Buried neck-deep in MFA applications, I have distracted myself from the very real possibility (probability) of not getting in to any graduate program by having back-up plans up the wazoo. Here’s a list of the best places to consider if you feel compelled to take a gap year between undergraduate and graduate programs. Or if you’re applying to programs with a less than 8% acceptance rate, like mine.
1. Teach for America: With the goal of making an exceptional education available for every student, Teach for America puts driven recent graduates in underprivileged school districts. Quoting the statistic that only 8% of impoverished children graduate college as opposed to the 80% graduation rate of their more privileged peers, Teach for America aims to stop the cycle of poverty through education.
The program requires a two year commitment and a rigorous application process that includes an online and phone interview in addition to a full-day interview session, but of all the options for a gap year(s) it looks like the most rewarding and the best paid, with teachers receiving a salary between $21,000 and $51,000 a year.
2. Disney Professional Internships: In the spring i’m joining the Disney team as part of the College Program, but there are other Disney career paths available for undergrads and recent graduates. Placing interns in every department, from marketing to gaming to horticulture and everything in between, there’s a job application for everyone.
Disney has a long-standing strategy of hiring from within, so a professional internship is a great way to network and perhaps find a job within one of the top companies in America.
3. The Peace Corps: The long-standing alternative to finding a career right out of college, the Peace Corps has been a leader of international development for over 50 years. Working oversees with communities to fight the big problems of today–climate change, disease, food, education–the Corps has over 200,000 current and former members.
The Peace Corps requires a 27 month commitment and places members in communities where they have to learn to operate independently in a foreign place very quickly. Therefore, it is definitely not for everyone. However, if you have a passion for volunteering, for living abroad, or for building relationships within communities, looking into the Peace Corps would not be a bad idea. (Note: this is the only thing on the list I have not personally applied for, so if you go through the Peace Corps application let me know how it turns out!)
4. Fulbright Scholarships: What you actually receive if you go through the Fulbright program is a grant to travel abroad and work on a study within a community. You can be an assistant English teacher abroad (though this usually requires fluency in the language of the country you’re going to be in) or someone who specializes in public health in Africa; you can be a part of the Fulbright-Clinton program, serving in a foreign embassy, or get a STEM grant to be placed in a leading science institution abroad. There’s grants for everyone, but the application process is notoriously tricky.
The best part about being a Fulbright Scholar is that it sounds great on any resume and it’s the experience of a lifetime, but once again you’re working basically independently and trying to immerse yourself in a foreign community. The application process is almost over so if you want to try for a Fulbright, apply sooner rather than later.
5. AmeriCorps: Technically, Teach for America is a section of AmeriCorps. Known as the domestic Peace Corps, AmeriCorps is a 10 month program that places college aged young adults in impoverished communities to work on projects. This could be anything from helping victims of natural disasters to being a tutor in after school programs. AmeriCorps participants live together in groups of 10 to 15 people in living situations that could vary between camping and living in a private home.
AmeriCorps is a good option for those without a passport or who want to stay in the US, but it has the least amount of compensation available for time served.
Having a couple of backup plans takes the pressure off the MFA applications, and a couple of years of experience might be just what a writer needs for their stories to be more real.
…says the girl on her way back to her MFA applications.