Teach for America Applications Hold Steady

Approximately 18 percent of Harvard seniors applied to the Teach for America program this year, a one-percent decline from last year, according to the Office of Career Services.

The program continues to be popular among both Harvard students and undergraduates across the U.S. as Congress debates a bill that could put TFA’s funding in jeopardy.

The recent proposal threatens to cut funding for several national public service programs including AmeriCorps, which provides financial support to TFA. The bill, which would slash the federal budget by more than $60 billion, passed in the House of Representatives on Feb. 19 and is still up for debate in the Senate.

“I’m not surprised that the numbers have stayed the same [despite the potential cuts], because the appeal of applying to a program like TFA is much less about the funding than it is the opportunity to impact and make a difference,” said Pia Dandiya ’09, who teaches eighth-grade math in Revere, Mass., in her second year with the program.

According to Teach for America’s Harvard recruitment director, Anastasia Baichorova, this year’s number of applications from Harvard seniors is consistent with figures from the past four years, the last time applications increased significantly.

“For the last four years, a lot of Harvard students chose to do teach for America out of Harvard, and now there’s a large community of Harvard students [who have participated in the program],” Baichorova said. “It is no longer an ‘alternative’ route.”

Alex B. Lipton ’11, a psychology concentrator who will be teaching high school English in San Francisco next year through TFA, credits the high volume of applications to the senior class’ need for a “push back” against what he considers the standard post-graduate route for Harvard students.

“Harvard does a good job of providing recruiters from the finance and consulting community, but I think there are more people interested in public interest jobs than their are opportunities for public interest,” Lipton said. “TFA provides this opportunity.”

However, Baichorova said the especially strong interest within the Harvard community to participate in TFA stems from a common mentality shared by many students in the College.

“Harvard students come to Harvard because they want to make the world better,” Baichorova said. “It resonates with them to directly go to improve communities and improve education. And they have the best education to offer and come with the best intentions to be leaders. It’s a good match.”

Although TFA does not keep data on the acceptance rates at specific colleges, 12 percent of applicants nationwide were accepted last year.

Interviews for remaining finalists will be conducted in March, and the decisions for the last round of applicants will be announced on April 4.

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