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Four ways to ace the short answer responses on your City Year application

Tips for our application’s short answer section

As you make your way through the City Year application, you may find it challenging to respond to the short-answer questions. Fear not! We’re here to help. Here are some tips to help you tell your story and communicate your motivation to join City Year.

These suggestions are not a comprehensive list, nor are you expected to incorporate all of them in your short answer response. Rather, they provide a helpful starting point to get you one step closer to serving with City Year.

Lead with your passion.

We want to know what inspires you — and we know that inspiration takes many forms. 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 to support students and schools 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 staff 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 where applicants tell their stories of service or their perseverance through challenges. Tell us your story and how that connects to your desire to join City Year. Be yourself. Your voice and lived experience matter to us.

Bring your resume to life.

Your answer 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 experience 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. Your service year should and will help you grow and learn. 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. Expressing what you will bring to the team is important for us in understanding your motivation to serve.

Additionally, keep in mind the communities and students we serve. This work can be difficult and at times exhausting, but it can also be inspiring and life-changing. Giving students your best self every day is important to our mission of helping students achieve at high levels, set meaningful goals and realize their full potential. When times get tough for our students, they need to know that you will be there with the same energy and commitment on the challenging days along with the great ones.

Using these tips, show us who you truly are and why you want to dedicate a year of your life to serve others. 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!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2018 and was written by Michael Harper, City Year Northeast Regional Admissions Manager. It was updated and reposted April 2019.

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