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The Importance of Volunteering in College Admissions

by Kaplan Test Prep, on Jul 7, 2016 5:00:00 AM


When you think about college admissions, you probably think about the basics, like SAT or ACT scores, grades, GPA, essays, and letters of recommendation. While all of those things are undoubtedly important on your application, it’s also crucial that you start building your resume. One way to do that is by volunteering.

Volunteering may not increase your SAT or ACT scores or boost your GPA, but it can provide you with the opportunity to give back to your community, build that competitive edge you need in the college admissions process and help you stand out among other applicants.

Here are four ways volunteering can help you on your journey to college:

  1. Experience. Volunteering can provide you with some great experiences outside the classroom while also appealing to college admissions officers—especially if they read about your volunteer work in your application essay. Apart from test scores, grades, and GPA on your transcript, admissions officers also want to see who you are outside of the classroom. Volunteering allows you to showcase another side of yourself. It provides an opportunity for you to speak passionately about a cause or organization that you believe in and have dedicated some real time toward. Don’t forget to include it on your LinkedIn profile or online resume, which many future employers will go to learn more about you.
  2. Leadership. College admissions officers love to see students who are passionate leaders, and volunteering is a great way to gain some leadership experience. Instead of merely completing the mandatory service hours that may be required by your high school, take the time to research a cause that inspires you. The more inspired you are, the more likely you are to be involved and take on a leadership position. This will show admissions officers that you can meaningfully contribute to the campus community and be an active member of the student body.
  3. Scholarships. That’s right—volunteering can lead to scholarship opportunities through various organizations. Do Something, for example, offers two types of scholarships, one of which awards $10K to four lucky students. Join one of their volunteer campaigns and show how involved you are—it can pay off, big time!
  4. Networking. While volunteering, you will encounter and work with many different types of people who can help you develop professional skills in a field you may be interested in. Some of these people may even become your mentors and be in a perfect position to write your letters of recommendation for your college applications.
  5. Personal Enhancement: Don’t just volunteer to boost your resume, application, or chances of getting into college; really do your research and find something that speaks to you. Not only will this help you speak naturally and passionately about it in interviews, it will help you learn about yourself and figure out where you’d like to give back down the road.

What are the many various ways you can get involved and volunteer? Find inspiration in these examples, and remember that giving starts in your own community.

  • Last year, teens participating in Do Something recycled 1,333,135 aluminum cans that would have ended up in the landfill.
  • Over the last 25 years, New York residents have given over 1.6 million coats to be distributed among their fellow residents.
  • In one Kentucky city, volunteers collected 143,600 lbs. of fresh fruit and vegetables that would otherwise have gone to waste by gathering leftover produce from farms after harvest and day-old donations from supermarkets.
  • You can be a catalyst for giving! A study from University of California, San Diego, found that altruistic acts inspire others—up to two degrees of separation away. Your friends and your friends’ friends will all be inspired by your generous behavior and good deeds.
  • In 2012, Americans volunteered over 7.9 billion hours of service.
  • College alumni gave over $9 billion in donations back to their schools in 2013.
  • Giving back can make you happier! Researchers at Harvard and UC Riverside found that spending time or money on others releases mood-enhancing endorphins in the brain, making you happier than if you’d spent it on yourself.
  • Students who give back to their community through volunteer service hours are 19% more likely to graduate from college on time.
  • Consider this when giving to your local food drive. The most needed items in food banks are always peanut butter, tuna, and beans. 

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and volunteer! Not only will you be doing something good for others, but you’ll be helping yourself on the path to college and investing in your career. 

629bb810-8bf9-4262-af26-7906d7d34117-1.pngThis article is brought to you by Kaplan, the leader in test prep for over 90 standardized tests, including the SAT, ACT, PSAT, GRE, and MCAT. Learn more about Kaplan’s Test Prep options and start building the confidence you need for Test Day.

Topics:college admission