Peace Corps improves application process

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

By Lacey Jacoby /// Features Editor

Students hoping to travel with the Peace Corps after graduation may find that the recently streamlined application process leaves them with more control. With a shorter length, more preference options, a main contact person and increased transparency, the new application process caters to a younger generation.

Previously, the application took about eight hours to complete, with students providing preliminary information and listing out their qualifications. Now, the Peace Corps has back-loaded the information gathering, so that the application only takes about 45 minutes to complete and applicants provide additional information later, on an as-needed basis.

The new application also lets applicants state their preferences more specifically. Whereas the previous application asked where applicants did not want to go, the new application focuses on where they do want to go. Applicants can answer as broadly (“consider me for everything”) or narrowly (by region or program) as they would like.

In addition, through the new application process, applicants interview with the placement officer from the country they are considering, rather than Portland’s Regional Recruiter, Sarah Kassel.

“I think for the applicant, this will be better,” Kassel said. “They’ll be talking to someone who knows the ins and outs of the country that they’re being considered for…I think that’s incredibly valuable information.”

Finally, the new application process comes with greater transparency. Detailed information about programs and living conditions that was once inaccessible to the public is now clearly outlined on the Peace Corps website.

Kasell believes these changes reflect the new, digital generation. As a flexible agency, the Peace Corps works to create a more “culturally compatible” application process, Kassel said.

The length of the entire application process varies among applicants, but students should begin the process 7-12 months in advance of the departure date.

To complete the current application, students need: a resume, cover letter, contact information, legal background (if applicable), motivational statement and contact information for two references. Applicants must make sure to complete applications by the apply-by date—found online—for the program(s) of interest.

After the Peace Corps receives the application, they send applicants a Health History Form. Once the form is completed, applicants receive a list of countries that can medically support them and the preference form described above. If the applicant is interested, he or she is contacted by the Peace Corps for an interview.

Kassel encourages students to begin thinking seriously about their application during their third year. This prepares students to apply the summer after their third year or the fall of their final year. However, students who begin to prepare as underclassmen leave time to strengthen their campus and community involvement—resume builders that will support any future pursuits.

Kassel traveled to Micronesia with the Peace Corps from 2004-2007. Reflecting on her experience, she said, “Peace Corps is not travel; it’s a life opportunity…you are living there—a living, breathing, interacting part of that place… It’s amazing that this community that doesn’t know you says, ‘Sure, come hang out with us for two years. Be part of our lives, and we want to be a part of your life.’”

With the newly streamlined application process, this “life opportunity” is now more accessible than ever.

[author ]Lacey Jacoby is the Features Editor of the Pioneer Log. Her work has also appeared in the Portland Tribune, the Beaverton Valley Times, The Times, the Portland Observer and the Lewis and Clark website. She enjoys writing about and photographing the everyday, with all its inherent beauty and strife.[/author]

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