Unconventional options after graduation

By Anna Bongardino, Digital Manager

This page was made possible in part by a grant from Year of Pitt Global.

We’ve all heard the dreaded, anxiety-inducing question. It’s the favorite conversation topic of every well-meaning family member you have, at every family gathering in the year or two before you graduate from college.


“What are you doing after graduation?”


They often pose the question with a smile, blissfully unaware of the internal panic it causes. There is a good chance they will expect you to talk about applying for full-time jobs or grad schools, but these certainly aren’t the only options.


I’ve spent roughly the last 10 months preparing for my graduation this April by researching more unconventional post-grad options. I’ve considered a variety options that will allow me to do some low-budget traveling and to postpone starting a full-time job — before I have things like a mortgage and a full house’s worth of furniture to tie me down. For you rising seniors and current seniors who aren’t sure what your post-grad plans look like yet, here’s a culmination of much of my research.


Become an au pair

If you want to explore a new country, to become well-acquainted with a few locals and free food and housing for anywhere from one month to a year or two, this could be a great option for you. The caveat — you need to like kids and be okay with living on a budget.


If you’re not familiar with the term, an au pair is a live-in nanny from a foreign country. It comes with benefits, like the fact that this job is as much about cultural exchange as it is about taking care of kids, so many families won’t require you to speak the language of your host country and will ask you to speak to their kids in English. The other obvious perk is free room and board. Most families will often also pay for a phone plan and health insurance in your host country. If you’re lucky, they might pay for all or part of your plane ticket as well.


On the flip side, the pay is minimal. Really minimal. Each country has different legal regulations for the amount of money au pairs must be paid each month — for example in France the normal monthly salary hovers around $90 per week, while au pairs in Australia often make around $150 per week.


But it’s free and easy to explore this option with sites like aupairworld.com, which allow you to make a profile and talk with families for free — all while allowing you to set your preferences for things like country, length of stay and kids’ ages.


Join the Peace Corps

After four years of college, many students are strapped with more student debt than they would like to think about — and often enough to force people straight into full-time jobs to start paying off their debt. While you’ve probably heard of the Peace Corps, you might not know one very important perk — it can help you with your student loans.


The Peace Corps typically requires volunteers to stay in their host country for a total of 27 months — three months of training and 24 months of service. You can apply either to a specific country or to wherever they see fit, selecting a few countries as your preference countries. Volunteers serve in the same community throughout their term of service in fields such as education, environment, community economic development, youth development and health care.


Housing, airfare and other living expenses are covered while volunteers are abroad. Upon completion of service, volunteers are given a more than $8,000 stipend to get settled back into life in the United States. For recent graduates seeking help with student loan payments, the Peace Corps offers loan deferment, forgiveness and partial cancellation for certain public loans. For those debating grad school in the future, they also have a program which offers reduced tuition and stipends at more than 90 colleges and universities throughout the United States.


Despite all of the perks, this job isn’t for everyone. For many people committing to more than two years outside their home country can be daunting, especially considering that Peace Corps volunteers are often stationed in rural areas which may lack the comforts of city life. But if you decide to pursue this post-grad option, you’re sure to learn a lot about the world and have an unforgettable experience that you wouldn’t have been able to get in a cubicle.


Volunteer with Americorps

Americorps, like the Peace Corps, is a service program sponsored by the U.S. government, but the program typically asks volunteers for three to 12 months of service somewhere in the United States, as opposed to more than two years in a foreign country.


Of course the immediate benefit to this option is that you probably won’t need to overcome a steep language barrier or cultural differences. With 21,000 locations nationwide, there are opportunities to serve all across the country, in urban, rural and suburban settings. Volunteers often work in schools, on disaster relief programs or in poverty-reduction programs.


Similarly to the Peace Corps, one undeniable benefit to Americorps is its loan forbearance program. Volunteers can ask for loan forbearance which allows them to stop making loan payments during their term of service and Americorps will often pay all or a portion of the interest of volunteers’ loans which accumulated during their service. Likewise, Americorps also gives volunteers a living stipend and an education award.



You might be wondering what exactly this acronym stands for. The answer: working weekends on organic farms. For sustainability activists and people who love the outdoors — and getting their hands a little dirty — this is the perfect option. WWOOFers work for four to six hours a day on a farm and in exchange their hosts provide free room and board.


WWOOF has programs in more than 100 countries spanning Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. There is no typical amount of time hosts and WWOOFers work together. Based upon an agreement between WWOOFers and their hosts, a stay can last a few days or a few months. For hosts looking for extra help and volunteers who are adventurous and hard-working, WWOOFing can provide a great opportunity for cultural exchange for everyone involved.


Other options worth looking into

If none of these options appeal to you, you can also considering applying to national scholarships like the Fulbright, Critical Language Scholarship or Boren Scholarship, working in a hostel, becoming a tour guide or teaching English abroad.


Whether you choose to stay in your own back yard or travel to a far corner of the world after graduation, what you do will teach you a lot about yourself, your community and the world at large.


But make sure you’re choosing what’s right for you. If you don’t want to start your career right away, there are many different ways you can fill your post-grad gap year (or two) on a budget.