The Peace Corps recently announced that the number of applicants they received this year skyrocketed since the last because of their new application process. While they are celebrating the highest applicant pool in two-decades, I am left feeling wary of the motives and possible consequences we could very well see in the future.
When the Peace Corps was founded in 1961, the mission was clear to all: Members would give up two years of their lives to selflessly serve in another country and to promote peace on behalf of the United States.
The application process was intense, consisting of two mandatory essays and a slew of other questions that would take about eight hours to complete. After the application was sent, Peace Corps hopefuls would have to wait for about a year to learn if they were accepted, where they would be serving, and what they would be doing for two years.
Applicants didn't have the option to choose where they wanted to serve or which field they'd be in. If the Peace Corps told you that you'd be teaching adults about STDs in Macedonia, then that's exactly what you'd do.
The system worked for decades. In 1979, over 18,000 people applied to the program. By 2013, the number of applicants had dropped dramatically, bottoming out at just over 10,000. In an attempt to increase the number of applications, specifically amongst young people, the Peace Corps made some major changes to their application process.
This is an actual screenshot of the new application process. My college application was more intensive than this. PeaceCorps.gov
Now, the entire process takes an estimated one hour to complete instead of the average eight hours from years past. Additionally, applicants only need to submit one essay instead of two. And they have the option to select where they would prefer to serve and what they would like to do while there.
It seems to have worked because over 17,000 people applied this year "” that's a 70 percent applicant increase since last year alone. But are these the types of applicants the Peace Corps really wants? The Peace Corps' director sure seems to think so.
"This milestone reminds us that Americans today want to serve others and make a difference, and we are making great strides to reduce barriers to service and modernize the Peace Corps," director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said in a statement.
Sorry, Carrie, but I'm going to have to disagree. As sad as it is for me to admit it, I don't think that all applicants really "want to serve others and make a difference." I think young people are freaking out about their futures and know the job market is still incredibly difficult to break into. The result? They're looking for alternatives.
Disney / WeHeartIt.com
Look at some of these locations you could go: Peru, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. Why wouldn't directionless Millennials want to apply? For someone who is terrified of holding an office job, teaching children how to read in the Caribbean certainly doesn't sound like a bad option.
The application process is supposed to be difficult and time-consuming. If you're going to dedicate 26 months of your life to helping others in need, you better be absolutely certain that you are actually committed. If you can't devote eight hours of time to an application, how are people to believe that you're ready to commit two years of your life? The Peace Corps wasn't designed to be an extended Study Abroad program and it shouldn't be treated as such.
What happened to the idea that quality is more important than quantity? Wouldn't the Peace Corps be happier to have fewer applicants who are dedicated than more who only applied because they felt it was their best option at that moment? I certainly hope so.
Think about the possible consequences of accepting thousands of applicants who don't really care about the program.
Just a friendly white woman saving the world. Facebook
We could have frat boys running around Senegal, laughing as they demonstrated how to put a condom on a banana. Instead of infographics demonstrating how to prepare highly nutritional meals, we could have hour-long blocks of time dedicated to taking selfies. Mission trips already cover the whole "white savior who loves taking selfies with underprivileged children" demographic "” we don't need the Peace Corps to do the same.
The Peace Corps isn't something you just join because you're not ready to dive into corporate America or because you just went through a bad breakup and need to try something new. It's an experience that is intended to not only enhance your life, but enhance the lives of others as well.