As you plan for college, you’ve probably heard more than once or twice that you need to make your application stand out. Aside from strong grades, many college admissions officers will tell you that volunteering is one of the biggest differentiators that help schools decide between applicants. But it’s not enough to give your time and energy to an organization for one week—the vast majority of admissions officers want to see consistent volunteering, especially for a cause you’re passionate about.
The question is, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, how do you find those kinds of opportunities, especially if you need to socially distance?
Here’s a list of volunteer work you can do from your home – all while keeping you and your community safe:
If you’re passionate about politics: If you really enjoyed shows like House of Cards, VEEP, or The West Wing, or you spend time daydreaming about working in the White House or on the campaign trail there are some excellent volunteer opportunities for you. Campaigns across the country are creating openings for people to phone bank remotely and get people engaged in the ahead of the November elections. Or, if you’re more interested in international politics and aspire to one day be a diplomat, the UN allows volunteers to virtually help with research, writing, and other important tasks.
If you love English class: There’s nothing quite like bonding with a friend over a book, learning about something new, or getting lost in a story about a far-off land. In the midst of this pandemic, when so many folks are homebound, that gift of reading is even more special. Two organizations have recognized this fact and taken their volunteering opportunities online. Bookshare provides reading materials for children and adults with disabilities. As a Bookshare volunteer, you spend your time scanning and proofreading book pages, and categorizing and describing images to make the materials more accessible. Another opportunity is Project Gutenberg, an organization dedicated to creating the largest digital library of free books. Volunteers transcribe books into a digital form or proofread others’ work to bring a free library to people stuck at home all over the world.
If you have a knack for foreign languages: If you’ve been studying a language for a few years or grew up in a multilingual household, there may be an opportunity for you to take that skill and turn it into a volunteering opportunity. The organization Translators Without Borders is currently looking for volunteers to translate medical texts and crisis responses—the only catch is that you have to be fluent in the other language.
If you’re a huge history buff: History has never been more important—a lot of people are reckoning with the past and working to build a roadmap for the future. If you’re passionate about history, , there is a dream volunteering opportunity for you. The Smithsonian is looking for people to help transcribe historical documents and edit Wikipedia articles related to the Smithsonian’s artifacts and research.
How to Talk About Your Volunteering Experience
Let’s fast forward to college application season. You’ve put in the time and volunteered with organizations you're passionate about. It went so well that you’re continuing to help out into the school year—but now you have to talk about it in college essays, on your resume, and in scholarship applications. You might be wondering how to do that in a compelling way, so here are a few tips to help.
Explain why: Passion and a genuine desire to help others will speak to people. Explain your passion and try to show why the causes or organizations are important to you, and why you dedicated your time to them.
Share a story about a moment: The best applications tell a story. It may be an anecdote about your first day of volunteering, a particular person who left a lasting impression on you, a fellow volunteer who mentored you, or a time when you felt incredibly accomplished due to the work you were doing. Being able to show your connection with the people, organizations, or causes you helped can go a long way.
Talk about how the experience changed you: Volunteering and serving others can change people for good. It teaches us to be more selfless and kinder, and to see others’ needs before we focus on our own. Share how you have grown as a result of a volunteer experience. Did it change your way of thinking or the way you look at the world? Explicitly stating what you learned, how you grew, and how you will carry those lessons moving forward conveys a changed heart and a willingness to grow to whoever is reading.
The organizations listed here are just a few of the virtual volunteer opportunities available right now. In the midst of this crisis, there are many who need our help, so don’t hesitate to look for ways you can get involved. Yes, this might help you boost your resume and impress colleges, scholarship committees, grad schools, and even hiring departments, but the real impact is on the people you help along the way.