So you are considering post-graduate service as an option after graduation … .

What exactly is post-graduate service?

Post-graduate service is a short-term, minimally compensated position designed to serve the common good.  Typically, limited to a one to two-year commitment, service organizations sometimes provide for basic living arrangements through a stipend, training, and hands-on community work. 

Why might you consider post-graduate service?

  • Post-graduate service allows you to serve and become an integral part a community -- better understanding your role as an ally and a change maker in a new setting.
  • Post-graduate service can give you a new opportunity to enhance your experiences and skill sets while making a difference through challenging community-based work.
  • Post-graduate service may allow you to become a stronger applicant for graduate school or for a job in a particular career field. 

What is post-graduate service going to cost?

The U.S. government, private organizations, and faith-based organizations often pay for you to have these opportunities. Compensation generally allows you to be able to live VERY simply. If you are serving domestically, you may be eligible for federal benefits such as food stamps. If you have very specific needs or cannot commit to at least a year, you may need to shoulder some of the costs of your experience.

Can you defer your loans?

Depending on your organization and the type of work, you may be able to defer your loans. You are encouraged to speak with both the Grinnell College Financial Aid Office as well as with the organization with whom you plan to work about the options you may have.

The Lutheran Volunteer Corps has a very good reference guide about post-graduate service and loans: Managing Student Loans During your Year of Service.

What questions should you ask yourself as you look for a post-graduate service program?

  1. What kind of work am I currently qualified to do? (Think realistically and ethically. For example, should you really perform health related tasks abroad that you are not qualified to do in the U.S.?)
  2. Given my qualifications, in what fields would I most like to to make a difference? What might I be able to do in these fields?
  3. When imagining my next steps, what areas of experience do I need to enhance?
  4. Weighing what I have to offer and what I need to learn, what social issues lend themselves to my needed intersections?

What is important to you? Create a personal guide!

On a scale from 1 (not at all important) to 5 (very important) rate the following factors and make notes in the box that matches your rating.


Not important at all

Not that important


Somewhat important

Very Important

In what kind of setting would you like to work — rural, urban, domestic, international?
Length of Service
How long would you like to serve — a few months, 1 year, 2 years?
Support Benefits
What kind of support will you need — housing, stipend, insurance, moving expenses, loan deferment?
Additional Benefits
Do you have any unique benefit desires — post service hiring preference; travel, visa, or housing arrangements made on your behalf; etc.?

What resources would you like to be close to — healthcare, family, friends, transportation, entertainment, etc.?

Does the mission of the organization match your values and personal/professional/civic goals?
  • Do any of the factors above strike you as vital to your success as a post-grad volunteer? Weight them a bit more!
  • Based on what you learned from the table above and using the search engines below you are now better able to identify organizations that best fit your criteria.

You may search for post-graduate service opportunities here:

  1. CVN Post-Graduate Service Search Engine (contains both Catholic and non-Catholic opportunities)
  2. Stanford FISP Database (contains fellowship opportunities beyond post-grad service)

Which programs have been most interesting to past graduates?

There is a vast range of post-graduate service opportunities that may interest you. Here are five options that have been popular choices for our graduates:

  1. Peace Corps
  2. AmeriCorps
  3. Lutheran- Volunteer Corps
  4. Blue Engine 
  5. AVODAH Service Corps

For more information, contact Keira Wilson or Susan Sanning.