Many college graduates are looking for an interlude when they can serve others, enhance personal growth and/or explore different cultures and geographic locations, prior to embarking upon a serious career journey. While also helping grads to develop skills and contacts which will serve them well in their ultimate career, volunteer service can provide many of these rewards. Volunteer opportunities come in many flavors with key differences in costs and benefits. Here are some of my favorite options gleaned from 30 years of experience in the career development field. AmericanCorps is often thought of as the internal Peace Corps for the USA. This huge umbrella organization encompasses scores of agencies and thousands of opportunities. Volunteers work in a broad spectrum of public service sectors including community development, children and youth, education, environment, health, homelessness, housing, hunger, and eldercare. There is no fee for participating in these programs. Participants receive a stipend to cover living expenses, health coverage, and an education award at the end of service, which can help repay loans or fund future studies. Peace Crops is a branch of the U.S government which engages volunteers in international service projects. Volunteers work in areas like agriculture, health, youth and community development, education, HIV/AIDS, the environment, and food security.

Post graduate volunteer opportunities

Participants perform service in Asia, Central and South America, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Mexico, and the Pacific Islands. During their term of service, volunteers must commit to 27 months of service, though they receive 2 days of vacation per month of service and many participants return home or travel internationally. There are no fees to participate and volunteers receive a living allowance, medical/dental coverage, travel to and from their volunteer site, deferment/cancellation of some loans, and a transition award of $7,425 after completing their service. WorldTech is a non-profit organization which provides graduates with yearlong teaching opportunities in 15 countries including Thailand, China, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Micronesia, Tanzania, the Marshall Islands, Guyana, and American Samoa. Volunteers teach English, math, science, computer skills, HIV/Aids education, and general elementary education. Participants are required to raise funds to help pay for program costs and are furnished with materials to facilitate this process. Volunteers are provided with room, board, health coverage, and a modest stipend to meet day-to-day expenses. City Year operates educational support programs in over 20 cities nationwide. Corp members sign on for 10 months during which they provide one-on-one or small group tutoring before, during, and after school to children in third through ninth grade. Volunteers also lead and organize after school activities, celebrations, and projects to improve the community and school environment. There are no fees to participate. Volunteers receive a stipend to help cover living expenses and an education award of approximately $5500 at the end of their experience to repay loans or fund future educational endeavors. Health insurance, federal loan deferment, childcare coverage, and a cell phone are also provided. There are much more opportunities for all the volunteers.