The importance of starting community service early

Jordan Leal, Editor-in-Chief

When Senior year comes around, no matter if you’re going to a community college, or an ivy league, you will feel the pressure of getting everything done for college.

I think the biggest mistake I made throughout my four years was thinking, oh I have time, I do not have to worry about sports, or extra curriculars, or any of those things that everyone is hounding me about. Well that was not true, because all of that stuff is crucial as seniors are filling out not only college applications, but also scholarships.

There is a common misconception where people think just because someone has a lot of extra curriculars like volunteering in their local library or a lot of school-related activities like editor-in-chief to add up on their resume, they’ll get into college no problem. All these extra curriculars do not mean there will be a guaranteed yes when you open that letter, but it will aid any student tremendously.

When I started filling out my Common App, I was thrilled to get to the academic portion, 3.4 GPA, top 20% of my class, honors all throughout high school, a part of National Honors Society. In that category, I had no problem filling every slot or question of class rank or school status. When I went on the next section however, it was torture.

The “Activities” section opens up to a brief paragraph explaining there are 10 slots where the applicant can fill out principal extracurricular, volunteer, and work activities. The introduction continued to explain that it is understandable that there is a chance that there will not be enough room so please feel free to attach a resume with all other activities and accomplishments. I read that and was instantly mortified.

I did not even think I would come close to filling 10 slots of activities, nevermind attach a resume with extra. I put that section of the Common App on hold as long as I could until I finally filled it out, and only filled seven slots and felt very far from confident leaving three blank. If I just joined a few extra clubs or volunteered for a few extra charities, I might not of had that negative feeling towards a huge portion of my application.

Scholarships honestly may be even worse though. Each and every scholarship, whether it be a local one from Country Bank or a national one such as The Abbott and Fenner Scholarship, always requires one certain thing: What have you done outside of school? In difference with college, it truly does matter how much you have done because there’s millions of high school graduates, young military personnel, trade scholars, college students, all going after the same thing when in comparison there is only a few donators.

When foundations or businesses look at applicants they only want the best of the best, and those few hours someone gave up on their Sunday to help at a nursing home will put them way ahead of the person who decided to sleep in. I have filled out some applications where the funder never asked for my transcript or letters of recommendation. They only asked for a detailed financial summary and the filled application which included my personal information and a list of all my extra curriculars. Your extra curriculars are the only real “personal” thing some scholarships look at to get a feel of who you are, and what you do in your spare time.

There is also some scholarships who will only donate to you if you volunteered in certain places or within certain job affiliations. I started to fill out an application from Wing Memorial Hospital in Palmer and the only requirement was having to do some sort of community service within the medical field. Now, for those who branched out and volunteered at hospitals or nursing homes, it’s great, but for the person who didn’t, it’s not so great.

That’s exactly what scholarships want though, someone that is different and doesn’t stay to the simpler activities such as soccer or a local bake sale. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with any of those things, but scholarships are awarded to who they think best deserves it, and the more you do, the better your chances.

Also this goes with entering college. Just remember, it might work in your benefit to volunteer at your state representatives office for that government major or scholarship, or at a local doctor’s office for that medical career or scholarship. Taking a risk and doing as much as you can when it comes to community service and extras at your school will allow you to qualify for many more awards and help you get an extra foot in the door for college.