Scholarship and College Application Tips-Volunteering Edition
Volunteering is a crucial part of a compelling college application. However,without proper emphasis in applications or interviews you will not benefit from the experience. indeed, giving the appearance of volunteering to check a box can give the opposite impression and count against you.
I first began interviewing for college scholarships as a junior. I wrote and interviewed not knowing I was clueless about what my audience was looking for. The essay I wrote later that won a full ride scholarship through my state was of a much different character.
Several qualities are needed in order to turn experiences in volunteering into an asset in the competitive college world:
- long term commitment to volunteering
- leadership in that organization
- incorporate the experience into who you are as a person
- incorporate the experience into larger worldview and mission
- write frequently about experiences to turn experience into scholarship power
To fully capitalize on the opportunities offered by a history of volunteering requires diligence. Volunteer at a variety of humanitarian organizations through high school, preferably starting in late middle school. As a homeschooler, you have a strong advantage in time and flexibility. Being free from the constraints of an eight hour school day gives homeschoolers an edge against your traditionally educated peers. A long term record of volunteering and service will set you apart. Find an area you are passionate enough about to give a long term commitment to it.
While there may be hundreds of worthy charities some organizations will be more trendy. These types of service experiences will receive much more attention from local colleges. Note which charities align with programs popular in your area. Efforts I noticed in my area included:
- Early childhood care and education (especially for immigrants)
- Community health education and services
- Local food banquets
- Multicultural centers
Write and Journal on Volunteering Experiences to Stand out as a Scholarship Candidate
Journal, journal, journal. Write an entry after every volunteering experience. Organize your writing into themes. This is what will help you transform your experience into a powerful asset in essays and interviews. Without this, your presentation will be identical to a thousand other students who spent a summer volunteering. Don’t underestimate the power of the small moments and reflections in your experiences. Spend time reflecting on how you were changed in that moment. Were your beliefs and suppositions confirmed or challenged? was your worldview or life goal changed? Frequent writing will enable you to easily recall and discuss experiences under the pressure of a college scholarship interview.
Focus on Relationships
Develop relationships with those you serve. Come to see every person as a story. It’s up to you to learn to read them like a book. Journal about the most surprising revelations in character in those you serve. Write about how that impacted you. Develop relationships with other volunteers as well, and write notes from interesting conversations. Ask them what the most significant issues are in the populations you serve. What are the current barriers to your mission? How could you remover those barriers as a team?
Become a Student Leader in your Organization
Leadership experience is essential if you really want to stand out from the competition. Think about Eagle Scout senior projects and the level of creativity and community networking required to make the most impressive projects successful. Start small, and work your way into this. Fundraising or raising awareness of your cause is a good place to start. Who has buy-in to your organization? Who would be willing to link you with people who can help partner to allow you to be more effective? For example, a local school that serves underprivileged children partnered with a local church to help make sure they could offer each of these children breakfast in the morning if they hadn’t eaten.
Develop a Plan to Engage the World in College and Beyond
Develop a plan to bring those skills into college environment will help you stand out. Again, it is simple to write, “I was touched and inspired by my experience with Mrs. Smith at the soup kitchen.” Thousands of other students have done the same. Research what similar organizations or programs the college offers. Present yourself as a future leader in that program or effort.
In essence, this is a sales pitch on why the college should invest in your education with a scholarship. How will you help them accomplish their goals? How will you increase engagement among other students? How will you help their school stand out from the crowd and make a difference in the world.