Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
How do college students who aspire to participate in service programs, such as Peace Corps or Teach for America, approach such participation? Previous research focuses on service programs as civic engagement while largely ignoring the transition to adulthood life course context. Using 30 in-depth interviews with juniors and seniors, I find three approaches: Enthusiasts prioritize participation as temporary and fulfilling work prior to careers. Backup Planners prefer beginning careers or graduate school but consider service programs good backup plans. Professionals view service programs as easy ways to enter their careers. While the students differ in their ability and willingness to pursue careers after graduation, all see service programs as a means to try something new, live somewhere different, and pursue personal growth before settling down into adult roles. However, class-based differences in ability to participate in these programs may have implications for graduate school, future careers, and being adrift post-college.