Facing declining numbers of completed applications, the Peace Corps enacted major reforms to their applications in July to reduce the length of the process and increase transparency throughout the application period.
In addition to allowing applicants to select the countries and programs to which they want to apply, the new process limits the estimated time needed for the application from eight hours to one hour. After submission, applicants receive a date by which applicants can expect a response from the organization. Applications for the current cycle are due today.
“We’re reducing the red tape and bureaucracy our candidates have had to deal with in the past,” Chuck Cascio, the Peace Corps recruiter for Georgetown, wrote in an email. “Adding transparency and specificity to the application and response timeline will provide a higher quality experience for our applicants while ensuring we connect the best possible people with the right projects for them, for us, our host countries and the communities we serve.”
In contrast to the original application, which asked multiple in-depth questions to match skills and experience with a fitting program, the new application is comprised largely of personal questions. Additionally, applicants can now choose up to apply to up to three programs. If they elect not to specify a program, applicants may alternately choose to be sent where help is most needed. Possible volunteer options include advising nongovernmental organizations, assisting with sustainable agriculture, teaching English and working with disadvantaged youths.
Since the creation of the Peace Corps in 1961, all volunteers were sent to programs based on the organization’s discretion. Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, who took over the position in June, announced the reforms in July as a way to reignite interest in the Peace Corps.
“With our new, shorter application process, we’re seeing record numbers of Americans apply for Peace Corps service,” Hessler-Radelet said in a press release this month. “While the school year may have just begun, I want to make sure college seniors considering the Peace Corps apply as soon as possible so they can secure the volunteer position of their choice and leave for service shortly after graduation.”
Georgetown is the seventh largest producer of Peace Corps volunteers among medium-sized universities. Since 1961, over 900 alumni have served abroad, and the university deployed 27 students in 2013. Cascio said he anticipated that the numbers will increase in this cycle.
“I would expect to see more applications at Georgetown this year because of both Georgetown’s history of producing a high volume of volunteers and the new Peace Corps application process that is faster and allows applicants to choose where they serve,” Cascio wrote.
The Peace Corps’ recruiting efforts on campus include career fairs, informal coffee meetings and office hours every Friday at the Peace Corps headquarters in Washington D.C.
“The Peace Corps and Georgetown University have always had a strong relationship,” Cascio said.
Assistant Director for Alumni Relations at the Cawley Career Education Center Erin Ferree attributed the high numbers to a strong interest in international affairs from the student population.
“Students and alumni who enter the Peace Corps often have a strong desire to continue acts of service that they began while at Georgetown University or to gain entry-level experience for a career in international development,” Ferree wrote in an email. “There is also high interest in living abroad in the early years after graduation and in representing the United States in cross-cultural settings.”
Zoe Mowl (SFS ’15) applied to the Peace Corps around two weeks before the reforms, but she was still given the option of selecting her top location choices to a recruiter after the reforms were implemented. She also stressed the importance of service to graduates.
“Part of the Jesuit values is ‘Men and Women for Others.’ I think that actually holds true for the student body,” Mowl said.
Mowl selected Kosovo as her number one choice. She outlined the exhaustive format of the old application; for each “yes” or “no” question there were up to 20 new in-depth questions every time she responded “yes.”
In contrast to Mowl’s exhaustive application, Meghan Burns (NHS ’15) applied after the reforms took place and was motivated to apply by the shorter process.
“[The application is] really just the motivational statement and the resume,” she said. “Everything else is just formalities.”
Burns, who chose Guatemala and Belize as her top two countries, noted that the application appeared impersonal.
“I wish there were a little bit more on there just so I could let them get to know me better, but it is an easier application,” she said.