AmeriCorps is a network of programs throughout the United States (and its territories — yes, you can serve in Puerto Rico!) that provide the chance for you to serve in your community full-time for a year on a range of critical issue areas.
Programs also allow nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and schools to host you — in order to extend their capacity to fulfill their mission, and so you can initiate and run new projects that they haven’t been able to get off the ground, and/or to leverage the support of community volunteers whom you recruit and engage.
When do AmeriCorps applications come open?
The short answer is, it’s not too late to apply now and in the coming months.
Because AmeriCorps is a network of programs, the longer answer is that application dates vary by program. Different programs operate on different cycles, with new AmeriCorps members starting at different times.
Most programs that I know of open up their application process in spring and early summer; and incoming AmeriCorps members start in the fall (usually starting sometime between August and October).
Some programs may not be taking applications any more at this point in the year.
How do I find positions and programs to apply for?
The most comprehensive listing of AmeriCorps positions lives on the AmeriCorps website. You can search by program type, state, city, skill area, “service” or issue area, language and education level required, full or part time, and by summer-only positions. Program type refers to AmeriCorps State and National, AmeriCorps VISTA, and AmeriCorps NCCC. You can also apply to be a team leader for a program if you have the right prior experience. Check out the Interactive Program Selector to help figure out which program type might be the best fit for you.
Search results will appear as a list of programs and their start dates. Programs that are currently accepting applications will have a giant red star next to their program name. If you click on the program name, you can find out more information, including a program description, service locations, age requirements, and contact information.
Once you find a program that seems like a good fit for you, click on the “add to favorites” button if you are logged in, or write down the “listing i.d.” so you can find the program listing when you are ready to take the next step.
If a program looks great to you but its information looks old (like from last year) contact the program director listed for more information. Most programs update their information when their application process is about to open.
You can also find AmeriCorps listings in a wide array of places from the host organization’s website to Idealist.org. If you search on Idealist, check both volunteer and job listings — in your job search, you can check the box for “Year of Service” opportunity to limit your search results to service opportunities. Listings will include application instructions.
Another way to find national and international service programs is to check out the list of “Corps and Coalitions” on the left-hand sidebar of this blog. Link to the website of each program to determine their own application information and deadlines. Programs listed there are not necessarily part of the AmeriCorps family.
How do I apply to AmeriCorps?
Applying involves a few preliminary steps. You’ll first have to register and create a profile of yourself on the My AmeriCorps site.
The profile includes questions about your citizenship (and your social security number), language skills, special skills (be careful — you’ll have to justify these later on, during the application), and interests.
After you’ve created your profile, you can create an application. Your application asks questions about past employment, skill sets (you get to explain everything you checked off in your profile), community service experience, and criminal history. You’ll also be prompted to write about why you want to serve in AmeriCorps in a motivational statement.
The application can take awhile so pace yourself, and save often so you can take breaks and come back and complete it when you’re feeling rejuvenated.
After you’ve completed the online application, go back to your Favorites — the programs you found were a good fit for you — and find the Apply Now button. Then you’ll certify that you want the program to receive your application.
For the best outcome, it’s always a good idea to contact the service programs you’ve submitted your application to. (Their contact information is in their listing on the AmeriCorps search site.) Introduce yourself and let them know you’ve just submitted your application. After reading their website and their listing on AmeriCorps, if you are still unclear about what the next steps are to the application process, you can ask them now.
Both programs I participated in (AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA) require two different interviews — one with the AmeriCorps program director, and one with the host organization where members serve every day.
During your application process, if you interact mostly with the host organization, you should probably make sure you’ve applied to AmeriCorps positions at other host organizations, too. That way if the first organization proves very popular and is inundated with applicants, you’ll have a better chance of finding an AmeriCorps position with another host.
Please take a look at the comments section below where you can find further information and insight. I invite you to add your own comments with information about how to find programs in your area.