Originally published by The Eagle on September 14, 2015.
Applications for this year’s alternative break trips are due earlier than usual so that students who apply for financial aid will receive a decision sooner, according to Tatiana Laing, the student coordinator for alternative breaks.
Sept. 20 is the deadline to apply for any of the 15 alternative break programs, which will take place during winter, spring and summer breaks. Laing said this year’s deadline is approximately one week earlier than the previous deadline. Travel grant applications for need-based aid are due by Sept. 17.
“The reason for that is to allow more time to award travel grants, which is the alternative break version of financial aid,” Laing said. “That way, people know whether they get [a grant] or not before deciding whether to go on a particular trip.”
Applicants can earn up to $500 for an alternative break program. Trips cost anywhere from $250 to $3,500, according to the alternative break website.
The student leaders are responsible for buying plane tickets, reserving meetings, booking hotels and confirming all other travel accommodations well in advance, Chris Diamond, a student leader for the alternative winter break trip to Vietnam, said. Delays in reserving plane tickets, for example, could result in an overall price increase of about $300 to $400 per student.
The earlier application deadline also allows more time for student leaders to coordinate details of the trip. Each trip requires the participation of about seven to 12 students, which means there is plenty of planning to do before the group leaves D.C, Diamond said.
“Once we have all the applications in, we spend about two weeks interviewing students,” Diamond said. “Within about three weeks of the deadline to apply, we know who’s going on our program. By that point, we have exactly two months to coordinate with people halfway around the world.”
Alternative break candidates do not officially commit to attending a program until they make the first payment, so the earlier application deadline also leaves more time to make arrangements for programs that don’t garner enough applicants, Diamond said.
The 15 trips this year, with international and domestic destinations, focus on issues of race, gender, and identity or community organizing for human rights. To find a full list of current alternative break offerings, as well as more information on how to apply, visit the Community Service Center website.