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From Service to Scholarship | Grad School Resources for Former Service Program Members

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Angel Eduardo

An abstact illustration of a former service program member consider grad school.
Illustration by Marian Blair

If you’re a current or former participant in a service program—such as through Americorps or Peace Corps—and are considering grad school, you’ll be happy to know that there are resources available to help you take this next step in your social-impact career.

Between application fee waivers and scholarships, many programs offer some sort of financial assistance to alumni of service programs. And with a demonstrated interest in social impact, you should have no trouble finding a program that aligns with your values. 

To start planning your grad school journey, check out some of the resources we’ve laid out below.

Resources for current and former service program participants 

Application fee waivers

Some graduate schools waive application fees for individuals who will be alumni of AmeriCorps or Peace Corps programs by the time they enroll; others may offer waivers to anyone who takes the GRE and receives a GRE Fee Reduction Certificate. Visit the ETS (Educational Testing Services) website to find out if you qualify for a reduced fee voucher. Specific schools may have other fee waiver criteria, so do your research and ask about options at your schools of interest.

Admission deferral

A deferral is often offered if you apply to your service program and grad school at the same time, and are admitted to both. The graduate school may allow you to put off enrolling until you’ve completed your term of service, but they typically only do so under specific circumstances. Check with the grad school to find out if admission deferral is available to you.

For the most part, admissions staff prefer that you apply to their schools after you complete your service so that you may enroll in their program upon admission.


As you research grad schools, look for schools that offer scholarships to admitted students with public service experience or those who have participated in specific service programs. Be sure to also ask admissions or financial aid officers, as well. Scholarships for service may vary from school to school in amounts and conditions, so make sure to review the qualifications carefully.

Credit for service experience

Some graduate institutions, especially those who administer or are associated with a service program, may offer course or licensing credit for your service experience. For example, the University of Oregon’s RARE AmeriCorps program offers nine graduate credits from the University of Oregon’s Community and Regional Planning program to members who successfully complete their service.

Teach for America Corps alumni can also continue to work toward earning a teaching certification (if they have not already completed the requirements) after their two-year service, depending on their assigned region’s certification process. Check with Teach for America’s alumni career resources hub for more information.

Certain states will also allow Returned Peace Corps Volunteers to count their service toward a teaching credential or license. Since certification standards vary by state, check the specific requirements for accreditation in the state you are interested in getting your degree and certification in.

For Peace Corp members, there is also the Master’s International Program. The program is a partnership between Peace Corps and over 50 grad schools in which individuals can earn academic credit for Peace Corps service. After applying and being admitted into the Peace Corps and graduate program separately, members spend one to two years on coursework before taking their skills overseas to serve. Upon completion of Peace Corps service, members receive academic credit and return to the United States to finish their program.

In-state tuition

In-state tuition rates at public universities may be available to you if you have lived and served in a state where you are considering a grad program, even if it’s not your home state. Similarly, reciprocity agreements between some states in the US can provide more affordable education options if you wish to enroll in a neighboring state’s university.

Be aware, however, that certain graduate programs at public universities do not give discounted in-state tuition rates, as is the case with business schools and other professional graduate programs. Research the specific eligibility requirements in your state to determine if in-state tuition may be available to you.

Segal AmeriCorps Education Award

Individuals who complete a term of service with an AmeriCorps program earn the Eli Segal Education Award. The award amount depends on the length of service and varies by year.

Recipients can use the award to pay for education costs at qualified colleges and universities (including grad school). The Educational Award can also be used to pay off qualified student loans from college or grad school. A number of grad schools match or double the Segal Education Award, so be sure to ask what options are available as part of your program.

Explaining your service experience

Your participation in a service program can make your application for grad school stronger. Service experience, like work experience, is an asset to your graduate application and demonstrates your interest, practical knowledge, and actual experience in a field.

Your personal statement, graduate interviews, and short answer responses are all places to share how your service experience lines up with your values and career plans. Be specific about the work you completed to connect it to your larger social-impact journey to grad school and beyond.

Pro Tip: Find more advice on how to share your story with the admissions team to help make your case for a graduate school degree.

We hope this blog post helps you find options that may be available to you as service program alumni. As always, speak with the admissions staff at your specific schools of interest to determine what other resources or tuition benefits you may qualify for, and consult your service program's websites for the most current information on award amounts and eligibility requirements.


Planning on returning to school? Check out the Grad School Resources blog for more advice on attending grad school.

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Angel Eduardo

Angel uses his skills as a storyteller to support and inspire job seekers and aspiring social-impact professionals.