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The Peace Corps Makes It Easier to Apply

While a majority of Peace Corps volunteers are young and single, 8 percent are over the age of 50.

Talk to almost anyone who has ever joined the Peace Corps and they will tell you about the rewarding experience they had doing good works in corners of the world that need assistance.

Now the Peace Corps is trying to make it easier and more attractive to join their worldwide support efforts.

While the number of people completing the application process has fallen by more than a third from its peak totals from 2009, Peace Corps officials say they still have more than enough people wanting to work with them overseas. However, the agency is streamlining its application process and making other changes to attract more volunteers.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet, the director of the Peace Corps, told National Public Radio that the application process that used to take more than eight hours to complete now can be finished in about an hour online. The sixty-pages of forms have been severely reduced.

Where in the past, the Peace Corps determined where volunteers would be sent, now it is allowing prospective volunteers to express preferences about where they would like to serve among the more than 60 countries in which the Peace Corps operates.

“We are offering our applicants the opportunity to choose the specific country and the specific program they want to apply to,’’ Hessler-Radelet said. “That’s a big change for us.”

Another problem the Peace Corps suffered in the past was the lengthy wait time between application and acceptance, which had sometimes been more than a full year. The Peace Corps said it will cut wait times to six months, and Hessler-Radelet said applications that come in ahead of deadlines will be given a definite date on which they will find out if they are accepted and a specific date on what their departure date will be if they are accepted.

Hessler-Radelet told NPR that there is no concern among Peace Corps officials that applicants will avoid the more dangerous locations, because in the past applicants have always wanted to go to “the farthest, most difficult, most remote post.”

Even though there has been a drop in applications, the Peace Corps says it still has more people trying to get in than it can afford to send away.

One of the goals in the streamlining effort is to get a more diverse, non-white, application pool.

The Peace Corps was established in 1961, and to date more than 215,000 volunteers have joined. Sixty-three percent of volunteers are female, and the average age is 28.7 years, but 8 percent of all current volunteers are over the age of 50.