A common misconception when you accept a waitlist invitation is that you don’t have to fulfill any of the tasks in the “Prepare for Peace Corps Service” email and you can put off tackling items in the checklist until you are activated from the waitlist. This is not true – not following these guidelines will affect your candidacy for that program and may even result in the withdrawal of your application. When you accept a waitlist invitation, you are making a commitment to be ready to serve by the departure date and this entails accomplishing all tasks by the stated deadlines.
If and when the time calls for it, you must be ready to go and receiving clearance for departure takes time. For instance, passing the legal background check usually takes three months from fingerprint submission. Depending on your unique health history, your personal set of tasks outlined by the Office of Medical Services will require planning for doctor’s appointments and sufficient time for these forms to be submitted and reviewed by OMS. Follow-up appointments may be requested, then a second submission and another OMS review will be necessary.
So let’s say you accepted a waitlist invitation for a program in fictional Zomba, which departs August 2016. As the placement specialist for this country, I will revisit the original invitee roster in July to review who is medically and legally cleared to go. It is only in this review that I find out about the handful of non-waitlist invitees who for some reason did not receive those clearances and will not be able to leave for Zomba. This is when I will also see who in the waitlist is ready to fill these spots. Therefore, following this same example, when I call you – the waitlist invitee – you should be medically and legally cleared because you submitted all the necessary forms weeks ago.
This imaginary timeline is a real scenario as often final decisions about waitlist invitees are not made until approximately five weeks prior to the departure date. In fact, one common reason a waitlist candidate is activated is because an actual invitee did not receive clearance for service five weeks prior to the departure date.
So if there’s a lesson in all this, it’s this: To maximize your chances of serving, don’t slack on your pre-departure checklist! The benefits are varied:
- If a spot opens up, you can fill it because you’re already cleared for service.
- If you are unable to be activated for that class and expressed an interest in serving anywhere, you may have another invitation possibility for a program that needs your skills and is also departing soon.
- If you did not receive an invitation for service and you choose to reapply, you will already have many documents on file that may not expire for another year and could save you time should you be invited this second time around.
Fulfilling all those tasks also speaks to your commitment to service and this is something Peace Corps and the placement office strongly value.
Mariana Andrade-Bejarano is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Madagascar from 2011-13. She is a proud Patriot, having attended George Mason University for her undergraduate studies, and now calls Washington, D.C. and Falls Church, Va. her home after multiple travels post-service. This article was originally posted on the Peace Corps Passport blog.