Students who apply to the Peace Corps this year will have to take fewer steps to join the service program, which could make it more selective.
The organization started a push to recruit last week, highlighting the more relaxed process it launched this summer that allows applicants to indicate a preference for where they would like to be stationed if accepted.
While applicants can still choose to be sent wherever needed, they can also select up to three specific countries where they would want to spend a two-year tour. Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said she was not surprised the change has created strong competition among applicants for certain countries.
“Colleges are having higher numbers of students apply, which make Peace Corps service more competitive but may open more volunteer spots later,” she said.
With the application deadline approaching at the end of this month, the organization is looking to draw in even more applications, after seeing a 34 percent decline between fiscal years 2009 and 2013.
“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,” Hessler-Radelet said.
GW alumni in the program have served in countries like Cambodia, Cameroon and Namibia. This year, GW was ranked No. 4 among mid-sized universities for the number of alumni to join the program, with 41 participants. American University, which came in at No. 3, had 43 former students join, while Georgetown University had 27 and ranked No. 7.
Applicants also now spend less time applying to the program, Hessler-Radelet said. The Peace Corps expects its application process to now take less than an hour, compared to about eight hours in past years. What used to be a 60-page application with two essays is now a short online application with only one essay.
Julia Uriarte, a senior who is applying to the program, said she knew about the changes when she started her application, like many students in her major who have also decided to apply.
“I am an international affairs major with a concentration in international development, and it seemed like a good way to put what I have learned in GW to use and make a difference,” she said.
The organization is also looking for ways to help volunteers pay off student loan debt, giving full-time volunteers to chance to qualify for loan forgiveness. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has promised that his department will share information about managing debt.
“It’s also a great recruiting tool for government agencies and tax exempt nonprofits that want people to be able to follow their heart and passion – and not just chase a big paycheck because they have to pay back loans,” Duncan said in a release. “We can’t afford to lose that talent because of student debt.”