Name: Waylon T. Square
From: Fort Covington, New York
School: Salmon River Central High School
The college admissions process is, to put it mildly, stressful. Not only
do we as students study tirelessly to keep an appealing GPA, trudge
through hours of standardized testing, and find the time to somehow
attend a hundred club meetings in a week, but now we have to devote
our last few spare hours doing volunteer work? What?! Please, I don’t
have time for that! At least, that’s what I used to think when I
spent my summers begrudgingly volunteering at a local thrift shop.
Yeah. Try spending eight hours organizing donations without air
conditioning in the middle of central Florida for five days straight,
and then talk to me about your enthusiasm for volunteer work. Anybody
up for the challenge? Mhm. That’s what I thought. So, the question
remains: why bother volunteering?
When it comes to service work, it’s important to realize that, similar
to an actual career, not all volunteer positions fit everyone. Its
one thing to just log hundreds of hours for the sake of mildly
impressing a college admissions officer, but the actual goal should
be maximizing your utility. Let’s face it: We’re high school
students. We’re busy; even if we’re procrastinating, we’re
busy. Volunteering isn’t exactly at the top of anyone’s priority
list, so finding a non-profit organization that clicks with you is
the first step to enjoying (tolerating?) volunteering. As I mentioned
earlier, I spent a couple of summers hastily completing my school’s
volunteer requirements at a local thrift shop. I did not care for it
at all, and I only showed up so the volunteer coordinator would sign
my hour’s sheet. It wasn’t until the summer before my junior year
that I found out just how enjoyable volunteering could be when I
began working for a local vet hospital. So, if you’re in the same
position as I was, try out different organizations. Don’t just
settle for an organization to rack up the hours. There’s a lot more
to volunteering than that!
Volunteering allows students to get involved with new things and develop
technical, social, and academic skills that couldn’t be learned in
a classroom environment. Whether you’re helping out at your local
library or tutoring underprivileged kids, volunteering allows you to
experience different environments and situations. I know that a lot
of us, as competitive, college-obsessed, sleep-deprived students, get
lost in the quantity of volunteer work, but it’s crucial to take a
step back from the number games. Instead of boasting about how many
hours you’ve piled up, why not talk about the things you’ve done?
Volunteering brings out new interests, hobbies, and opinions;
moreover, volunteering expands students’ horizons. As Ashley, a
rising senior, who volunteers with numerous organizations and clubs,
puts it, “If your volunteering experiences can give you something
to write or think about for your college essays, then I say it’s
done something good for you as a person, and it’ll help you overall
in your college admissions process…it should mean something to you!
Admit it: you’re pretty lucky. You’re working your way through your
high school education with intentions to move on to post-secondary
education. You assumedly have a roof over your head, food to eat, and
clothes to wear. Even if you don’t have the “best” of those,
you’ve got them. Volunteers create better environments for others;
they create healthier communities, and they brighten lives. Jill,
another rising senior, has been playing the piano for more than a
decade and the flute for seven. She volunteers by performing in
concerts for senior citizens. “We always talk with them after our
concerts, and their stories are very humbling. They make me realize
that I’m actually very lucky to know how to read and play music.
They always tell us how great we sound and how they wish that they
spent the time in their youth to learn an instrument.” As a
volunteer, she’s been able to give back to the community that
fostered her musical talents.
No matter the age, building relationships with people is crucial. Not
only does the volunteer work you do as a student show who you are as
a person, but it reflects many positive character traits that
potential employers and admissions officers want to see. Volunteering
allows you to meet a wide variety of people from all sorts of walks
of life. Networking is an amazing benefit of volunteering, and
students learn professional skills and have access to a breadth of
knowledge from their co-volunteers. Jasmine, a fellow rising senior,
volunteers at her local free clinic, where she’s the assistant
administrative coordinator. “Some of the doctors and volunteers
there have become my mentors, letting me shadow them or giving me
general life advice about interacting with people and education.
Interacting with new types of people, though extremely difficult, has
developed my people skills.” Through her volunteer work, she’s
not only become an integral part of the clinic itself, but she’s
gained a lot of valuable insights, skills, and experiences.
Volunteering isn’t one of the most plush, easy, or glamorous of jobs, but it is
one of the most beneficial and uplifting. While no monetary
compensation is received, many will tell you that their work and
experiences gained as a volunteer were worth way more than any money
they could have gotten from another line of work. Think of it like
this: volunteering is done on a person’s own accord. It’s taking
some time out of your day and helping others. Volunteer work makes us
feel good. It builds self-confidence and lifts up the spirits. As
Jill puts it, “students these days are getting caught up in the
number of hours they store up doing something that they don’t care
about, and not only is the meaning behind the actions lost, but the
charity becomes a chore. So yes, do it, but do what you want to do
and because you want to do it.” That couldn’t be truer. It’s
crucial to have a strong connection to your volunteer work.
Basically, you get out of it what you put into it.
Charity work gives students opportunities to test out a desired career path.
Concurrently, it gives them an edge on their resume. Getting involved
with an organization that shares similar ideals and interests is an
important step for students. At a young and pretty inexperienced age,
volunteering is an excellent gateway to the workforce. By gaining new
experiences and creating new connections, volunteers are able to
better visualize themselves in that field and explore the daunting
question: can I see myself doing this for life? And, even if the
organization you do get involved with has nothing to do with your
intended career path, it might end up surprising you. While I wasn’t
such a fan of my early high school summers of volunteering, I was
still able to make the most out of my situation by learning how to
problem solve, work more efficiently, and deal with unwanted
environments. Even though I know that I don’t want to follow a
similar career path, I strengthened a lot of skills necessary for my
own future career. So, take a chance by getting outside of the
beloved comfort zone through volunteer work.
As if I would end this article without going back to this hot mess.
Unfortunately for us, we live in a pretty competitive world. College
admissions has become much more than GPAs, test scores, and letters
of recommendations. You, as a highly motivated and worried
college-bound student, already know that. Volunteering, while it
won’t raise your GPA or add 20 points to your SAT score, will give
you a plethora of other things, like experiences, connections, and
most importantly, a voice. So, get out there and get involved. Stop
stressing about the number of hours, and start having fun. Yes,
volunteering can be fun. Don’t worry; I was surprised too.
Remember: volunteer work is meant to be more than what most make it
out to be. Your high school years are stressful. Don’t let
something as constructive and vital slip through the cracks!