University Career Center

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Career Guide for DACA Students at the University of Michigan

Welcome! This career guide offers advice to continue developing and making the most of your University of Michigan experience. Its purpose is to provide insights on how to use in-class and out-of-class experiences to position yourself for future success, whether you are interested in securing internships, full-time jobs or admission to graduate school. Although some information may seem familiar, this career guide has content that may be new and helpful for your decision-making and planning. 

 

Making the Most of Your College Experience and Preparing for the Future 

Employers and graduate school programs seek out individuals who can demonstrate excellent verbal and written communication skills, teamwork and interpersonal skills, initiative, and a strong work ethic. Through your classes (and academic projects) you will meet new students and develop a foundation for these skills. Additionally, student organizations, campus employment, and research projects are valuable opportunities that complement the skills you are developing in your classes. Summer internships, for example, can be an excellent way to test out a career field and develop marketable skills.

 

Table of Contents:

 

Part 1: GETTING EXPERIENCE

Why is experience important?

Gaining experience is important because it demonstrates to others that you have tested your abilities in a variety of settings while in college. Your next steps after graduation will require you to contribute in new ways. You want to use your college years to actively engage in new opportunities  and to develop the confidence and skills that will prepare you for your next step. Developing skills happens in many situations. Take advantage of any opportunity to add to your skillset (e.g. critical thinking skills, communication, and technology applications are all skills that employers look for based on the NACE Career Readiness Competencies). Employers and graduate schools value diverse experiences; these experiences will help you demonstrate openness, inclusiveness, sensitivity, and the ability to interact respectfully with all people and understand individual differences. College experiences that may help you develop new skills and traits include, but are not limited to:

  • Internships
  • Research
  • Volunteering
  • Academic Projects
  • Professional Projects 
  • Part-Time Positions
  • Student Leadership Roles
  • Student Organization/Membership

How do I find experience?

The University Career Center (UCC), other career offices at UM, and other campus resources (e.g., Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives (OAMI)) help students identify experiences that satisfy their interests and provide opportunities to meet new people while forwarding the mission of the sponsoring group (e.g. OAMI- SuccessConnects Program, PSIP- Public Service Intern Program, ASB- Alternative Spring Break, and many more!).

  • To get started, you can make an appointment with a Career Coach/Advisor at the UCC or with the career services office within your school/college:
    • https://umich.joinhandshake.com/appointments/new/
    • Your conversation with a career coach may include talking about your interests, skills, values, challenges and past experiences. This will help narrow down the types of opportunities that you may enjoy and help you identify areas you want to pursue. Talking with career professionals will help clarify your goals and help navigate related experiences that are available. 
    • This link will connect you to a list of career offices within the schools/colleges to learn more about what is available to students from the particular majors that they each serve, that complement the broad UCC offering: https://hireblue.umich.edu/career-offices
  • Search for opportunities on Handshake (UCC) and other job posting sites (individual schools/colleges). Handshake is University Career Center’s exclusive job and internship searching tool (NOTE: Handshake supports Stamps Art and Design, School of Music, Theatre and Dance, and Michigan Athletics). You can learn about on-campus career events, sign up to participate in career programs (Immersions, Employer Challenges, Events), and access the national database of jobs and internships. The job posting section allows you to narrow your search by industry, position type, and location through the Advanced Search feature. There are thousands of postings, so considering what is most important to you will help you customize the list of opportunities. And remember, the UCC staff and staff in other career offices on campus,  are always available to help you through this process.

In addition to university resources, remember you also have a personal network that may offer you great suggestions to investigate. Think about your:

  • Friends;
  • Family;
  • Family Friends;
  • UM Faculty and faculty from previous institutions;
  • Mentors;
  • Alumni;
  • Coworkers and Supervisors (current and previous).

Even if you get one new idea, or learn of one new opportunity, it is worth tapping into those who may be connected on campus and/or in the world of work to gather new leads and information.

Connecting with individuals who have gone through similar UM experiences and have navigated hiring processes with and without DACA will give you ideas and strategies for gaining experience and employment moving forward. You may begin by contacting the Undocumented Student Services Coordinator, Hector Galván, M.A. (hgalvan@umich.edu) who will be helpful in identifying potential contacts or tapping into other resources, such as population-specific conferences (i.e. United We DREAM). Some conferences have registration fees, but often offer student discounts or opportunities to volunteer which can significantly reduce the costs. 

What experiences are best?

Any experience that broadens your skill set, employer network, and/or deepens your knowledge about a particular area is a great opportunity. If the experience is directly related to a career field of interest, you want to ensure that through the experience you learn about the field, the job functions, and skills necessary to be successful (especially teamwork, analytical and/or technical skills). Both paid and unpaid opportunities are beneficial. Think about possible career interests and related experiences that may help you clarify now how you would like to shape your career goals.

If you find an unpaid opportunity, there any resources that offer financial support

As a DACA college student, you may have questions about financing some opportunities. There are several resources on campus to explore the possibility of funding:

  • University of Michigan Office of Financial Aid (OFA): The Office of Financial Aid website provides links to multiple scholarships offered by the university, departments, private sources, with a section specifically devoted to DACA students: https://finaid.umich.edu/undocumented-students/.
    • Krissy Bhaumik (kbhaumik@umich.edu)- Associate Director, Financial Wellness, Advising and Eligibility Units is a key contact available to address your specific situation.
  • University of Michigan Undocumented Students Website: This resource has a section on funding that includes external scholarships for DACA and undocumented students: https://undocumented.umich.edu/external-funding/.
  • Connect with your School/College Career office to learn more about potential scholarships OR funding provided by your school for scholarships for unpaid internships. 

 

Part 2: PURSUING PART-TIME & FULL-TIME JOBS 

Getting help preparing your application materials

When completing online applications, you will typically need a resume and cover letter. You are encouraged to make an appointment with the UCC or your school/college career center to get feedback on your resume and other related materials. The staff in these offices will be able to address any questions you may have about navigating the hiring process.

Will your status affect the application process?

As a DACA student, it is likely that you will first encounter this question when completing job applications: “Are you legally authorized to work in the United States?”

  • If you currently have DACA status, you are able to answer that question with a “yes” and move through the organization’s hiring process without needing to discuss your immigration status.
  • If you do not currently have DACA status or any other work authorization status, there will be a few stages in the process in which your status may come into question. These situations are discussed in the link below. 

For information: “Life after College: A Guide for Undocumented Students,” published by Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC).

 

Part 3: PREPARING FOR GRADUATE SCHOOL

Are you considering a graduate school program? 

If the answer is “yes!”, be sure to tap into all resources available on campus and beyond—professors, advisors, career coaches, UM alumni, family and friends for help:

  • Assess your interests, values, goals, and abilities honestly and realistically;
  • Become familiar with types of degrees and degree levels;
  • Explore eligibility requirements, especially if your chosen field requires state/national licensure (medicine and other health professions; law, etc.);
  • Understand applicability, marketability and scope of the degree(s) considered;
  • Talk to people in the field, read about relevant issues, spend time with people in the professional settings that you wish to join;
  • Build a competitive profile, both in terms of academic and non-academic preparation (See the Getting Experience section of this document); 
  • Practice articulating your reasons for wanting to pursue a degree by connecting your skills, personal traits, academic and life experiences, and professional interests to your targeted field
  • Investigate ways to finance your education;
  • Research schools and programs—understand program nuances;
  • Fully understand the application process, timelines, and mechanics;
  • Decide when and where to apply.

To meet with UCC staff to talk about if/when graduate or professional school might be right for you, schedule an appointment online at https://umich.joinhandshake.com/appointments/new/ or call (734) 764-7460. 

If you decide that your dream job requires education beyond your bachelor’s degree, research the types of programs that will meet your needs.

For instance, what types of degree are there to consider? 

  • Master’s programs typically require a 2-3 year commitment and they are geared toward increasing your knowledge and experience in a certain area (i.e., counseling, education, social work, and business).
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs  can last between 5-7 years and they focus on deeply increasing  one’s knowledge in a specific area. These degrees include research and teaching in academia (at a university-level) and prepare graduates to use this background in research and teaching in settings like college campuses, labs, government and/ or to use a particular skills set in an industry environment (i.e., consulting, data analysis, tech transfer).
  • Professional school programs prepare you for careers in specific fields and can range from 2-7+ years. Examples include but are not limited to: medical school (7+ years), law school (3 years) and higher education (2 years).

If you are considering a graduate program, begin by assessing your background on these additional factors:

  • Academic requirements:  Do you need to take certain courses to be able to apply?  What kind of GPA do admitted applicants have on average?
  • Entrance tests: Do you need to take a standardized test with your application materials such as the MCAT, LSAT, GRE, GMAT, etc.? When is the test offered and how can you best prepare?
  • Experience requirements: Does your chosen degree expect you to complete certain preparatory experiences such as working or volunteering in the field or shadowing professionals?  Do you need to provide a verified record of such activities?
  • Ally communities: Does the university you are considering have resources for DACA students? How easy will it be to find support on campus through a DACA Student Services office? What relevant student organizations are available?
  • Cost: How much would an advanced degree cost?  What kind of financial aid is available both in general and specifically for DACA students?  Which programs offer scholarships and/or assistantships to offset the cost of graduate school?

How might you pay for graduate school?

In general, Ph.D. programs are more likely to be fully funded than Master’s programs.  Yet, there may be specific resources available to alleviate or offset the cost of attendance:

  • Fellowships/scholarships: Private and institutional scholarships may be available.  Check with the institutions that you are targeting about resources that may be available  to students in general and to DACA students in particular since there may be restrictions with immigration status.  Educators for Fair Consideration have published a list of scholarships and fellowships (2017-2018) that do not require proof of U.S. citizenship or legal residency: (https://immigrantsrising.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/IR_Graduate-Scho...). 
  • Assistantships: Many graduate programs offer assistantships, which will allow you to work on-campus as a research assistant (RA), Graduate Student Assistant (GSA), Graduate Student Instructors (GSI), or Teaching Assistant (TA).  These assistantships often cover tuition costs and at times offer stipends for living expenses. As an undergraduate student, you have probably worked with graduate assistants in your course labs or lectures. Be sure to look into eligibility criteria.
  • Private loans: Depending on restrictions with each banking institution, it may be possible to secure private loans.  Private loans often have higher interest rates, and should be researched carefully so the terms for repayment are fully understood. Larger loan amounts may also require a co-signer; however, some banks may allow you to take out a small private loan without an additional signer.

Do you have more questions?

The UCC, as well as school/college career offices at U of M, offer a variety of services tailored towards planning for next steps after graduation. Whether you are seeking employment or  applying to graduate school, or pursuing a gap year experience, you are encouraged to make an appointment with a career advisor to discuss your future plans and to develop a strategy that allows you to you achieve your career goals. 

Additional Campus Resources: 

For more information, please visit: https://undocumented.umich.edu/

 

This career guide was created in partnership with OAMI, the University Career Center, and UMSI Career Development Office, and it is supported by career offices within schools and colleges at the University of Michigan. Information was adapted from the University of California at Santa Barbara. This guide has been verified by University Student Legal Services and will be continuously updated to include the most recent information.

Disclaimer: The information contained in these pages is for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Each individual case is different, and advice may vary depending on the situation. Further, the law and policy considerations are changing on a regular basis, and the information contained herein may not be updated as needed to maintain accuracy in a changing legal landscape. If you have questions about this or any other legal issue, you are advised to seek the advice of a qualified immigration attorney.