Saturday, January 8, 2011

Is It Hard To Get Into The Peace Corps? Part 2

Last post I spoke about how with the Peace Corps there are some prerequisites thats you need before you even think about applying. This post is to look a little further into the mystery of the application process from a PCV's perceptive.

First things first:
There are 12,000 applicants each year and only about 4,000 invites.

This looks pretty grim right? I mean thats one out of three get in. Not to worry. To be honest, getting from applicant to invite is easier than it seems. Why is this?

Starting with the application. Some people don't even make it through the application. Why? Well there are many reasons for this but I assume that the biggest reason would be that they are not that serious about the Peace Corps. I have a sneaking suspicion that the application is very long for a reason. I think that the application is long because they want to be through and also because they want to weed people out of the process. What will weed people out? A little bit of hard work. It can take days to complete the whole thing. It really makes you think about if you are serious about joining if you have fill out all kinds of paperwork.

So you turned in the application and you went to the interview. Great! Now Peace Corps will look over your application to look for crazy red flags or just to see if you are a general fit. Hopefully the interviewer nominates you either now or sometime in the near future. (I hope to post more details about the interview later. )

According to Peace Corps only 8,000 people make it this far every year.  Again, why such a drop off rate? I think that the biggest reason for not getting nominated for service is not that you answered questions wrong in the interview (though some do bomb the interview) but I assume it's because of the basic prerequisites that you didn't meet. Also, if you are looking for a really specific nomination in lets say South America doing small business development but never have had any business experience or don't speak any Spanish. Why would the interviewer nominate you for it. They are looking for people with real skills and volunteer experience.  Also, I think some people have a the wrong idea of Peace Corps going into the interview and the interviewer straightens it out and the person is no longer interested. I assume that most people at this stage drop out on their own accord. It can be a number of things.

Now you are on to medical clearance. I think this is the most exhausting and most difficult part about the whole nomination process. Why? Well, quite frankly dealing with doctors, dentists, and medical staff of Peace Corps can be difficult. This isn't a terrible thing. They just want to make sure that you are completely healthy so that over the next two years you can have the best experience possible. This is also to cover the Peace Corps in the event you have a condition which they can't facilitate overseas. I think it makes sense but it can be frustrating.

A lot of people drop out during this process. I believe for some it is because it is expensive, especially for those without insurance.  Sure they do re-inverse you but the payback is minimal. If you have any abnormalities in any of the tests that you have then you have to pay out of pocket. I had a minor condition and I had to end up paying a couple thousand on further tests because I didn't have the insurance to cover it but Peace Corps said I needed it checked out. If I didn't do it then that would have been the end of my process. This can take a while to get all these things straightened out. Even though I have heard of people that are really healthy getting medical clearance within a week but that is rare. The paperwork itself can be confusing for the doctors. I have heard that 70 percent of the people do not complete their packet correctly the first time and have to have it sent back to them.

Dental can be expensive if you have to have your wisdom teeth removed or have any type of procedures. For more information about dental check out this detailed document that covers anything you would need to know about it. In short there is a lot to go wrong. Stay persistent and get it right the first time to speed up your invitation.

Now you finished with medical and dental clearance. Next is legal clearance which shouldn't be an issue unless you are trying to hide something. Now hopefully you will be both medically and legally cleared. If you are their is a really good chance that you are going to get an invitation to serve. This is the time where you are starting to check your email every hour to make sure that there isn't anything new and any time a phone rings your heart skips a beat. This is like the final check to make sure you have what it takes and that you are serious about this commitment. Then they should invite you over the phone. Now all you have to do is wait for your invitation packet in the mail.

Congratulations you have made it this far! Only 5,000 invites have been sent out this year and you became of one of them. Even out of these 5,000 only 4,000 choose to become volunteers. Why? Many reasons. I think a lot of people didn't get a country they wanted. Or it could be that their situation has changed over the past year. Or now that it is here they really can't leave there job. Pick a reason. People are complex beings and to put everything on hold for two years is a lot to ask for. So if you accept you invitation then you made it!  Welcome to Peace Corps!

So is it hard to get into the Peace Corps? In my opinion, no. If you meet all of the prerequisites and you are persistent about the application, medical, dental, legal and whatever else they might throw at you I think most normal people can make it in. It's not an exclusive club as some might believe. There has been around 200,000 volunteers since the beginning of Peace Corps. I will never forget what my recruiter said to me, "If you want to serve and you have the qualifications why would we stop you from serving?" Keep that in mind.

I hope this blog will help people who are interested in becoming a volunteer or at least getting some information about the process from an insiders point of view. This is not an exhaustive account so if you have specific questions let me know.  Good luck to everyone!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Is It Hard To Get Into The Peace Corps?

This is a question that I see a lot on message boards or on the Peace Corps Journals website. There is a lot to be said about this so I hope to do this in two parts (hang in there). The straight forward answer to question is yes and no.  Okay, I admit it that isn't that straight forward at all but at least you get an honest answer. 

The Peace Corps is a service in which you volunteer for but you are also trying to get hired on by the government. They don't take just anyone. Because of this there are several prerequisites. If you do not meet these requirements don't bother applying. It wouldn't be worth the effort. Here are a few.

-You must have a four year college/university degree in something. It really doesn't matter what it is in really because they can always fit you somewhere teaching English. I hear it is not always required to have a degree but you would have to have had some real time experience in the field somewhere.  I believe it is three to five years minimum. This is the one I see the most confusion on. I see a lot of people out of high school excited to serve but have not read the fine print. They will most likely won't even look at the application because they want people that can be a true service to the host country nationals. Not just someone with a great heart. 

-You need to be willing to commit to 27 months of service. Peace Corps does not offer shorter terms. Twenty seven months isn't for the faint of heart. It sounds so fantastic to live in a foreign land, to learn a new language, etc. The truth is that in the beginning it does feel fantastic to be doing these things but just like the feel of a new car it wears off. Apply for the right reasons. Think it through. Don't just apply for an escape. Sometimes where you escape to is even more challenging then where you came from. 

-You need to have some past volunteering experience. That was one of the things that was asked of me in my entire process from application to invitation. They wanted to make sure that my experience matched the job that they wanted to give me. This is partly because they want to make sure that you are serious about wanting to serve. I am sure that the thought process is that if you haven't shown that you served somewhere in the past then why would you be a good candidate to volunteer for such a long time. They want to make sure you are relevant when you get to your host country and have real skills to offer. 

-You need to be healthy. Straight to the point: You are an investment. They want people who have little to no health problems. This is because they do not want to have to spend a lot of money on you when you get in country. They are running on a budget (part of the government remember). So why would they accept you over another when you might have or had health issues. Also remember that things like past surgeries are risky and need to have supervision. There are chances that you could be restricted on where you go because of medical. I know I didn't get my original nomination because of health stuff. In the end it's a really great feeling that you that you can be safe away from home. They are looking out for you and themselves. If you have questions of what it means to be "healthy" check the PC website for more detailed information. Also, here is a PDF which speaks about the subject.

So there you have it. A little information to think about and I hope to have a part two in the next couple of days. If you have any questions leave a comment and I will try my best to answer it.