Find Volunteer Activities That Align With Your Interests By Getting CreativeWe talk a lot about what colleges and universities are looking for when evaluating applications. Grades, courses, and test scores are very important, but so are the less quantifiable elements, like activities and essays. One thing many students overlook when preparing for the admissions process is community service. Just like with other extracurricular activities, colleges want to see students participating in impactful volunteer opportunities – finding a way to give back and enhance their local community. So how do students find the right community service activities for them?
First, consider your interests. Community service should be enjoyable – you’ll get much more out of it and make a larger impact if you’re involved with something you’re passionate about. This can also help you focus your interests, and become more of a specialist in a certain area – something colleges look for. Second, consider time and impact. Don’t participate in one-off activities that aren’t very meaningful just so you can put it on your resume. Find one or two community service projects you can dedicate a few hours a week to over a long period of time. Use your talents to make an impact.
Engaging in volunteer activities is a great way to expand upon an existing passion and strengthen your profile as a future college applicant. Here are some tips for freshmen and sophomores on how to develop community service ideas. If you're interested in…
Science and the environment
You don’t have to travel far to make an impact. Does a local park have a problem with litter? Volunteer to pick up trash or help educate the community about the environmental impact of littering. If a local community center’s grounds need some sprucing up, volunteer to help beautify the area and make it more welcoming. You don’t have to join an already established volunteer project in order to make an impact. Identify a community need and come up with a way to fulfill it.
Working with children
Look into serving as a mentor for a younger student in your community who may be struggling in the classroom or at home. Simply being a friend and positive role model can make a big difference in a child’s life. Having trouble getting started? Religious leaders and elementary school teachers or principals may know of young children in need of a buddy. Also look into opportunities at a local Boys and Girls Club, community center, or other organizations that offer after-school programs.
Working with animals
Animal shelters are popular volunteer destinations, so contact local organizations if you’re interested in spending some time with animals. Guide dog training facilities also rely on volunteers but may be less of an obvious option—check them out as well!
Find a local sports camp and volunteer your time teaching your sport of choice! Likewise, maybe a younger team in your area could use an assistant coach after school or on the weekends. Volunteer your skills and talents to help others learn more about sports and help them improve. A little bit of guidance can go a long way.
Finally, while it’s great to be completing community service all throughout the school year, you may find it easier to dedicate your time during a slower academic period, such as winter break. If you’re looking to plan ahead, keep these suggestions in mind for when the holiday season rolls around. You can even recruit your family and friends to join—maybe you’ll form a new seasonal tradition! The summer is also a great time to volunteer. Take some time during a family trip to give back and continue your commitment by raising money for the cause once you return home.
You’re in a great position as an underclassman because you have plenty of time to identify and pursue whatever volunteer commitments interest you. Remember, colleges want students who show dedication to a project and follow through until the end. Here’s more information on community service and how it factors into the college application process.