Special to Philanthropy Journal
time of year. College seniors have returned to campuses all across the country,
which means that they are already starting to get sick of being asked the
question that will plague them all year: “So, what are you doing after
consider answering this question with the standard options: work or grad
school. A small minority will examine a different possibility: post-graduate
service programs, such as the Peace Corps, Teach For America, and AmeriCorps.
enough consider that path, and more should do so.
Here are six
reasons why college seniors should seriously consider post-graduation service programs:
1) This may be your best chance
in life to leap out of your comfort zone.
freer to choose your path in life when you graduate from college than at any
other moment. Sure, you probably have a few boxes of books and clothes, but
those can go in storage. Your student loans can usually be deferred.
stunned by how quickly this freedom goes away. And it’s not the really big
things that take away this freedom – it’s not the mortgage or spouse or baby. You
know what it is? It’s your first sofa. That sounds like a dumb theory, but it’s
true. One of the first big purchases most recent college grads make is a sofa. And
once you have a nice sofa, you don’t want to sell it or put it in storage. And
just like that, your freedom is gone.
2) Post-grad service programs
make it easy to enjoy your senior year of college.
ways, what we do to you as a college senior is really cruel. You’re captain of
the team or president of the club and are in senior seminars. You’re also
trying to cement life-long friendships and find ways to enjoy your last nine
months as a college student. On top of all of that, we ask you to
simultaneously explore your interests and abilities, write resumes and cover
letters, network, interview and negotiate a salary. No wonder seniors get
crabby when we ask if you know what you’re doing yet.
service programs have set, established application processes and timelines. They
need volunteers, and some do not have very competitive admissions processes.
decide that you are going to commit to post-grad service, you free yourself up
to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to just be a college senior and put
off the worry about the rest of your future to a later time.
3) Post-grad service programs
enhance your future opportunities.
easiest way I can put this: Who gets into the better grad school, you at
college graduation or you after graduation plus two years of Peace Corps
and jobs are still going to be there a year or two later. And you’ll be more qualified
for those opportunities, have different perspectives and be more certain that
you are choosing the right path after you have completed a post-grad service
4) It’s not time off. It’s time
One of my
biggest pet peeves is seniors telling me that they are going to take on a
post-grad service program because they want “time off.” As if, say, going to
Ghana to teach science to high school students for two years is not work or
that it won’t impact who you are, what you care about and how you see the world
and your role in it.
take on one of these opportunities, you have experiences that become an
integral part of who you are, expand your skillset and help shape your future life
5) Post-grad service programs give
you a chance to act on your values.
What do you
hope to accomplish in your life? What will your legacy be?
Look at any
advice for college graduates, and you’ll find a common theme: The biggest, most
important, most interesting challenges you will face are not those of narrow
self-interest but those that change society and the individuals who make it up.
Uncle Ben reminded him, “With great power comes great responsibility.” As a
college graduate, you are in the elite 7 percent of the world’s population that
has a bachelor’s degree. That’s great power. Use it responsibly.
6) The world needs you.
needs your energy, your passion, your enthusiasm and your talents. Don’t make
your first post-graduation move just based on what you want and what is best
for you; consider what the world needs from you, too.
In the end,
the question I keep coming back to is this: Who
would regret doing this? Who would come back from the Peace Corps and say,
“No, I wish I had not lived in a jungle in Suriname for two years and learned a
new language and stretched myself and made life-long friends and helped my
village reach their goals. I wish I had just gone straight to grad school.”
It’s a big
world, full of interesting things and people. Go explore it, and do good.
Doug Cutchins is the assistant dean
and director of post-graduate transitions in the Center for Careers, Life and
Service at Grinnell College and the co-author of “Volunteer Vacations:
Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others.”
Labels: AmeriCorps, Doug Cutchins, Grinnell College, Peace Corps, post-grad service programs, Teach For America, Volunteer Vacations