by Michael Harper, City Year Northeast Regional Admissions Manager

As you make your way through the City Year application, you may find it challenging to respond to the short answer questions. Fear not! I’m here to help. Here are some tips to help you communicate your motivation to join City Year and how you believe this experience would connect with your career goals.

These tips are not a comprehensive list, nor are you expected to incorporate all of these tips in your short answer responses. However, if you provide answers using a combination of these tips, you’re off to a great start and one step closer to potentially serving with City Year.  

Get back to the basics.

We can start with the obvious, which is proper grammar and spelling. Because the answers are short, grammar, punctuation and spelling are often taken for granted. Don’t be that person! Crafting your answers thoughtfully sets the tone for the content of your responses and shows that you’re taking the application seriously. Remember, you’re applying to be a mentor for students. Show us that you’re able to model the positive work habits we hope to instill in our students. Always have another set of trusted eyes review your answers before hitting submit.

Lead with your passion.

Show your passion. We want to know what inspires you – and we know how that inspiration takes many forms. But, if you have a passion for serving others through a cause greater than yourself, here is your chance to tell us all about it. We want to know what brought you to City Year and why our mission particularly resonates with you. What attracted you to City Year over other opportunities? How does the opportunity to serve with City Year connect to your core values?

Tell your story.

Admissions professionals at City Year read countless applications over the course of the year. Stories are more memorable than bullets on a resume. Personally, what strikes me most are short answer responses that introduce remarkable stories of service or perseverance through challenges in an applicant’s life. Tell us your story and how that connects to your desire to join City Year.

Bring your resume to life.

The short answers can add vibrancy and context to your qualifications and experiences. Explain how your past experiences have prepared you to serve as a City Year AmeriCorps member. If you have experiences with serving on teams, working with children, volunteering, tutoring or mentoring, we definitely want to hear about it. Be specific; details and tangible examples will help illustrate your work and achievements. If you can explain how those experiences align with City Year’s work and have prepared you to serve with us, even better!

Remember why we serve.

You may want to serve with City Year for personal benefit (i.e. the experience you’ll gain, building your resume, the Segal Education Award, etc.), and there is nothing wrong with that. Still, it’s vital that you understand your service year isn’t exclusively about you. We have a saying at City Year: “Never forget the human element of our work.” We are a team-based organization at every level, and as an AmeriCorps member you will be working and serving with a team of fellow AmeriCorps members.  Understanding what you bring to a team and the value you’ll gain is important to show in your motivation to serve.

Additionally, keep in mind the communities and students we serve. This work is difficult and at times exhausting, but giving students your best self every day is important to our mission of providing constant support in the lives of young people. When times get tough for our students, they need to know that you will be there with the same energy and commitment on the bad days along with the great ones.

Connect your service experience to your long-term goals.

You’ll be asked to explain how serving with City Year fits into the trajectory of your life. Tell us about who you are as a person, how you got there and where you plan to go. While serving with City Year, you will gain experience and skills in leadership, public speaking, teamwork, tutoring and mentoring to name a few. Tell us how you think those experiences will aid and prepare you to achieve your long-terms goals.

Using these tips, show us who you are and why you want to serve. If you take the time to reflect with us, share your story and display your commitment to the City Year mission, you’ll be well on your way to submitting a City Year application you can be proud of! 

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