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4 tips to make the most of your Peace Corps motivation statement

A woman writes at a desk

As anyone familiar with applying to jobs knows, most applications for employment include some sort of writing component. This could be a cover letter, writing samples, or even some essay questions. Your Peace Corps application includes a motivation statement, which should be about 500 words and should address the following question:

Peace Corps service presents major physical, emotional, and intellectual challenges. Please provide a few paragraphs explaining your reasons for wanting to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer and how you plan to overcome the various challenges associated with Peace Corps service.

The Peace Corps can receive anywhere from 17,000 to 30,000 applications a year, each with a motivation statement. How can you make yours stand out from that crowd? Here are a few tips.

1) Follow the prompt

It may seem obvious, but the writing prompt requests a two-part response. Many candidates focus so much on why they want to serve that they neglect to address how they might overcome the challenges of service. As detailed here, the Peace Corps application process has many places to discuss challenges associated with service. Your motivation statement will shine if you demonstrate an understanding and acknowledgement of these challenges, and show your motivation to persevere in spite of them.

2) Balanced motivation

Being a Peace Corps Volunteer comes with many benefits, all of which may be motivators. The strongest motivation statements are those that express a balance between individual benefits and benefits of serving others. Finding success as a Volunteer can be complex, so having more than one motivating factors will allow you to find resiliency when times get tough during service.

3) Write with purpose

Five hundred words is not a lot of space, so use it wisely. Many candidates confuse the motivation statement with a cover letter. While both documents encourage you to express why you want a position, a cover letter often includes resume highlights. Your placement officer will carefully review your resume, so save yourself some words and don’t rehash what we already know. Instead, focus on succinctly addressing the prompt, and let us learn about what drives your application. Three sentences probably won’t be enough to convey this information, but you also don’t want to ignore the word limit.

4) Cite specifics

Back up your assertions with examples from your past, or with research you have conducted. It is OK to share experiences that highlight your ability to face challenges or show your character. To demonstrate your research into the organization, it might be useful to reference the Peace Corps’ Core Expectations or the three goals when talking about why the Peace Corps is right for you. When taking this approach, remember that Peace Corps service is a professional setting, so be careful not to be overly personal, traumatize your reader, or share confidential medical information in your statement.

As you approach your motivation statement, remember that it is one piece of a larger application. Your motivation statement helps introduce you and your motivation for joining the Peace Corps to the placement officer. You will have more opportunities to expand on your thoughts during the interview. Our exceptional team of recruiters are available to help you with your application materials, so we encourage you to connect with them as you start your Peace Corps application process.