Peace Corps Essay Prompt

As you may have found out during your initial application, Peace Corps asks you to write two essays (500 words or less). At first this is daunting, but once you have your topic this does not seem to be nearly enough space. I think they design it this way, and remember if you are selected these essays will be what your fellow volunteers and support staff read when you arrive in your host country.

When I was writing mine I was lucky enough to get advice from a recruiter my family knew:

consider (in general, not just for the essays):
*Do you know the mission statement and 3 goals of Peace Corps? Do some research online if necessary.
*How flexible are you about where you go? Flexibility is very important to demonstrate, but only if you sincerely mean it.
*Are you comfortable working in unstructured and ambiguous work environments? Are you self-motivated without someone directing you?
*Are you truly open to being immersed in another culture, even if it means sacrificing your own comfort and preferences in order to assimilate?
*What previous experiences can you highlight that could help you succeed in the Peace Corps?
*Are you willing to gain additional experiences, perhaps additional volunteer experience here stateside, between applying and getting on the plane? 

Now all of that said it is still important to tell your story and still convey why you want to join up, and what you want to do there. Talk about how this experience made you who you are today.


Finally, I went through over five drafts on each essay having friends, family, and even English tutors read over them for grammar (not my strong suit. I'm a science geek, not a English major like many PC applicants). Remember this is just the beginning of not just your application, but possibly your next two or three years!

So without further ado

Essay #1 (499 words)

My family was able to benefit from many volunteer organizations as we were never exactly well off growing up. The greatest lesson these groups taught me was how vital it is to give back. The value of respect, taking responsibility for your actions, and utilizing knowledge to help those around you are all important lessons I took to heart. As time passed I gained some world perspective and felt a strong calling to help those in other countries. America has the luxury of these charity programs that helped me in my youth. Now I am at a position in my life, education, and experience to give back to those who are less fortunate. 

One of my most memorable volunteer efforts was building a home for a poverty-stricken family in Mexico. While there I noticed that, while housing was an issue, food seemed to be an even larger predicament. Their land was in constant drought and the soil was barely fertile enough for cactus. Without the necessary nutrition, the health in their community would diminish and further exacerbate their plight. This led me to my specialty today. 

I decided to dedicate my education and experience to human and environmental biology. The Peace Corps specialties of health, environment, and agriculture were my target areas once I learned of the program some time ago. To me the Peace Corps symbolized everything that America could and should be seen as. I want to lend my hand and give back, learn about new people, their cultures, and their ways of living. I strongly believe that they have just as much to teach us as we have to teach them. 

I feel that I will have few issues satisfying the 10 Core Expectations as I try to live my life by similar ideals already. That said I still have a few concerns. Regarding expectation 7, will there be a situation where I don't know what I am doing is illegal? If I familiarize myself with the differences between our laws and take special care to understand why these laws are in place, this scenario can be avoided. Expectation 4 also carries some implications, specifically in communication. First impressions can mean so much, I would not want to blunder vocabulary and accidentally insult someone. Even so, I'm looking forward to the challenge of learning a new language, and if a mistake is made, every encounter is an opportunity to learn and adapt.

Whenever I am in a culture different from my own, I honor their values, beliefs, and respect their ways of life. I am accustomed to sleeping in the dirt, working a hard days labor, and being away from those I know and love for extended periods of time. I am a fast learner and would consider this service an exciting challenge. I would be honored to utilize my knowledge and skills to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in whatever country I am needed to help support health, agricultural, and/or environmental education and growth.

Essay #2 (also 499 words)


As a young man I had the opportunity to assist in building a house for a poverty stricken family in Mexico. There were fourteen of them; all living in an old rusty RV save for the father. He would sleep every night by the building materials, which had been dropped off three months prior to our arrival, to make sure they were not damaged or stolen. Initially this concept frightened me, were things so bad that you had to protect a 2x4 night and day? I remember being overcome with an anticipation of the unknown. I found myself insatiably interested in answers, knowledge of this foreign family, and how their lives differed from mine.

While there, I worked in building their new home and established friendships with the children. I relished in learning their stories, thoughts, and dreams. I found myself a student and teacher by exchanging what we knew and what this knowledge meant. Over time I formed a strong friendship with one of the sons, Roberto. He showed me the surrounding land, its wildlife, their difficulty in maintaining a garden to provide food for his family, as well as the beauty in this seemingly infertile land. I was astonished at his generosity as he and his siblings would share their small harvests with the surrounding families. When I asked him about this, in broken English, he would simply say, "I give, they give, we live". That is when the reality of their situation sank in.

When the house was finished, they hosted a party to celebrate the accomplishment. I was astonished at the new foods, dances, customs, and experiences. Everything swirled in color and excitement; this was the answer to my earlier question. This was an accepting, humble, loving community from which I would, and have, learned many lessons. While we were able to give this family a house, the problem with providing themselves with food continued to concern me. I decided I needed to find a way to help others in this situation.

This memory always served as a reminder for what I wanted to achieve in my life. When I could, I joined the AmeriCorps as an intermediate step to further understand the ideals that would help prepare me for the Peace Corps. As the Peace Corps instills the values and ideals I hold dear, they seem the perfect organization to strive for. They would give me the opportunity to achieve my personal goal and desire to help communities, like Roberto's, in their health, environmental, and agricultural issues. Through my education in human biology, and my work experience in environmental biology, I have attempted to broaden my abilities in order to help my fellow man in as many ways as possible. I would like the next stage of my life to be devoted to serving in the Peace Corps as I believe I can represent my country to the world in a positive light while further learning and instilling the organization's values in my life.

During the initial application process (which is basically the longest application of your life), applicants are required to write two essays.  Since reading examples online helped prompt me, I thought I would share mine.

A word of advice- be aware of application deadlines and give yourself plenty of time to work on the essays.  I realized that I really wanted to apply several days before the deadline, so I wrote these in one sitting.   Reading them a full year later, I definitely wish I had more time to dedicate to writing and editing them.  That being said though, essays are only one small part of the application process.  Do your best, but don't stress over them!

Click through to read my Peace Corps Application essays.

Essay # 1  Peace Corps service presents major physical, emotional, and intellectual challenges.   You have provided information on how you qualify for Peace Corps service elsewhere in the application. In the space below, please provide a statement (between 250 – 500 words) that includes:

  • Your reasons for wanting to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer; and
  • How these reasons are related to your past experiences and life goals.
  • How you expect to satisfy the Peace Corps 10 Core Expectations (please be specific about which expectations you expect to find most challenging and how you plan to overcome these challenges).

I am from Tennessee, which has the nickname the “Volunteer State.”  Although my state got this common nickname from its history of active military volunteers, it seems to fit many of its common residents as well.  I grew up actively volunteering with my friends and family in many areas of our community, especially in the local 4-H program.  My experiences shaped me as an individual, but when it was time for college, I always assumed I would take the average path- a fairly average major, Marketing and International Business, followed by an average life where I would take an average job and raise a family.
This past semester I studied abroad, something that is far from average.  Though I had an incredibly fun time, I was challenged, intrigued, and forced to re-consider my definitely average plans.  
Although I had interned with the State 4-H program in the past and even considered a career in non-profit marketing, I began to realize that I am capable of achieving something far from average and to really make a difference in the lives of others.  At that point I began to look into programs that I had previously thought were out of my reach, which is where the Peace Corps came in.  
A girl from my church joined the Peace Corps about two years ago and is now nearing the end of her assignment in Mongolia.  I have always looked up to her willingness to serve and her passion to make a difference, and I have recently found myself filled with that same passion.  
I am well aware that a term in the Peace Corps won’t be easy.  At this point I believe the hardest part will be to gain the trust and confidence of the local people, and to prove to them that I am not there to change them into a subset of the United States, but instead to help them reach their fullest potential.  To overcome this challenge I will need to not only show empathy, respect, and confidence, but also to develop a life long relationship with them.  
Pope John XXIII once said, “Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential.”  An assignment in the Peace Corps would be scary, frustrating, and exhausting.  However, I have no doubt that it would be among the most rewarding of all experiences and that it would allow me to live a life much more than average.  
I look forward to living that type of life; one that is constantly questioned and challenged and that makes a true difference.  Furthermore, I would be truly honored and extremely humbled to include a volunteer term in the Peace Corps as part of that challenge.  
Essay # 2  Your success as a Peace Corps Volunteer is based on the trust and confidence you build by living in, and respectfully integrating yourself into, your host community and culture (Core Expectation #4). Describe an experience you have had in living or working in a social or cultural environment different from your own. What specific challenges did you face concerning trust, confidence, and/or integration? What did you learn from this experience that you will bring with you to your Peace Corps service?

Many people think of travel and the exploration of other cultures as a vacation, something that has a clear beginning and a clear end.  To me, experiences with new people and places have a much deeper meaning.  By consistently having an open mind when encountering something different than that which I am accustomed, I have been able to learn about and appreciate other cultures.  These lessons have taught me that there is no “right” way to live.  Instead, we must understand that each culture is unique, and the differences between us should be celebrated, not condemned.  
This past fall I had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain, which was nothing short of life-changing.  Though Spain most certainly enjoys many first world luxuries, simply being outside the United States of America was a learning experience.  Growing up American, many of the things I experienced in Spain were new and different to me.  While some of these differences bothered other students, I found ways to appreciate and learn from them.  It was not easy.  Multiple times I found myself wanting to just go to a Target and pick up everything I needed.  In times like that I had to remind myself of the positives of my experience.  There may not be a convenient Target, but there was a baker, a fruit shop worker, a butcher, and a drugstore clerk that were all eager to hear about my day and spend a few moments talking to me.  
During my time in Spain I lived with a Spanish family who spoke absolutely no English.  Although I had studied Spanish for about five years at that point, I was nowhere near fluent.  Becoming a part of María and Jose’s family was both my favorite and most challenging experience.  Some days I felt emotionally exhausted, and being unable to simply relax and get away seemed to be frustrating.  However, by the end of my program, it was hard to even imagine life without my new “parents.” María and Jose taught me to constantly work hard and appreciate what was around me, and I am blessed to still have them in my life today.   
Instead of being eager to return to my easy American way of life, the end of my program had me searching for opportunities to challenge myself for the benefit of others.  I am confident in my abilities to problem solve and persevere and I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of others.  Above my experience in the work force and abroad, it is this passion that will make me a valuable member of the Peace Corps.  

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