Sunday, October 19, 2008

Volunteering: Using Your Passion to Find Unique Opportunities

Volunteering is one of those things that college admission officers are supposedly keen on seeing on applications. Yet I suspect these admission officers are rather good at spotting the less-than-wholehearted volunteering that many high school students do.

What do I mean by this? I mean the routine volunteering that obviously was done as part of a group (no initiative on the student’s part) or volunteering that is the same-old as everyone else, such as collecting food items for a food pantry. Yes, a food drive is a good thing to do, but it probably doesn’t count as much of a volunteer activity in the eyes of college admission officers.

What should you do to show wholehearted volunteering? Take your passion and see if you can use this interest as a basis for volunteering.

Here are some ideas:

You love playing the piano, but you take piano lessons like thousands of other high school students. To distinguish yourself from the pack, you volunteer every Saturday morning to perform show tunes at the retirement home near where you live. The retirement home residents are thrilled by the entertainment, and you’re thrilled to do a volunteer activity of something you love

Or you love knitting scarves and hats for your friends. You find out that a women’s group has a project of knitting scarves and hats for a local homeless shelter. You volunteer to attend the weekly “knitting meetings” where you knit these items and learn from the women in the group.

Or you spend all your free time with a basketball and a net. But your mother says you better find some volunteer activity. You go to the local youth center and volunteer to coach young children on basketball skills.

What ideas do you have for combining your passion and volunteering into a project that you initiate and that differentiates you from the pack in the eyes of college admission officers?

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