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How volunteering and leadership can help win college scholarships

iClipArt/Monica Matthews

Every college scholarship applicant is searching for ways to make his or her applications and essays stand out from the rest and get noticed by the judges. According to college admissions officers and high school guidance counselors, showing strong leadership skills and quality volunteer experiences give applicants an edge in the scholarship judging process. Many scholarships are geared towards students who volunteer and are leaders and organizations are looking for students who are active in their communities.

Volunteering shows leadership in several ways. A volunteer helps because they want to and not because they have to. Volunteers lead groups such as kids games, vacation bible school classes, scouting activities, etc… Leaders step out of their comfort zones to help others. Students can show leadership by finding a need in their communities and creating their own charitable projects. They are now the “creator”, “founder”, and/or “organizer” of their project, something very impressive to college scholarship judges.

Students can find volunteer opportunities by checking with local churches and honor societies. (National Honor Society and National Junior Honor Society) They can ask local parks and recreation centers, sports teams, hospitals, and scouting groups. Another place to look is summer camps, day care centers, after school programs, and youth groups. If a student is unsure where to volunteer, they need to think about what would they like to do (or may like to do) in their future career and volunteer in that area.

Quality of community service is very important, as long-term volunteering builds relationships. Getting to know people in charge of an organization can pay off big time with detailed letters of recommendation for college scholarships written for students who volunteer. When working with the same organization over a long period of time, students can see they are making a difference when volunteering with familiar people and seeing positive changes and direct results of their efforts.

Parents can encourage their students to volunteer by doing community service together as a family. Parents can also model volunteering by being volunteers themselves and sharing their experiences with their children. Charitable projects can be created as a family, with the student leading the way and getting others in the community involved.

In my next article, I will share ways in which students can showcase their community service work on college scholarship applications, explain why even straight A high scoring ACT/SAT students need to volunteer, and list several college scholarships that are specifically looking for students who volunteer. Click the “Subscribe” button above to be notified when the article is published and visit for more winning scholarship tips and advice.

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