Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

As high school students, it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routine of class, social life, sports, and sleeping until noon on Saturdays. However, when it comes to college planning, selecting a major, and even filling out scholarship applications, ol’ Gandhi was on to something here: serving others can be a win-win situation.volunteers

What is Community Service?

Community Service is the act of volunteering your time and skills toward helping an organization or goal within the greater community. In a nutshell, you help. The act of helping. The act of shutting off that PlayStation and Netflix binge session and you go out into the world, taking action to make it a better place. I know what you’re thinking, “Sounds corny. Why should I?” First and foremost, because it’s the nice thing to do! When you do nice things for others, they feel better and you feel better. Second, doing community service can open up some wonderful and unexpected doors for you.

What kinds of activities can I do?

There are many different things you can do; find something you find fulfilling and enjoy doing. Look around the community you live in. If you are a social person, find an opportunity to work with people (especially youth or older folks), perhaps in a school or assisted living center. That could mean simply having conversations with these individuals, reading books to them, helping with arts & crafts, or maybe plugging in the Karaoke machine and proving you have the same vocal range as Adele.  Maybe you’re more hands-on; find an activity like Habitat For Humanity where you can assist in building a house. Volunteer to help pick up litter at a park or lake. There are so many opportunities to help. Reach out to your school counselor or business/careers teacher to brainstorm ways for you to get involved.

Will this be a major time commitment?

You control how much or how little time you can contribute. If school and homework are keeping you busy enough now, maybe you can only help for an hour on the weekends. Maybe summer is a better time for you. The important thing is that you do something. Anything. Get to it! Also, don’t forget to track your experiences and place them on your Activities Resume.

How does community service benefit me?

You’ll discover new horizons and grow as a person by taking yourself out of your comfort zone. Community Service allows you to interact with new and diverse people in new and exciting places, and you will gain skills and experiences that you will take with you the rest of your life. That’s what being human is all about: growing, bettering yourself, and making each day as fulfilling as you can.

Career / Major search. It is hard to know what careers are out there unless you get some exposure to the greater world. As a young person, community service is an opportunity to meet and interact with different professionals and gain perspective on the day-to-day of what they do. This knowledge is highly valuable when you’re deciding on a major.

Scholarships & College Admissions. When applying for admission to a college, the admissions decision will be based largely on your academic performance in the classroom and on your ACT or SAT.  However, when it comes to qualifying for college-based aid and other scholarships (such as the ones found on ScholarshipQuest), a strong history of community service can be an enormous benefit to you.  Scholarship applications will often ask about your experiences serving others and your leadership roles. You will generally need to respond by essay. Yes, many scholarships may ask for an essay response where they can learn more about what you have done and why you’d be deserving of their scholarship. Experiences gained through community service will help provide the content for your essays, making the writing process so much easier. Help others and you help yourself!

In summary, find what works for you. Spread your involvement out over time so that it doesn’t feel like a major time commitment. Volunteer in a setting that is related to your potential future major. Volunteer for something you find fun, and have a good variety of different (diverse) volunteer experiences.

You’ll help your community, they will be grateful, and you’ll even learn a few things about yourself in the process.

What do you think? Anyone have any fun community service ideas?