Do you have a desire to serve? Do you need experience before taking a job? Do you want to understand the world, yourself, justice, and faith in a new way? Are you unsure about your vocation? Do you want to experience solidarity and community? If you answered yes to any of these questions, post-graduate volunteering may be for you.
I might want to volunteer after graduation. What should I do?
- Come to the SCSJ to meet with RJ Toledo, attend a Career and Post-Grad Volunteer Fair, or start looking online. Catholic Volunteer Network publishes and distributes RESPONSE, the most comprehensive handbook of lay mission volunteer opportunities.
I’ve looked online and it seems like there are a ton of programs. How do I tell which one is right for me?
- Since there are so many different options where graduates can serve, it’s important to start narrowing the search to more easily find the right program. One suggestion is to make a list of all the criteria that are important for your discernment – answers to questions like:
- What type of work do you want to be doing?
- Domestic or International
- Religiously based program or secular program
- Living in a community or living alone
- How long of a commitment do you want?
- How important is the Americorps Education Award?
- Once you know what is important to you, it’s significantly easier to narrow the focus of your search.
It’s spring semester of my senior year, is it too late to start applying to post-graduate volunteer programs?
- No. While the deadline for some of the bigger programs may have passed, there are still many programs that continue their recruitment process into the summertime.
I’ve talked to my parents and they don’t think that post-graduate volunteering is financially possible for me. What can I tell them?
- Everybody’s financial situation is different, so this can definitely be a difficult topic for discussion with parents. However, post-graduate volunteering can be a fiscally sound option for after graduation.
- The financial compensation varies by program, but most programs are very similar. They cover room, board, and offer a small stipend for their volunteers. Additionally, some programs help with medical insurance, transportation costs, and offer a re-entry stipend when the volunteer commitment is completed.
- Other financial benefits vary, and therefore it’s important to check with a specific program that interests you to find out more information. For instance, some programs qualify for the Segal Americorps Education Award, where volunteers are able to receive a grant to apply toward past education loans or future schooling.
- Finally, regardless of the motivations for post-graduate volunteering, it looks really good on a resume, and can often give graduates a leg up in future job interviews. Not only does volunteering help provide real world experience but it also shows a commitment to service.
All that information is really helpful; however, I still owe quite a bit on my loans. Can I still volunteer?
- Just because you have college loans, you shouldn’t be discouraged from pursing a post-graduate volunteer position. There are several options available for you. The most common option is deferment, but there are also two programs that when coupled together can be a great option as well – Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Income Based Repayment. **Important Note: Just because these options are available, you should still always check with your bank or lender to make sure that you qualify.**
- Deferment – Most banks consider a year of post-graduate volunteer service an appropriate reason to grant deferment. Deferment is a period of time where repayment of the interest and principal of your loan is temporarily delayed. You can find out more information on the Federal Student Aid’s Website.
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness – The PSLF Program is intended to encourage individuals to enter and continue to work full-time in public service jobs. Under this program, borrowers may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance of their Direct Loans after they have made 120 qualifying payments on those loans while employed full time by certain public service employers. Find out more on the Federal Student Aid’s Website.
- Income Based Repayment Program – One of the repayment options that can be coupled with Public Service Loan Forgiveness is the Income Based Repayment Program. In this program, your income determines how much you pay per month. The monthly stipend of most volunteer programs is enough for living expenses, but not enough to be considered for IBR, so it’s possible to be making “payments” on your loans while not paying anything. Find out more on the Federal Student Aid’s Website.
- Dean Obenauer in Financial Aid or RJ Toledo in the SCSJ are two resources to contact if you have any questions about finances and how they apply to post-graduate volunteering. Set up an individual appointment to chat with them, or they will hold a workshop during the spring semester to cover financial basics and how they apply to post-graduate volunteering.