How to Pick the Right Volunteer Opportunities for Your Goals
Many students add community service to their high school to-do list but struggle to pinpoint where to start. Whether it's volunteering at a soup kitchen, frequenting a senior citizen center, or coaching youth soccer, there are a variety of different ways for students to make an impact.
In order to make the most of your volunteering experience, it’s essential to secure opportunities that relate to your interests and passions. Keep reading to learn how to discover community service options that will truly resonate with you.
Do Your Research
Instead of signing up for the first volunteer position you see, take time to do your research and evaluate multiple options. It’s important to select a community service activity that relates to your interests and goals. Consider several different pursuits and weigh the time commitment associated with each. Just like any other extracurricular activity, it’s important to be reliable and fully commit to your community service endeavors.
Prioritize Your Interests
If you are at a loss for how to get started, come back to your interests. Write down a list of 3-5 passions that you’d like to prioritize and seek out opportunities that align with these interests. Students who are interested in music may wish to volunteer teach at a local summer camp while those focused on sustainability can opt to work at a co-op or greenhouse. The more interested you are in your volunteer position, the more impact the opportunity is likely to have.
Explore Your Options
Take time to weigh a handful of different pursuits before committing to a community service activity. In addition to consulting web pages and resources at your high school, consider reaching out to friends to get a feel for the different activities they are doing. While it’s best not to choose an activity simply because a peer is doing it, chatting with friends can be a valuable way to gain inspiration and consider opportunities that weren’t previously on your radar.
Seek Out Learning Opportunities
While your primary goal should be giving back to your community, there’s no harm in aiming to expand your skill set at the same time. There are many volunteer positions that can also prove to be valuable learning opportunities for students looking to diversify their abilities. For example, a volunteer who chooses to work in communications for a local non-profit may have the chance to learn PhotoShop while working on the organization’s email newsletter. Pinpoint a handful of competencies you are curious about and seek out opportunities that will enable you to learn and grow.
Reflect on Your Experience
Once you’ve selected a volunteer pursuit, continue to check in with yourself from time to time to evaluate your experience and what you are taking away from the opportunity. Some students may draw on community service experiences when writing their college admissions essays and supplements, so strive to find something that is meaningful and that you could envision yourself potentially writing about.
It can be beneficial to keep a diary during your volunteer experience so that you can come back to what you were feeling and thinking at the time. Journaling about your experience can also be an excellent way to reflect on what you are learning, any challenges you are currently facing, and how you hope your role evolves in the future.
There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for volunteer activities. Instead, students should reflect on their passions and pinpoint opportunities that align with their interests and goals. If you are currently researching community service options and looking for specialized input, our team of college admissions experts can provide personalized guidance.