviews!

English Major said...

Big congrats on blowing on into the final interviews! I was thinking about applying to TFA--it's a great program, and I know you'd have a valuable experience.

HerEveryCentCounts said...

Hey EC...

I just wanted to respond to your post on my blog -

I'm sorry to hear you had to take me off your blogroll. I went back and forth on posting the specific entry that led to you deleting me, however ultimately I decided to post it because I want my blog to be honest and different from the other PF blogs on the web. Maybe the image was a bit much. I want to figure out if I can make a "after the cut" sort of thing on blogger so I can put any objective images behind a cut. I know I can do that on Livejournal and Wordpress, but I've yet to figure that out on blogger.

On another note, I think it's great that you're doing TFA. I've often thought about trying to do that.. it's a wonderful program. I loook forward to reading about your experience teaching through them.

- Her Every Cent Counts

Anonymous said...

congrats on your advancement. I on the other hand got rejected. TFA rejected me. So sad. I did not have the chance to have a phone interview. I thought I was a solid candidate. A graduate student in engineering with a desire and passion to public service. What is their selection criteria, could you share your experiences to see what I was missing? What was wrong with me? I know i could be a postive influence on the little ones.

E.C. said...

I'm sorry to hear that you didn't get an interview. I think last year they rejected somewhere around 87% of their applicants so there almost certainly wasn't anything "wrong with you."

Everything I know about the selection criteria I learned from the TFA website so I'm hardly an expert. I'm still anxiously awaiting the final verdict on whether they want me. If you'd like to discuss the application process and my experiences, drop me an email at

Anonymous said...

Congrats on getting into TFA. I don't know if my email shows up, but i was the rejected TFA applicant :-( I was wondering, how did you demonstrate your leadership and "not giving up" spirit? I guess I didn't highlight those enough in my application. Also, could you postpone your admission to your MS degree in education? Or are you planning to get the MS degree while in TFA? One way to decline the MS in education from your school is to write them an email or letter but if you know the director/whoever is incharge the best thing to do is to do it in person. (My suggestion from personal experience in grad school). Its true that you did all they required to get accepted but you still have your other options and just because you got accepted doesn't mean you are "forced" to accept their offer. Best of Luck.

E.C. said...

Hi Anonymous,
I don't have your email address so I'll do my best to answer your questions here. I'd guess that as an engineering student you have had lots of experiences that would demonstrate leadership and determination and just need to figure out how to package them in your essays.

The essay about a project on which you faced significant obstacles is a great place to highlight your drive and determination not to give up. In my essay, I talked about my experiences as a TA, how badly that went at first, what specific changes I made to improve things, what worked well, what didn't, and what ideas I had for improving things in the future.

In my letters of recommendation, something that might be relevant to an engineer came up: my thesis project. I spent months fighting with and ultimately redesigning an apparatus in our lab before I could get much meaningful data. Surely you've worked on projects that required tons of work and frustration to get to a successful end product.

Your resume should highlight activities in which you played a leadership role. Did you organize volunteers for an outreach event, coordinate fundraising for a club, serve as team leader on a major project, co-write a grant proposal? Give them the details.

I'll have the opportunity to apply for an assistantship to cover tuition to complete a different master's program in education while I'm in TFA. I have dealt with the director of the program at my school many times so telling him in person might not be a bad idea if I weren't such a chicken.

Please do send me an email if I can be of any help.

Jeff said...

I also went through the phone interview process and am now at the region selecting stage. I started googling to see what sort of regions are more desirable -- for me, I'm going with the regions I know (I have this unfounded fear of randomly saying something that will result in me being shot). My first three choices are Denver, Hawaii (it's rural.. and it's hawaii!), and New Mexico. I'm staying away from the big cities/places I associate with high crime rates, but I'm not really sure about the other regions. I'm a native coloradoin, so I'm familiar with the climate, and I have been involved with elementary kids in the Denver school system at points in my life. I figure other locations are drastically different from Denver, and probably as safe and fun to be in, but as I have only been to a handful of the locations, I'm not sure. What sort of locations would be your top choices?

At the Anonymous query:

I too am an Engineer (Chemical), and I think a lot of the application process has to do with demonstrating leadership ability, and definitely the ability to adapt to difficult environments. For me, I'm a resident advisor at my school, which I think gets noticed on the resume.

My letter of intent essay dealt with the concept of entering the "real world," which for engineers means "corporate america," versus the desire to want to do something that has a noticeable impact other than improving returns for the investor of a multi-billion dollar corporation.

My essay was about the difficulties I experienced while at the Shell Oil recruitment program (Gourami Business Challenge.) It was extremely difficult to convince the other participants to incorporate Renewable Energy into the energy outlook of the fictitious country we were looking at.

Anyway, feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

E.C. said...

Hi Jeff,
I applied at the third deadline, and I've been accepted. My top three choices were Hawaii, Eastern North Carolina, and the Delta, and they placed me in the Delta. Like you, I wasn't too keen on major cities, and picked Hawaii because, well, two years in tropical paradise can't be that bad. Those three were all ranked #1, and New Mexico was #2.

If you do end up getting placed in a big city, I'm sure you'll be fine; I spent two months living in Harlem during an internship and had no problems. Feel free to email me if you have any questions I can help with.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advise. (I'm the rejected TFA applicant, again). I have this thing of down playing everything, i am too overly modest and sometimes feel that the things I do are no big deal. But, I have come to realize that I should have emphasized everything. I have demonstrated leadership all throughout my life, and have overcome several obstacles. I just didn't highlight them and in some instances I didn't even mention some major accomplishments. I will be working after graduation, so I guess I have more time to think of reapplying for next year. I look forward to hearing about your TFA experiences.

DJ said...
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