How my throwaway year between undergrad and graduate school became one of my best years through AmeriCorps

When I didn’t get into any of the graduate school programs I applied for back in 2007, I thought I was going to have a throwaway year while I waited to reapply. I was not excited at the thought of working at yet another job that I knew would just be a temporary gig until I got into graduate school the next year. Instead, I thought about committing myself to a year of service and began weighing my options. I wasn’t brave enough to sign up for the military, plus it would way more than a one-year commitment. PeaceCorps was also a longer commitment than I was willing to make. I ended up settling on AmeriCorps – and I’m so glad I did!


Instead of a throwaway year, I was able to be a part of a small team doing great things in our community. AmeriCorps is a national service program which has great volunteer opportunities all over the country. There are even several programs within AmeriCorps and you can pick the one that is the best fit for you.


I selected AmeriCorps Vista which allowed me to work on a team of about 8 people that was a great representation of the diversity of America. My teammates came from all walks of life, represented all age groups, and were of varying ethnicities. Though we came together as a team every so often, we were actually each working in different community agencies, schools, or nonprofits within the city.


My position was as a tutor at a local technical college where I provided assistance in any subject as needed. Far from a throwaway year, my experience there became a foundation for many of my future positions. I was trusted to provide coverage of the tutoring center when my supervisor was absent, I became more effective during outreach events, and, most importantly, I learned the value of truly giving back to a community.


Taking a year between undergrad and graduate school really helped me to also figure out what I really wanted to do next in life. It gave me the time in which to realize that I had originally applied to graduate school because it felt like it was simply the next step. During my year in AmeriCorps, I had a chance to sit back and reevaluate what my true career and life goals were. Though I still chose to go to graduate school the next year, I refined which graduate programs were a better fit for my career goals and focused solely on those programs.


I also believe that my year at AmeriCorps was a great boost to the next round of my graduate school applications. I was able to select the school that was the best fit for my future career goals. I also worried less about tuition costs because upon completion of an AmeriCorps program, an Education Award is granted.


AmeriCorps is a great program for all walks of life. If you have a year to commit to volunteer service (with a small living stipend), then I highly recommend checking out AmeriCorps.

It will be a year that you’ll always remember.

Jennifer Jelliff-Russell

About Jennifer Jelliff-Russell

Jennifer is an employment specialist and writer with novels in women’s fiction and science fiction. She and her husband, Jason, decided to move from Tennessee to Maine and homestead using the most environmentally sound farming practices possible such as organic farming and permaculture. At the same time, they will also be slowly renovating their 1900s Maine farmhouse in order to make it more self-sufficient with the eventual goal of going off grid. Let the homesteading (mis)adventures begin!