Volunteering: How Helping Others Helps You

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Volunteering has a positive effect on your community — and it’s good for you too. Ben, a college freshman who did volunteer fund-raising work, calls it “a win-win situation.” He says, “You feel good because you’re helping others, and the others feel good because they’re getting help.”

Volunteering can help you learn more about yourself and even put you on a path to your future career.

Reasons to Volunteer

Giving back to your community is valuable in itself, but helping others also offers many benefits. For example, it can help you learn more about yourself and even put you on a path to your future career. Learn more about the reasons to volunteer below.

Gain Valuable Life Experiences and Skills

Whether you build houses for the homeless or mail flyers for a local politician, you can experience the real world through hands-on work. And you can explore your major or career interests at the same time.

For example, as a premed freshman, Gregory spent his summer volunteering at a local health clinic. He picked a clinic in an area with a lot of Spanish speakers so he could practice his language skills while observing medical workers. He also found time to ask the doctors questions.

Meet Interesting People

Both the people you are helping and your fellow volunteers can give you new insights. No matter what groups of people you’re working with, you’ll find that they have information and ways of looking at the world that can broaden your horizons.

Get Academic Credit

Some high schools offer academic credit for volunteer work through service learning — a program that offers hands-on learning through service to the community. To find out if your school offers service learning, talk to your school counselor.

Show Colleges You’re Committed

Your volunteer work illustrates your interests and character. When you list your volunteer work on your college applications, you show admission officers the value you’ll bring to their campus community.

Make a Difference

It’s eye-opening to realize that doing even small things can have a big impact on others. Rhea, a college sophomore, still remembers a visit she made to a senior home with a choir when she was in middle school. “An elderly man in a wheelchair looked up at me after the last strains of ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and said in a gravelly voice, ‘You’ve made my day. This means so much.’” She recalls, “No one had ever thanked me in such a way for doing something so small, and a stranger no less!”

How to Get Involved

Organizations everywhere need volunteers. Here are some ways to get started:

  • Call programs based in your community and ask if they need help.
  • Visit your town’s website. It may list volunteer opportunities in your area.
  • Contact a local museum or other cultural institutions or get in touch with similar organizations 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 You Volunteer

To get the most out of your experience, ask yourself these questions before you get involved with an organization:

  • What have I done in the past that I’ve enjoyed?
  • What do I want to do as a volunteer — and what would I rule out doing?
  • How much time can I commit?
  • What talents or skills can I offer?
  • What kinds of people do I want to work with?
  • What would I most like to learn by volunteering?

High School Classes Colleges Look For

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If you’re in high school and you’re thinking about college — and you should be — you should know that the courses you take now matter. That’s because college admission officers want to see a solid foundation of learning that you can build on in college.

To create that foundation, take at least five solid academic classes every semester. Start with the basics, and then move on to challenging yourself in advanced courses. The courses listed below should prepare you for success in college and beyond.

English (Language Arts)

Take English every year. Traditional courses, such as American and English literature, help improve your writing skills, reading comprehension and vocabulary.

Math

Algebra and geometry help you succeed on college entrance exams and in college math classes. Take them early, so you’ll have time for advanced science and math, which will help show colleges you’re ready for higher-level work.

Most colleges want students with three years of high school math. The more competitive colleges prefer four years. Take some combination of the following:

  • Algebra I
  • Algebra II
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Calculus

Take at least five solid academic classes every semester.

Science

Science teaches you how to think analytically and how to apply theories to reality. Colleges want to see that you’ve taken at least three years of laboratory science classes. A good combination includes a year of each of the following:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry or physics
  • Earth/space science

Schools that are more competitive expect four years of lab science courses, which you may be able to get by taking advanced classes in these same areas.

Social Studies

Improve your understanding of local and world events by studying the cultures and history that helped shape them. Here is a suggested high school course plan:

  • U.S. history (a full year)
  • U.S. government (half a year)
  • World history or geography (half a year)
  • An extra half-year in the above or other areas

Foreign Languages

Solid foreign language study shows that you’re willing to stretch beyond the basics. Many colleges require at least two years of study in the same foreign language, and some prefer more.

The Arts

Research indicates that students who participate in the arts often do better in school and on standardized tests. The arts help you recognize patterns, learn to notice differences and similarities, and exercise your mind in unique ways.

Many colleges require or recommend one or two semesters in the arts. Good choices include studio art, dance, music and drama.

Challenging Course Work

To ready yourself for college-level work, enroll in challenging high school coursework, such as honors classes, AP courses or IB-program courses. You may even be able to take college courses at your high school or a local college.

More Help with Choosing Courses

Use Granted 4 U to look up a specific college’s academic requirements to be sure you’re on track to attend the college of your choice. You can also meet with a school counselor or teacher if you have questions about choosing classes and staying on track for college.