From Peace Corps Wiki
Looking for a way to finance your graduate education after your Peace Corps service is over? Take advantage of Fellows/USA.
Fellows/USA works with more than 40 universities that offer financial assistance to returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) who pursue graduate studies in a variety of subject areas. Through internships, RPCVs help meet the needs of underserved U.S. communities.
Fellows/USA advances the Peace Corps' third goal, "to help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans," by developing and maintaining educational partnerships that place returned Volunteers in internships in underserved American communities. Through a collaboration of universities, public school systems, community organizations, funders, and the Peace Corps, returned Volunteers use the knowledge and skills they developed during their overseas service to improve people's lives here at home. As Peace Corps Fellows, they earn graduate degrees and/or certification at reduced cost, advancing their professional development for careers in a wide range of fields.
Peace Corps Fellows/USA is a graduate fellowship program that offers financial assistance to former Volunteers who wish to earn professional certification, master's or doctoral degrees in a variety of subject areas. Former Volunteers also complete paid internships in underserved U.S. communities where they gain valuable on-the-job training while helping meet local needs that would otherwise go unmet. Additionally, as interns, former Volunteers are able to fulfill the Peace Corps' third goal by sharing their knowledge of other countries and cultures with colleagues and community members. Since the inception of the program, nearly two thousand former Volunteers have participated, and hundreds of thousands of people have benefited from the important work of Peace Corps Fellows.
Serving Communities Since 1985
Peace Corps Fellows have been serving local communities for nearly two decades. Fellows/USA is the brainchild of Dr. Beryl Levinger a former Volunteer in Colombia from 1967 to 1969 and former researcher with the Institute of International Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University. She realized that former Volunteers had the specialized skills that were being sought by the Board of Education of New York in the early 1980s. They needed resourceful teachers who had practical, innovative ideas about education; skilled communicators with a sensitivity to cultural differences to place in challenging, inner-city positions. In cooperation with the Peace Corps, Levinger proposed a program in which former Volunteers would fulfill this need. In 1985, the college launched a pilot program to prepare them as teachers in New York City public schools.
Eventually, Fellows/USA expanded the program and helped develop similar initiatives at other universities throughout the country. The program was originally supported by grants from the Xerox Corporation, the Hebrew Technical Institute, and the DeWitt Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, and later supplemented by funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Apply Your Skills in a Domestic Setting
As a former Volunteer, you are an asset to any institution, company, or organization because of your cultural sensitivity, language proficiency, creativity, and professional knowledge. Because of your proven experience in adapting to different environments and circumstances, you are uniquely qualified to work with a wide spectrum of cultural and ethnic groups. For example, you may be a perfect candidate for working on Native American reservations, where teachers face cultural challenges or in inner-city school districts, where there are often language barriers and limited resources. Community and economic development or business volunteers who served in areas like Eastern Europe - dealing with challenges such as lack of business plans, organizational structures or funding - can use their talents to overcome similar obstacles in American companies in urban or rural communities.
The Fellows/USA program can help you take what you have learned overseas and use it to build a better future rather than storing it away as a memory of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Enhancing the skills you acquired will only make you more marketable. As one Fellow put it, "the program helped me pursue my graduate studies, gave me confidence in my skills, and put me on the path to my professional career." Whether you are still overseas, recently returned, or long-since returned and thinking about a career change, examine the benefits of Fellows/USA.
Choose from a Variety of Programs
Each of the more than 60 Fellows/USA programs nationwide is developed and administered by partner university faculty members, many of whom are former Volunteers themselves. That is why no two programs are alike in the degrees offered, benefits, application requirements, or competitiveness for entry into the program.
Overall, approximately one-third of the programs are in education, and the rest fall into a category designated as "community and economic development." This encompasses many fields such as American studies; anthropology; business; communication; economics; English; environmental studies; geography; history; language; nonprofit management; nursing; philosophy; political science; public administration; public health; the sciences; sociology; social work; recreation, park, and tourism management; urban planning; and more. Available teaching fields are also diverse. They range from math and science to bilingual and special education in grades kindergarten through 12. Sometimes, partner universities are flexible in allowing former Volunteers to tailor a degree to suit their own interests. Additional programs are being developed in new geographic and subject areas to provide even more opportunities for you to continue your education and service to the world as a Peace Corps Fellow.
Work and Network with Enthusiastic Community Partners
Although the Fellows/USA programs vary by institution, degree programs usually take two years to complete and include a combination of course work and an internship with a community partner. Sometimes courses must be taken prior to the internship; sometimes they are taken concurrently or even afterward. Lengths of the internships also vary. They range from six months to two years. Some programs also require the former Volunteer to commit to working in the community for a period of time after graduation. No matter how the program is structured, Fellows/USA allows you to form personal and professional relationships. Many Fellows' internships lead to permanent positions. Typically, community partners are enthusiastic about Fellows and the qualities they bring to the workplace. They often ask the Fellows/USA staff to, "Send us more Fellows."
Transfer Your Skills to an International Career
For former Volunteers who are interested in working overseas again someday, many of the Fellows/USA programs teach concepts that are applicable to both domestic and international careers. Universities value former Volunteers for their global awareness, which brings new perspectives to the classroom and the institution. In return, Fellows benefit from combining the knowledge they acquired overseas with lessons learned through work in domestic settings. After Fellows/USA, they can then choose to apply this knowledge anywhere in the world.
Receive an Affordable Education
Besides gaining valuable on-the-job training and networking opportunities, Fellows receive scholarships, reduced tuition, paid employment, health benefits, housing, or living allowances, depending on the program. Therefore, Fellows/USA enables former Volunteers to earn degrees, establish their careers, and pay less than students who have not served in the Peace Corps. Funding is provided by the partner universities, foundations, government agencies, corporations, and individual donors. The generous support of these benefactors enables Peace Corps Fellows/USA to exist.
Program Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible for a Fellows/USA program, former Volunteers are to have completed their Peace Corps service satisfactorily. Satisfactory completion means:
- having completed the full two-year tour of Peace Corps service, or the full tour minus up to 90 days if you returned home on an emergency leave;
- having been granted an "Early Close of Service" or an "Interrupted Service" due to circumstances beyond your control; or
- having been medically separated as a Volunteer.
As a former Volunteer, you benefit from lifelong eligibility for Fellows/USA. Some Fellows have been back in the United States for less than one year and some for 20 or more.
University Admissions Criteria
Universities, in collaboration with employing agencies, establish additional admissions criteria. Before you can become a Peace Corps Fellow, you must apply to and be accepted by a partner university. While a few of the programs are highly competitive, most are eager to enroll more Fellows. Typically, Fellows are selected because of their ability to demonstrate their commitment to both service and a profession. However, because admission is not guaranteed, the Peace Corps encourages you to apply to more than one program. The number of fellowships awarded at each site depends upon many factors, including available funds, employment opportunities, and graduate school enrollment capacities.
Check university requirements and allow sufficient time to take necessary tests and to obtain letters of recommendation and college transcripts before applying. Many programs require that applicants take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), or another standardized test. Similarly, some states require that prospective teachers take the National Teachers Examination (NTE), state tests, or other exams, before issuing a temporary or conditional teaching certificate. These standardized tests are offered a few times per year.
Whether the university requires it or not, it is helpful to include your Description of Service (DOS) statement with your application. The DOS is a certified document issued by the Peace Corps that states the activities and duties of Volunteers during their service. The DOS details the training you received and the work you performed, including your secondary projects in country. It also lists your language proficiency exam scores. Some universities may grant credit, initial teaching certification, or waive requirements based on the DOS. If you have not yet completed your service, submit a detailed description of your work to date followed by your DOS as soon as it becomes available.
If you need to request a copy of your DOS from the Peace Corps, contact Volunteer and PSC Financial Services at 800.424.8580, extension 1770.
How to Apply
- Contact the program coordinators at the universities that interest you to request program and application information.
- Narrow the list down to a few programs for which you would like to be considered. Most former Volunteers apply to four or five programs.
- Follow all the application instructions. You must apply to each university separately. The program coordinator will check with the Peace Corps to determine your service record and eligibility.
When to Apply
Contact university program coordinators to determine application deadlines for specific institutions. Volunteers may begin the application process online during their final year of service or they may apply anytime after service. In some countries, it may even be possible to take the GRE.
Fellows/USA Official US Peace Corps Website