When you apply to college, admissions officers aren't looking at only your GPA and test scores. While this criteria is certainly important, there are other factors that will be taken into consideration when making a decision on whether or not you'll be accepted.
One of these things is your volunteer experience as well as your involvement in extracurricular activities. As a high school student, you should take the time to do these activities, so your application stands out more for college admission.
Potential Volunteer Opportunities
If you're interested in volunteering, you'll first need to narrow down what type of volunteer opportunity is right for you. First, you can think about what interests you. Next, you can think about what you're hoping to study in college.
For instance, if you're interested in working in the medical or biology field, then you should consider doing hospital volunteer work. This will give you a chance to learn about what goes on in the hospital environment to prepare yourself for what you'd be studying in college.
If you're interested in going into another type of field, perhaps teaching, then it would be wise to take on a volunteer opportunity in the education field. You could volunteer at the local library, tutoring children or reading to them, or do a buddy-program with younger students in your school district.
Specific Volunteer Programs
In general, there are three ways to go about volunteering. This first way is to get involved in volunteer programs through your school. Some schools are very involved in the local community, and there are likely some volunteer opportunities you can join. Of course, this means that you might not be volunteering in a specific niche.
If you do want to volunteer in a specific niche, you can sign up to volunteer at an organization or institution. Some ideas are to ask around at a local church, an animal shelter, the Boys & Girls Club of America or the library. You can volunteer in the library itself, or check the bulletin boards for local opportunities.
Creating Your Own Volunteer Program
The third type of volunteer program is one you can create yourself. If you don't find an organization or program that speaks to your interests, you can always launch your own volunteer plan. Not only will this benefit you and the people you'd be helping, but it will also demonstrate to college admissions counselors that you have leadership skills and the ability to take initiative.
For example, if you'd like to volunteer in sports, but you cannot find an opportunity, you could host a monthly sports day that links volunteers with kids in the community who want to play.
What Are Community Service Opportunities?
Community service opportunities are another way to volunteer, but they are a bit different. According to Go Overseas, community service or service learning is an opportunity that tends to be more structured by requiring volunteers to learn and implement a specific skill in order to make a difference working toward a specific goal. Volunteering might be a one-time thing that anyone can do at any time.
Community service organizers work with students who are trying to accumulate a certain amount of hours and may be required to make a longer commitment than a volunteer. For those doing community service, it's not really up to them when they want to volunteer but when they are needed by the organization.
Volunteers, on the other hand, usually can choose to help out when it's convenient for them. That doesn't necessarily mean that community service volunteers are making more of an impact than volunteers, but it's important to note the difference and which one makes more sense for you.
Getting Involved in Extracurricular Activities
In addition to doing community service and volunteering, it's also a good idea to get involved in extracurricular activities. According to Prepscholar, extracurricular activities can be "almost anything you are actively and productively involved in." It could be sports, community service and volunteering, employment, arts, hobbies and/or academic activities. It could be an after school club, a team you've joined or a youth group at your religious center.
Unfortunately, not all students have the ability to get involved in extracurricular activities. But Prepscholar says that you can use this for your college application as well. For example, if you must come home right after school to help your mom take care of a younger sibling, or go to a job to help bring in money for your family, that can also be seen as an extracurricular activity, even though it's nontraditional. Use it to your advantage.
Most importantly, colleges want to see that you are doing more than just going to school and coming home. They want to see your consistent involvement in these opportunities as well, so that it's clear you did it not just for your application but for the experience.