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Volunteer in Your Community, Help Pay for College

Your volunteer work could lead you to lucrative scholarships.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

November 23, 2021

Your volunteer work could help you win scholarships, get into your dream school, and most importantly, change you for the better.
Volunteer in Your Community, Help Pay for College
‘Tis the season for giving, and if you’re a high school or college student, we’re not just talking about giving gifts to family and friends. We’re talking about giving your time. Volunteer work is almost a requirement these days on college applications, and there is no better time to start volunteering than during the holiday season. From soup kitchens to Salvation Army bell ringers, non-profit organizations need all of the help they can get. You can then include your volunteer experience on college and scholarship applications alike. Plus, you may hit the jackpot and learn more about yourself and helping the world around you.
If you need help – or a little push – to find volunteer work in your area, check out our guide below for finding and making the most of your time giving to others.

Where to find volunteer opportunities.

If you’ve never volunteered before, it can be daunting to try and find an opportunity on your own. However, you’ll find it’s very easy. First, you can find volunteer opportunities by talking with your guidance counselor or various clubs and organizations on campus. Typically, they have a list of places that students have served with in the past, or they’ve been contacted by organizations with a call for students to help.
If you can’t find anything locally, there is a great website that can actually match you to volunteer opportunities in your area. Volunteer Match has experiences specifically for students, and you can narrow your search by location. Finally, College Transitions lists national organizations that are open to high school volunteers. You will see many national, well-known non-profit organizations listed here. If you want to volunteer with a big name and potentially do work on a national level (which would look great on your resume, by the way), this is a great place to start your volunteer work search.

Make the call – or send an email.

After you’ve found organizations that interest you, it’s time to make the call to talk about volunteering. For this call, or email, this is what you should say: Hello, I’m ____________, and I’m a student with [Insert the name of your high school or college]. I have been looking for volunteer work to in order to give back to my community and get some work experience for my resume/brag sheet. Do you have a need for volunteers right now? Throughout the conversation, you may have follow-up questions like: What would I be doing, and would it change each time? How many hours would I be expected to volunteer? Do you prefer volunteers on weekends or weeknights? Can I change my volunteer schedule to work around my homework/extracurriculars as needed?

Show up and work hard.

Once you’ve secured your volunteer work, show up and put in the effort each time you’re there. Organizations work hard to care for others, and they need volunteers who understand and are compelled by their mission. Ultimately, you’ll find that you’re working toward something bigger than yourself. Be on time, and if you need to cancel, give them plenty of notice so that they can find another volunteer to fill your space. Additionally, be kind to everyone you meet, and don’t act like you’re too good to be there. Your attitude is just as important as the work you put in. Why? Because colleges and scholarship committees are more likely than not to follow up on your experience. You never know when an admissions officer or scholarship judge will call up that non-profit and ask how you contributed. Plus, your manager in these roles is a great contact for future letters of recommendation, and they are not going to recommend a student that slacked off or didn’t seem to care. They’re going to recommend students that were passionate, responsible, and hard-working. So just be that.

Discuss your experience after the fact.

Admissions officers and scholarship committees love to hear how volunteer experiences shaped their applicants – so talk about it! The good, the bad, the ugly – all of it. These committees want to see applicants who have contributed to the greater good and have learned something along the way. Talk about people, events, or circumstances throughout your volunteer time that taught you something about the world or yourself. Utilizing these experiences in college application and scholarship essays could actually help you earn more scholarship money. They could contribute to the merit aid package that you receive from a school because they love and want to attract well-rounded students. It could also be what sets you apart from other applicants as you compete for scholarships. Get the ball rolling on your volunteer work now. Find an organization that you would love to work with, reach out to them, and put in time and effort. It could be more than just filling up a few hours of your week: it could help you win scholarships, get accepted into that dream school, and most importantly, change you for the better. Don’t forget to apply for scholarships, even while you’re busy volunteering your time. Make a plan to apply for a few quick and easy scholarships each week. Most of these you can apply for in two minutes or less.

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