The Application Process: Essay Edition

Starting the application is wildly easier today than it was even 3 years ago thanks to P.C.’s revamp of the application process in 2014(?). You start off by logging onto PeaceCorps.gov and click on ‘Apply Now‘ on the top right-hand side of the screen,  you then get to select the areas of work you would like to volunteer in. There is a put me wherever I’m needed selection if you can’t decide or you want to play geographic roulette like they did in the old days. After that you answer a bunch of personal questions, and at the end of it all there’s an essay section that has a prompt and a 500 word limit. Essentially it asks why you want to join the peace corps and how do you plan to overcome the struggles you will invariably face as a volunteer. (this part is what takes you to the big leagues or not in my opinion).

Essay Tips

  1. Look over the Peace Corps Mission Statement (it has 3 objectives).
  2. Keep the prompt at the top of your page while you write your essay. Doing this helped me to stay on task and not veer off on tangents.
  3. Write out all the gibberish in your head, Some of it will be complete garbage and some of it will be pure gold! (I’d say my first go was 85% to 10% respectively and 5 % Silly asides (writers block is real my friends, and we all have methods of getting around it so don’t judge).
  4. Don’t worry about your word count until you have a great essay! you can always be more concise but stressing snowballs.
  5. EVERYONE wants to change the world, ‘Be the Change You Wish to See,’ and is  ‘Uniquely qualified,’ so please for the love of god don’t put that cliche drivel in your essay. And I get it, I definitely went a little Ghandi in my first few drafts, but remember to pull back and (i get the irony here) be yourself!
  6. Do the scary thing and let another human read it over to get their opinion.
  7. Proof read to weed out any extra ‘fluff’ words…I’m a horrible offender. I had to elementary school style ‘Ban’ words from myself like ‘just,’ ‘exactly,’ and ‘clearly.’ Doing this saved me a good 10 words on my count. 10 Words that, if used correctly, can translate to an additional strong sentence to hammer home your message.
  8. Always Be Selling! Never forget that this essay is the only innovative part of your initial application! Yes, you send in a Resume, but you don’t get to explain what you got to accomplish on each of the bullets. And remind them of all the interesting things you have done.
  9. Open with something big! HUUUUUUUGEE, if you will ;). Take a moment in your life that was a turning point, a test of your character, or a time of growth and tell the reader a story. I managed to make that happen and it paid off (I mean I got here right?).
  10. Try to finish with a subtle tie in to your story, or end with your personal mission statement.
  11. Lastly, you’re essay should be good but remember, you’ve only got 500 words and the reviewers get that. So do what you can and you can look over mine and see it don’t take a literary genius to get past the first part of the application process!

My Essay:

Draft IV (Yeah, I had a lot of revisions). 

It was a warm July morning and I was late for church. As I impatiently waited for a man blocking the entryway to the sanctuary I watched in numb horror as he pulled a shotgun from a guitar case and fired into the crowd. In a moment two of my church members were dead and 8 others injured. In the proceeding weeks and months I searched for a reason to explain why this happened. I could not fathom the hatred that had played out right in front of me and I needed to do something; I had to do something. I decided that the pain and loss I, and so many of my friends were feeling had to be repaid, and I was determined to do so with love and compassion. 

I returned to school in August of 2012 resolute in making a positive change. I founded and led the Gay-Straight Alliance learning valuable skills related to motivating my peers, organizing teaching lessons, and moderating discussions. I organized ‘Diversity Prom’ for East Tennessee Regional GSAs which created a safe, accepting space for students to enjoy a prom without the disrespect and ignorance that can so often occurs in the south. I became active in Planned Parenthood’s ‘Peer Educator’ program which teaches comprehensive sex education to teens. Being involved in these programs showed me how much of a positive change one person can make. Being seen as a valuable resource to my community is what led me to my profession in nursing. 

I currently work at a hospital in East Tennessee. My greatest joy at work is having the opportunity to effectively teach my patients about health practices that will lead them to the road to recovery. I have a large patient load that limits my ability to be the resource, supporter, and advocate I strive to be. The Peace Corps will allow me to share all that I have learned with the people with whom I am placed, and cultivate a culture where learning from each other is welcomed and encouraged. 

I know the Peace Corps service will present new challenges and that excites me. I am familiar with camping in many weather conditions, I have been lost in a country where I did not speak the language, I have eaten all sorts of foods in other countries, and I have walked miles searching for my destination. I have found a way through these experiences and, above all, I have learned to laugh at myself and keep calm in stressful situations. Being in a new country will be difficult but I look forward to learning the language and connecting with the people. I am ready for the challenges of the Peace Corps as they will help me to grow and gain a greater understanding the world.

I am Passionate about creating positive change in the lives of others and it would be an honor to channel this drive in the Peace Corps.

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