If you are reading this and have been through the application process for college take that experience and muptiply it by 10 and you will start coming close to the extent of the Peace Corps application process! (Too dramatic?)
Okay, in all seriousness, the Peace Corps application process generally takes between 6 and 12 months to complete from the first step until you depart for service. I want to outline the process here, again, in case any Peace Corps prospectives like myself come across it looking for information.
Step 1: Application
On the Peace Corps website you begin by filling out some preliminary information that only takes about 5 minutes. Then you begin working on your actual application which is also completed online. You will be givin a login and password so you can log in and out of your application and complete it in as many sittings as you need to. Most people finish it in about two weeks. I completed my application in one sitting except the essays which I finnished over the next two days. The application consists of two essays, three references, employment history, resume, community and volunteer activities, educational background, college transcripts, and financial obligations. Once this is completed and submited you will have access to the Health Status Review which is 100+ yes/no questions about any and every health related issue you have ever had ranging from wearing glasses, to cancer, to perscription medications, to whether or not you get tired walking up a flight of stairs. My advice is to start working on the letters of reference right away because my completed application sat around for over a month while I got my references together!
Step 2: Interview
After completing your application you will be contacted within about two weeks. Your recruiter will discuss your skills, experience, opportunities, flexibility with placement, adaptability, cultural sensitivity, and commitment to Peace Corps service. The recruiter is almost always a returned volunteer so this is also an opportunity to ask questions.
Step 3: Nomination
After the interview and all applicable materials have been recieved the recruiter will determine if you are qualified to serve. If they decide that you are then you will be nominated to serve in a general work area, region of the world, and approximate departure date (i.e. youth development, Africa, June 2011) The nomination is a recommendation that an applicant move on to the next stage of the process.
Step 4: Medical, Legal, Suitability, and Competative Reviews
At this point you will be mailed a medical packet that outlines the medical, dental, and eye exams you will need to complete and mail back to Peace Corps headquarters. PC suggests completing and returning this packet within 45 days. Next you will go through legal qualification where they review marital status, financial obligations, etc. Once you have been medically and legally cleared are then evaluated for suitability and compared competatively to other applicants.
Step 5: Invitation
If you are determined to be a qualified and competative candidate the placement office will extend a formal invitation in writing for a specific country and provide a detailed job description. The invitation letter will include a country map, welcome book, date of departure, and volunteer handbook. You have 10 buisness days to accept or decline this invitation. If you choose to accept PC will mail you more information about your pre-service training and departure information. Invitations are typically sent out 2-3 months, but at least 6 weeks, before the departure date.
Step 6: Preparation for Departure
The Peace Corps will issue and electronic airline ticket for travel to your staging (pre-service orientation) site. Immediately prior to leaving for the country of assignment, Peace Corps “trainees” meet in the U.S. to prepare for their service. You will meet others in the training group and, a short time later, fly to your assigned country to begin in-country training.
And as they say, the rest is history! Once you arrive in country you will be living with a host family for the first three months while you and your fellow Peace Corps trainees go through extensive cultural, language, and technical training while getting use to life in the new country. After three months you will be sworn in as an offical Peace Corps Volunteer and you and the other volunteers will spread out across the country moving to specific sites within the country to begin their work and spend the next two years!