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Helping Others Can Help Your Child

Volunteering has a meaningful, positive effect on our communities. It can have many benefits for your child, too. It can help your child give back to society, break down barriers and even have fun.

You may have heard that volunteer experience is a plus on college applications. Keep in mind, though, that colleges are not just looking for a list of organizations and dates. They want to see a complete picture of your child, and real examples of your child’s commitment, dedication and interests.

Reasons to Volunteer

Gain Valuable Life Experiences and Skills

Whether building houses for the homeless or mailing flyers for a local politician, your child can experience the real world through hands-on work. This experience can also help your child explore major or career interests.

Meet Interesting People

Volunteering brings together a variety of people. Your child’s coworkers as well as the beneficiaries of the volunteer work can be rich sources of insight. For example, maybe your child will learn about the legal profession while visiting a former lawyer at a convalescent center.

Get Academic Credit

Some schools and colleges offer academic credit for volunteer work through service-learning. This teaching method integrates hands-on learning (through service to the community) into the curriculum. Your child can ask the school counselor whether service-learning is available.

Send a Signal to Colleges

Colleges pay attention to your child’s life inside and outside the classroom. Extracurricular activities reveal a great deal, such as what your child’s interests are, whether your child can manage priorities and maintain a long-term commitment, what diversity your child would bring to the student body, and how your child has made a contribution to something.

Keep in mind, colleges are not interested in seeing your child do it all. It’s more meaningful to colleges to see dedication to one or two activities than to see that your child has taken on too many tasks to do any of them well.

“Community service, which was required at my high school, was a big wow with interviewers. It’s even better if you can match your service with your career interest. For example, volunteer at a hospital if you’re planning on med school,” says Faith, a college student.

How to Get Involved

There are many people, places and organizations that need volunteers. Here are some tips to help your child get started:

  • Look for programs based in your community. Call and ask if they need help.
  • Visit your town’s website. It may list volunteer opportunities in your area.
  • Contact your local United Way, a local cultural arts association, your student organization, or similar associations that can point you in the right direction.
  • Ask libraries, religious organizations and community colleges if they sponsor any volunteer groups.
  • Check out the following websites to learn more about causes and to find volunteer opportunities near you.

Before Volunteering

It’s important that your child choose the right type of service — one that your child will enjoy and will have the time to do. Your child should ask these questions before getting involved with an organization.

  • How much time do I have to commit?
  • Do I want an ongoing regularly scheduled assignment, a short-term assignment or a one-time assignment?
  • Am I willing to participate in a training course?
  • What talents or skills can I offer?
  • What would I most like to learn by volunteering?
  • What don’t I want to do as a volunteer?
  • Do I want to work alone or with a group?
  • With what kind of people do I want to work — both in terms of who is receiving my services and who my coworkers might be?

Source: Collegeboard.com