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Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by J-School Blue, Mar 5, 2012.

  1. J-School Blue

    J-School Blue Member

    Has anybody done it?

    There's a pretty wide variety of experience on this board, so I figured I'd ask while I'm considering it.

    After four years out of newspapers I'm out of debt and in a position where I'm actually accumulating a modest savings. I don't have kids, I don't have a mortgage, and while I eventually want to go to grad school I'm not sure what program is right for me, and I want to be absolutely committed before I take on something like that.

    So basically, I'm in a position where if I'm going to do something like this, now's the time. AmeriCorps has always been something I was interested in, and I've talked to a couple of folks who've been through it and described the experience as very positive. But it'd be a major change in my life for a year or so, and I want to hear any nightmare stories out there before committing to it. Or more positive stories. Those are also welcome.

    I also want to get a handle on more practical concerns, like how much savings I'd realistically need going in. Most of the programs I'd go for give you a living stipend, but I'm told it doesn't really stipend as much as you'd want it to.
  2. KJIM

    KJIM Well-Known Member

    I've researched it thoroughly but have not served through them. (I did Peace Corps.) What kind of information are you looking for?

    For the Vista programs, you get under $1k a month to live on and basic insurance. It's not like Peace Corps, where your medical is paid and you get your prescriptions shipped in. You have basic coverage and are responsible for everything beyond that.

    Most people I know who've done it qualified for food stamps but enjoyed the experience. Most have been straight out of college, the others retired.

    The bonus at the end of your service is something like $1.5k in cash or $5k directly to school (past or future, can even be non-degree programs). You also get a year of non-competitive status with the federal government, which, these days (unlike when I had it) is worth something.

    Unlike Peace Corps, you apply directly to positions. The web site is terrible. You can't even upload a resume but have to stick with their crappy form.

    Right now, the programs are up mostly in spring, though there are some for August, too. I have noticed that my state's volunteer site has positions open that aren't on the AC site, so it'd be worth checking elsewhere, too.

    I applied for one post-Peace Corps that was PERFECT for me. It entailed my journalistic background, my PC experience and even the language I'd learned. I applied in August or so for a job that was to start in January.

    Not only was I never contacted, but I went back to the AC site in February or so and saw that my application was still "awaiting review." I think it's best to harass the bejesus out of the contact person if you can. (Not all are listed.) So since then, for the ones I've applied to that I might really want, I've at least alerted the contact person that I've applied.

    There aren't a lot of communications-type positions, but I've seen a few lately.
  3. J-School Blue

    J-School Blue Member

    The Vista spots are what I'm looking at. While a communications position would be nice to snag, and sort of a way back into that field, I'm primarily looking at the work available in low income housing and lending/credit education. I landed very randomly in a mortgage fraud audit job for the past three years, so I've built up some experience in how loans and housing works that seems to apply to some of what AmeriCorps does.

    Mainly (and I'm guessing the Peace Corps would be similar in certain respects) I'm interested in how big a change it was, how people might've dealt with the finances of it and how best to navigate the bureaucracy of the application process. The website does seem built to be as cumbersome as possible, so I'll bother the recruiter if and when I get to the business of applying.
  4. KJIM

    KJIM Well-Known Member

    You don't have to deal with recruiters for AC, though you can call them. You apply directly to positions you're interested in. It's not like PC at all in that respect. In my experience you also need to touch base with the contact person listed in (most of) the ad(s).

    As far as money goes, you apply for food stamps pretty quick, from what I've been told. But I'd count on no more than $800 a month salary, so go from there. You are also not allowed to hold outside work for most of the positions, though I've seen a few exceptions to the rule.

    I'm at a point where I'm considering it again, but I'm only looking at extremely rural (cheaper) areas or places where I have relatives. The one straight-up communications post that's opening is in Richmond, and I don't see how anyone could do that on what they pay.

    I sent you a PM, but know that there are *plenty* of Habitat for Humanity positions up now, too.
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