Thanks for reading the blog! In the past I’ve answered questions like yours privately, but I think you’re asking great questions, and I know there are more people out there with your same questions about the application and screening process so I’ll post my answer this to the blog. (If that’s ok…like you have a choice, haha—thanks!)
From what I’ve heard there’s been a pretty big overhaul in how people apply. Three and a half years ago when I first sent in my online application, you basically just surrendered yourself to the whims and voodoo science behind the placement of volunteers. There was no choice in where you ended up serving your 2 years. There is a rhyme and reason to this method, namely the Peace Corps wants you to be as flexible and adaptable as possible. Since there will be so many things you will need to adapt to and change for once you begin your service in country, the Peace Corps wants to know they’ve found someone who is committed to serving rather than committed to a particular place. Now, however, it looks like you can apply to specific countries. This is also good I think because it helps to match people’s skills/knowledge/language/interests up with sites. That being said, you are still going to need to be exceedingly flexible and patient and willing to learn, change, bend and grow as a volunteer, no matter where you end up serving.
This is the best thing you can be in order to be a competitive applicant. Show that you are willing to try new things and be comfortable with the unknown and ambiguous situations.
At a minimum you will need a 4 year degree (though certain relevant work experience can also count instead) and 30 hours of volunteer tutoring time to volunteer in the English Education sector. Thirty hours is really very little though, and to be a competitive application you should be volunteering as much as possible, whether that is in after school programs, in literacy, as a coach, in a hospital or any other number of places. Having lots of volunteer experience is a must.
It also helps to have lived in a different culture for an extended period of time and studied a language, and if not, at least time spent getting to know other cultures is important. The best predictor of future success is past success and so if you can show that you are interested to the point where you’ve been putting in the work and investing the time already, that will be a good indicator to the Peace Corps that you are serious and will be a successful volunteer.
If you’re a student, get involved in campus or student organizations that are currently doing things that are helping people around the world. If you can’t find one, start one!
Last general piece of advice is to follow your passions. Don’t do anything just to fill a resume. I did a lot of that when I was younger and I ended up resenting and regretting the kind of things I was doing with my time, because I really didn’t like what I was doing, I only liked the fact that I could say I was doing it. Passion is contagious and if you love what you do, you will naturally attract and motivate others; they will want to come alongside and support your efforts too. The Peace Corps needs all kinds of different people, talents, personalities and experienced volunteers! Even though I’m an education volunteer, I still get to play Frisbee with kids and help a friend startup a small souvenir business – once you get to site you’ll figure out the possibilities and what you’re interested in.
Specifically, stay out of trouble with the law, and stay out of debt. If you have outstanding student loans or credit card debt, you need to have a specific plan in place for how you are going to continue to fulfill those financial obligations while you’re serving for 27 months. Lots of people are able to get student loans deferred, so it’s not a huge worry. (Check out www.peacecorps.gov for more details.) You also can’t have applied to be a CIA agent or have family members working for the CIA…and, if you’re a Peace Corps Volunteer you can never work for the CIA in the future…for all you spies thinking about applying, heh.
There’s also a very lengthy medical clearance process (I can go into more details on that in another post…it’s part of the reason why it took me 17 months between my application and when I arrived in Kyrgyzstan!) so be patient and jump through all the hoops and it will go alright.
Where are you at in school? I’ve been trying to check out your tumblr blog, but my internet out here in the village is so slow, I wasn’t able to open it. Do you still have a couple years left or have you graduated? Why are you interested in education? What made you interested in Peace Corps? Peace Corps loves to use catchy little phrases and one of them is “The toughest job you’ll ever love” but in this case it’s fairly accurate, however, you’re not going to love the tough stuff. You’re going to hate it. And then love other things. And then hate it again. And then hopefully love it again, haha.
Let me know if you have any other specific questions! Best of luck in your application process and love what you do!