Have your eye on a specific country you want to volunteer in? Following these tips will help you get your application quick ( which is really the key to snagging a spot in one of your top preferences!)
When trying to pick which country to volunteer in for a semester with International Language Programs, you’ve got a tough choice ahead of you.
Does serving in Europe while spending your vacation days in places like Paris, Rome, and Madrid sound like your dream? Or would you rather be volunteering in Central America and get the chance for some high adventure zip lining and volcano boarding? Or maybe you have your heart set on spending weekends on safari.
Whatever you're dreaming up, the first step is to just send in your application to be an ILP volunteer!
Not an ILP volunteer yet?
Here's how to apply
Once you've picked a few countries you're most interested in (advice on that below), that's where these tips come in — following these tips can boost your chances of grabbing a spot in one of your top countries (no matter where you want to go):
- Tips Picking Your Top Countries
- How Early Should I Apply?
Do I Get To Choose Where I Go?
- The Scoop On Waiting Lists
- What If I Get Assigned To A Place That Wasn't My First Choice?
- What If I'm Not Totally Sure I Can Go?
Tips For Picking Your Top Countries
There are quite a few countries to choose from, and narrowing down which ones you'd like to volunteer in can be a little bit daunting!
First, I'd take a peek at all the country options, found on the ILP website. I'd look into each one, because there's more to your ILP experience than just the location! Bigger or smaller group sizes, vacation options, the kind of service you are doing, etc. are all factors of choosing the right country for you. I'd recommend this post that might help you with that decision.
Another handy resource is the @ilptakeovers account where volunteers in-country feature what a typical day is like for them, in each of our locations. Seeing where volunteers live, what the food is like, etc can also be a big help deciding.
Once you've picked a few countries you're most interested in, follow the steps below:
How Early Should I Apply?
There aren't deadlines, so you can apply when you're ready. But really, no matter where you’re looking to make a difference, we recommend applying early because we're limited on how many volunteers we can send each semester. But how early?
Know When Applications Open
We accept applications up to 18 months in advance, with a new semester or two opening every March 1st and September 1st and January 1st (or so) ... and yes, we do have volunteers apply that early!
You can sign up here to get an email when we are about to open up applications (we send this email out first, before posting on social media or any other platforms, so you can get a bit of a head start).
Even if you don't apply a year or year and half in advance, we still recommend getting your application in as soon as you can. The quicker your application is in, the faster you can complete the document needed, which is the crucial step that happens before you get your country assignment.
Then, Complete Your Application
So if you have even a hunch for what semester and country you will be able to go, we recommend just completing the application process so you can be ready to be assigned to your country, if it's a sooner (or later) semester.
Pro tip: you can actually get all the way through to acceptance without having to pay a cent. Just ask your representative about how you can get the application fee waived.
Do I Get To Choose Which Country I Go To?
Yes — with some longer explanations attached to that answer.
When you apply, you'll be accepted for a particular semester. Then, we'll talk to you about which countries you're most interested in going to and do our best to get you there. However, assignments do depend on the availability that we have at the time you apply (which is why we recommend applying early).
How The Numbers Work
In all of our countries, the schools have requested a specific number of volunteers for each semester based on how many students they have attending. In some countries, we have schools that ask for only 4 teachers for each semester. In other countries, there can be multiple groups of 20+ volunteers. It depends on the country, the semester, and the needs of the schools.
If you have more country locations you'd be willing to go to (instead of just picking one), you can really help increase your chances of being able to go during that semester.
What’s The Scoop On Wait Lists?
Remember the numbers we ran through above, that schools need a set number of volunteers per semester? Wait lists come into play when we have more volunteers wanting to go that country then the school needs. But don't panic! Being put on a waiting list doesn't mean your chances of going to that country are ruined — here's a little more about the process to help explain things:
About The Process
There are certain documents that need to be turned in even after your acceptance before you can be assigned to a country. We usually encourage you to get these completed within 24-48 hours of being accepted. In fact, if you do, you can sometimes even sneak ahead of people who have been accepted for a longer time, but who have been taking their time getting in their docs or are still deciding if volunteering is a good fit for them that semester. Don't worry—your representative will help you through the whole process and answer any questions you have!
If you get all of those documents turned in, and your representative lets you know there's currently a waiting list for the country that was your first preference, do not panic. This is a part of the process that happens to more volunteers than you would expect (and quite a few volunteers on a wait list end up getting a spot in that country).
Every semester we have volunteers who switch semesters or are on waitlists for multiple countries, so when they get their assignment, it shifts all of those other waitlists. Because of this, wait lists are regularly changing (which may lead to you getting a spot in one of your dream countries).
+ Get More Info
As a heads up, you can be on as many waiting lists as you would like to be on. If you are placed on a waiting list, your assigned representative will also send you an email with a lot more info for all of the frequently asked questions about wait lists.
You can also read this post for a ton more info about the wait lists and how they work, plus what your options are if you get put on one. It's a handy post.
What If I Get Assigned To A Place That Wasn't My First Choice?
First, A Little Background
Throughout the application process and even the documents required before assignment, you'll be asked several times what countries you'd like to go to, and your order of location preferences. Our Assignment Team really wants to help you get to a country that you're excited about, so we suggest researching a few options you'd really like to go to.
One of our volunteers, @jill_brinton18, said that when she first applied for ILP, she wanted to go to the Dominican Republic. When we were not able to offer her a spot there for that semester, she decided to take one of the open spots in Romania instead, after looking into that unique program. Jill told us, "I've never regretted it. For sure my best decision of this whole process." Don't forget that! There is something unique and special about every one of our country locations, so keep an open mind when choosing your country locations.
+ This Insider Tip
Remember, you can go back as an alumni with huge discounts, or even for free as a Head Teacher in the standard exchange countries — we've had volunteers have their eyes set at one country, and end up volunteering somewhere else, then go back to Head Teach in that first preference country.
What If I’m Not Totally Sure I Can Go?
Like we mentioned earlier, we still recommend applying. There are volunteers who wait on applying, then decide they do want to go, and all of their top country spots are already filled, or they can't volunteer for the semester they had originally planned on. Don't let that be you!
We regularly have volunteers who change their minds and/or plans which is why we've made it simple to defer to a different semester if you still want to go but the dates don't work for you anymore.
If you are under the age of 18 at the time you're applying, we will need your parents to sign the consent form before you can be accepted, so make sure you talk about it with them, too. If they are hesitant at all, especially about safety or the authenticity of our program, we always have representatives in our office during open hours who are more than happy to talk about their own experiences and to answer any questions. Chances are that our parents had the same fears and concerns!
We want you to feel completely informed while you're applying for our program, and that often just involves having conversations with our office staff and asking all the questions you can think of.
Ready to start the application process?
We're here to help you through the whole thing. We can speak from first-hand experience—this will be a life-changing and unforgettable opportunity no matter where you end up serving and traveling! Click the button below to get started: