According to a recent survey cited in the Harvard Business Review, “Only 35 percent of young adults jump right into their career after college.” The remaining 65 percent of those surveyed took either half, or most of their twenties to find their career path. As it turns out, a “gap year” after college graduation isn’t that uncommon. In fact, nearly 50 percent of prospective College Possible coaches say they chose an AmeriCorps year of service to help them identify their path!
“AmeriCorps service led to me finding my career path. I was able to help with AmeriCorps recruitment, which led to falling in love with human resources,” says Lindsey, a college access coach. Let’s unpack the benefits of national service and why hundreds of recent college grads choose to take a gap year at College Possible.
What is an AmeriCorps service year at College Possible
Each year, more than 200,000 AmeriCorps service members pledge a year of service at nonprofit organizations across the country. AmeriCorps members with College Possible play an essential role as college access coaches or college success coaches, supporting high school and college students across the country in pursuing their college degrees.
Coaches commit to full-time or part-time service roles at one of eight urban service sites across the country, or at a Catalyze college campus. Full-time roles require a time commitment of 1,700 service hours from August to June, about 40 hours per week. Many sites also offer mid-year service opportunities, which start in January and run through June. Mid-year roles are great for those who graduated from college in the winter semester and are looking for a service opportunity directly out of college.
College access coaches work with an assigned cohort of students at various partner high schools in their site region. Coaching support runs Monday through Thursday and may include in-person support, tech-connected support, or both. During a typical school week, AmeriCorps coaches manage day-to-day interactions with students while logging student engagement data into Salesforce to track student progress. Time with students is spent helping them navigate key college admissions milestones: college selection, test prep, applications, and financial aid.
College success coaches support a cohort of college students to stay on track through degree completion – typically with students spanning multiple universities and colleges. In this role, AmeriCorps coaches help students navigate common college barriers by helping them find study groups, directing them to campus and community resources, and strengthening their time-management and budgeting skills.
Pros of pursuing a gap year after graduation
Many recent college graduates across the United States are turning to volunteer service with AmeriCorps. Gap year programs like ones offered by College Possible AmeriCorps are an excellent way to channel your passion and find a career path that is best suited for you.
A successful gap year at College Possible also offers resume-boosting experience, often far exceeding that of entry-level positions in other organizations. AmeriCorps coaches learn Salesforce data management; diversity, equity and inclusion programming; conflict resolution skills; event budgeting, planning and production, and more during their year of service!
“Being a College Possible coach is something I never imagined myself doing after graduating from college,” says Edith, a college access coach. “Today, I wouldn’t want to be at any other place in my professional life than where I am right now.”
The tangible work experience gained during a College Possible AmeriCorps service year is easily transferable into any career, and the professional and personal skills needed to lead a student cohort are sought after by hiring managers across the country.
“My AmeriCorps service experience prepared me for graduate school and my career as a public health professional by allowing me to work with such a wide variety of people,” says Erin, a former college access coach. “Learning to work closely with folks who have varying personalities, communication styles, goals, skills, backgrounds, and experiences is such a valuable skill for any career.”
Additional benefits of an AmeriCorps service year
In addition to the experiential learning offered during an AmeriCorps service year, a gap year can be monetarily beneficial for recent college graduates. When you commit to a year of service as a College Possible AmeriCorps coach, not only will your qualifying student loan payments be deferred during your time of service, you’ll also be earning hours toward a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award — an award that is enough to pay an average year’s worth of loan payments.
Unlike other gap year experiences, College Possible AmeriCorps coaches receive free, full-coverage medical, vision and dental insurance during their term of service. “We also prioritize time to rest and re-energize, with 19 pre-scheduled days off throughout the year,” says DiLiesha Bryant, College Possible’s National Director of AmeriCorps Recruitment & Engagement. “This is all in addition to a complete array of benefits to support our coaches’ ongoing wellness.”
AmeriCorps coaches earn compensation in the form of an annual living allowance, paid as a biweekly living stipend. This can be used for anything, although many coaches use their stipends for rent, groceries and entertainment. In addition to a living stipend, some service sites offer additional benefits such as a transportation pass, while some Catalyze campus sites offer free or affordable housing options, or even a meal plan or discount on tuition.
With benefits like complimentary health insurance coverage and the money coaches save on student loan deferments and interest, a gap year of service with College Possible AmeriCorps is both an excellent avenue to gain valuable experience and a money-smart decision for recent college grads. Join us at an upcoming info session or browse our open positions to learn more about AmeriCorps service today!