Are college coaches more interested in teens who look good on paper, or who are growing, becoming strong leaders, and broadening their horizons before landing at college?
WHY: Look good on a college application? Stand out from the other students & athletes? It’s not wrong to want to do volunteer work, or community service, for these reasons, but it is also important to ask yourself if these are the only reasons. Coaches and admissions offices want to recruit and admit students who have had experiences that distinguish them from others, but also want to see that student-athletes are growing, becoming stronger leaders, and widening their perspectives before arriving at college. It is clear to coaches and admissions offices that community service hours are a strong indicator of these qualities. BUT, if this is the only reason you volunteer, they will see through this. Volunteering is more than the number of hours on a resume. The story you tell from the impact the community has on you is what will make you stand out. Learning from service is how you will truly stand out.
What: Community service, or volunteering, can take many different forms, and it should. Find opportunities in your area that match your interests and passions. You do not need to create or make up opportunities, in fact, the best thing you can do is reach out to local organizations to find out what help THEY need. It may not look the way you thought the “perfect” community service opportunity would, and it might not be the “picturesque Instagram moment,” but that truly is not the point. The point is to be involved in real impact-based service, and learn FROM and WITH your community. Work within the system, find local opportunities. Learning from service is how you will truly stand out.
How: Humility. Practice service with humility. Volunteer with humility. Can you go into volunteer experiences with this simple question, “what can I learn from these people, this community, this organization, today?” If you ask yourself this before every volunteer experience, you will find that you learn more from these opportunities than others will benefit, and that is truly what a community-based approach is to change and growth. Learning from service is how you will truly stand out.
5 easy steps to start this process:
Write a list of all the things that YOU are passionate about. Not what your parents are passionate about; Not what you think looks good on a resume. Write a list of YOUR interests.
Get with teammates. Service can be fun, who has similar interests to you? Can you share your lists and find areas that interest all of you?
Do your research. Look up local organizations using the keywords from your passion list and find out what others are doing in your community or neighboring communities.
Educate yourself about these organizations, about why they do their work, and about their mission. Do this work upfront so that when you sign up to volunteer, you have perspective and understanding of why this work is important to the community.
Reach out to these organizations and ask what help they need. Be careful not to make this experience about you, but meet them where they are, and help in ways that are good for them.