Colleges Are Looking for Kids Who Volunteer

At some point, every kid – and his or her family – starts thinking about where they’re going to go to college, and how to improve their chances of getting in to the ones they like best.  If you’re anything like our family, those questions came up right after we graduated… toilet training!

One thing we’ve learned is that colleges don’t just want good students, they want students that do good!  Why?  Colleges look at extra-curricular activities like volunteering and community service as evidence of a whole range of personality traits like:

  • Time-management skills
  • Ability to prioritize
  • Motivation
  • Responsibility
  • Leadership

Does that sound like a description of successful people you’ve encountered?  Admissions counselors know that, taken together, these are qualities that predict success in college, often more effectively than a simple grade point average.  That’s why Sally Rubenstone, an admissions expert at, says, “It used to be a big plus for college admission officials to spot community service on a prospective student’s application. Now, however, it’s almost the norm, especially at the more competitive colleges.”

Volunteering is key, but simply listing causes on your permanent record isn’t the whole story.  Colleges look for evidence of your depth of commitment and passionate involvement.  To make the most of your after-school activities, think about the following:

  • Find one or two activities and get deeply involved as early as you can. School is a great time for experimenting, but university admissions want to know that you have the capacity to commit to something and follow-through.
  • Look for activities that match your interests. If you love animals, volunteer at a pet shelter; if you’re a budding writer, consider helping out on a charity’s newsletter or website.  If you like to read, how about reading aloud to seniors or the visually-impaired.  If you’re doing something you love, volunteering is fun, too.
  • Think outside the box. Kids That Do Good and other online resources are loaded with ways to help out that are fun, imaginative, and creative.  Check them out; you’re bound to run across something that makes you want to jump in and join up.

And if you know you want to help but don’t know of an organization that does what you’re looking for, start your own.  We did.  Entrepreneurism and inventiveness go hand in hand with Changing the World.