Graduate School After Peace Corps

In 1998, while I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador, I decided to apply for a PhD program in political science. I had no idea what I was doing. Though I had majored in political science at UNC-Chapel Hill, graduating in 1993, I had a limited understanding of the “discipline.” I barely knew what journals were. I had limited access to information about programs, with no access to the internet on a regular basis (I had a dial-up connection once a month or so if I took a two hour bus ride). In the end, two of the four programs I applied to required prior Master’s and I didn’t get in to those (including the one where I now am a professor!). I studied for the GRE’s using a practice book, in between neutering pigs and workshops on cultivating blackberries. When I went to take the exam, it was the first time they had used the on-line computer version, and it was so different! My quantitative score, compared to the practice exam, paled. It was a miracle I got in to Georgetown.

With volunteers and other prospective applicants having access to the internet in even remote locations (I just got an email from my graduate student in East Timor), there is no excuse for that kind of ignorance in this day and age. What can prospective graduate students coming out of the Peace Corps do to prepare themselves? In addition to my scholarly activities, I lead a small NGO called Friends of Ecuador. I know we have a great set of guidance for would-be applicants to PhD programs, but here is a post for returning Peace Corps Volunteers that speaks to applying for graduate school, both for MA and PhD programs. 

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