7 Secrets to Making your Volunteer Work stand out on a College Scholarship Application

Hello! Welcome to our Project Stella Blog!

Today, I want to help you help your student stand out on their applications  and in their interviews for college and scholarships.

10 years ago it was easy for a student to get a scholarship or accepted to their top college choice by just mentioning that they did “x” number of community service hours. But now, many schools and some states have a community service requirement to graduate – so how can your student stand out?

I’m providing you with my 7 secrets and as someone who has worked in higher education for over 18 years, these are the things I looked for when reading applications for admissions and deciding award winners for scholarships or student leader positions.

Use these secrets when writing that college essay or talking about your service work in an interview.

New here? I also have the following blog posts to help with your Schools that R.O.C.K. program.

5 Reasons you need to start a Kindness Club at your school or in your community today

5 Things you can do today to stop bullying in your classroom

5 Awesome Ways your school can R.O.C.K. with students who Radiate Outrageous Compassion & Kindness

3 Classroom Management tips that encourage students to be kind

Creating Valuable Service Learning Opportunities for your Students that create big impact

Secret #1 to Standing Out: Talk about your “why”

Why are you inspired to do service? Why did you pick the volunteer projects that you did?  The people ready your essay or interviewing do not want to know just what you did to complete your service hours. They want to know why. You can stand out by saying the reason you were motivated. You do want to be honest – so if it is because you were required to, you can start out that way but then dig a little deeper. What was it about those projects that made you continue.

Secret #2 to Standing Out: Mention Partnerships & Collaborations

Something that will help any person stand out is to talk about how the service completed was a result of partnerships and collaboration. If you are the person organizing the service project, and you worked with a community partner that required you to have meetings – mention that.  This is such a valuable skill and acknowledging how important it is to develop partnerships will help you be noticed more than someone else.

Secret #3 to Standing Out: Discuss Leadership Skills you Developed

If you planned the service project, served on the committee, or organized a task, you probably developed or strengthened some leadership skill.  Skills include: delegation, public speaking, collaboration, project management, and communication.  You can develop these skills without having a formal leadership position or title.

If you find that you have not taken on any roles that helped you develop these skills, it is not too late to start looking.  There are many small projects you can organize to get this experience.

Secret #4 to Standing Out: Admit to Struggles or Challenges you Faced

It is not a weakness to admit that you have struggles or challenges.  They are a natural part of anything we do and are valuable learning lessons. If there was something that happened while doing volunteer work that was especially hard or was a disappointment – admit to it.  In most cases, this appeals to the person reading your essay because they have had something they have struggled with as well.

Secret #5 to Standing Out: Highlight how you Overcame Challenges

While we all have had struggles and challenges in projects we have worked on, what will really make you differentiate yourself from others is to highlight how you overcame the challenges you were faced with. Was a team member especially difficult or did you have to work through conflict? Were you disappointed by something during the project and have to find the motivation to continue to serve?  This could even be the focus of the essay. It shows maturity and that you are willing to work through and persevere through any challenge you face.

Secret #6 to Standing Out: Outline Important things you Learned

In addition to highlighting how you overcame struggles and challenges, outline any of the things you learned through the project. Maybe you had to manage a budget or stepped outside your comfort zone to recruit volunteers. You might have learned a new physical skill such as painting or assembling a picnic table.  This step shows the reader or interviewer that you know how to reflect and be a lifelong learner in all situtations you are in – not just the classroom.

Secret #7 to Standing Out: End with What’s Next 

Don’t end your essay without mentioning what’s next.  This is how you can let the reader know why going to this college or getting this scholarship is so important. Talk about a goal you have that is relatable to project and that attending this school will help you accomplish.  This is a great way to summarize what you have mentioned already and put the ball in their court.

Did you find these secrets helpful or are you more confused than ever because you have not had the service opportunities to help you develop leadership skills or put you in challenging situations to overcome?  Don’t worry – it is not too late.  In my online course, The Complete Guide for Student Leaders to Planning Meaningful Service Projects, I walk you through step-by-step what it takes to put a project together. Then, I help you know how to talk about that experience in a resume, application, and interview.  This course helps you develop valuable leadership skills that will make you stand out from everyone else. Check it out: Project Stella Online Course.

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