I’ll admit that no matter how cynical I’m feeling about our political process by the time Election Day rolls around (so many negative ads!), I always get a buzz when I actually go to the polls and vote. There’s something about this moment of actual, physical engagement with our democracy—it excited me when I was 18, and it still does.
Of course, citizenship and public service aren’t just something you think of (or do!) every four years. All of us participate in the life of our communities in some way, and some pursue careers dedicated to public service. Whether that means working in government, the military, the law, non-profits, policy, public health, journalism, or any number of other fields, you can use your strengths to serve the public good.
As you plan your education and career, keep in mind that there are often scholarships and fellowships available to support students who plan public service careers.
A good example is the prestigious Truman Scholarship [Truman.gov]. Students apply during their junior year of college and must be nominated by their universities; applicants must plan a career in public service (defined as government, the non-profit sector, or education). The award provides $30,000.
For students who plan a career in the Foreign Service, the Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship provides a combination of funding (up to $40,000/year), internships and mentoring. The undergraduate fellowship provides funding for the senior year of college and first year of a grad program, and the graduate fellowship covers two years of a master’s program.
If you’re planning to earn a law degree and intend to pursue public interest law, there are frequently scholarships to support your studies. Research scholarship opportunities at each law school you’re considering to see whether you’ll need to submit any additional application materials. The American Bar Association also provides a listing of public interest funding.
Opportunities that combine service, education, and work can often come with benefits for your future education and career. AmeriCorps participants earn education awards and can defer student loan payments (americorps.gov). And programs like Teach For America combine regular salaries and benefits with AmeriCorps awards and other benefits (teachforamerica.org).
Wherever your future goals take you, remember to vote Tuesday! (I’ll be proudly wearing my “I voted” sticker!)
By Dr. Rebecca Blustein, author of Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School. Rebecca will be happy to assist you with your grad school applications.