You’ve decided that college is possibly in your daughter’s/son’s future. For some of us middle school is but a distant memory, even though it was just last year, and the high school years are real. Suddenly you are hearing about things that you and your student should be doing, getting involved in, signing up for and it can get overwhelming. After all they are just freshman, 9th graders, there is so much more time to go and they have absolutely no idea what they want to do, where they want to go and maybe even, if they want to go.
First of all, take a deep breath and relax. You haven’t missed anything and there is plenty of time to get it all done. Having said that, there are some things you and your student should be thinking about doing. You all know that colleges, even the best, want well-rounded students. Being the valedictorian of your class or the star football player is not enough, or really all there is. One of the things that colleges like to see and that distinguish one good applicant from the next is community service. In fact, many colleges are mandating that a certain amount of community service is required for their own students prior to graduation.
For some people community service is in their DNA and for others they have no idea what it is or how to go about it. I run a volunteer organization and receive tons of inquiries about community service opportunities for students. In speaking to these young people I know that many of them do not have any idea of what community service is or where to look for it. We often hear about some amazing young men and women who go off to far lands and make incredible things happen and we may find ourselves thinking, why can’t my son or daughter do that, or if you’re like me you say to yourself that I know my son or daughter would never do that.
Here’s what I would say to our young students. There are community service opportunities all around you if you know where to look. Let’s start with what it isn’t. What community service is NOT is babysitting your little brother or sister. What it might not be is deciding what YOU think needs to done or what YOU want to do as opposed to what the organization you want to help needs.
Start with things that you like and are interested. Look locally at first. Your school may have a service organization and/or other groups, join them. If you belong to a church ask your pastor if they know of any opportunities. Some churches sponsor trips to other parts of the U.S. or even other countries in aid such as the Appalachian Service Project, etc. These can be an unbelievable experience as well as very eye-opening, as it was for my older son. Contact local organizations whose mission it is to help others. Beyond your town you may find that there are regional organizations or counties that have a need for help. Lastly, do not be afraid to start something yourself. If there is a need that is not being filled, YOU fill it. Who knows what might happen. Here’s an amazing young woman from my sons’ high school who did that very thing…http://www.forbes.com/sites/erincarlyle/2013/05/09/meet-maggie-doyne-forbes-excellence-in-education-winner-mommy-to-40/.
Keep a record of what you do, write down some notes. Most importantly, don’t look at it as something you have to do, a resume builder but rather see it as an experience, a character builder. Here’s a tip – when you apply to colleges you will be asked to write essays. They are different from college to college and from year to year but you may be able to use some of your community service experiences as a prompt for one or two of them.