Colleges apply tough tests to student applications. Often, it isn’t enough for applicants to have great SAT and GPA scores; they need to have qualities that make them stand out, as well. Character, vision and ideas count for a lot when it comes to applying to colleges. These days, many colleges see many of these qualities in those who volunteer. Involvement in the community counts for a great deal.
Volunteering can perfectly dovetail in with your college aims in another way — volunteering is hugely respected by organizations that have an interest in education philanthropy. Many groups that grant scholarships to students exclusively consider those who have impressive volunteer track records.
Where to start
The Scholarship America Dollars for Scholars nonprofit has hundreds of chapters across the country. If you have a record of volunteer work to show, you should apply to this group for the scholarship; they look at both your academic record and your volunteer record before taking a call.
If you are particularly dedicated to the area that you volunteer for, you might even apply to win Scholarship America’s Volunteer of the Year award for your local chapter. If you win, you get a $500 scholarship, and you are entered to win the Volunteer of the Year award nationally. You win $2,000 as scholarship then.
Look farther afield
The Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes goes out to 25 young people under 18 each year. Winners receive $2,500 each; winners can use this money either for their education or for an area of service interest. To apply, you will need to have someone nominate you for your volunteer work (this person cannot be a relative, though).
AXA, the French banking corporation, offers 12 scholarships worth $2,000 each to community leaders. The same company also sponsors the AXA Achievement Scholarship. One winner in each state receives $10,000, and the national winner receives an additional $15,000.
There is no end of opportunity if you keep looking
The Bonner Scholars Program takes a different approach. The program allows students to treat volunteering as work. If you are financially needy, you get to participate in community service, and have it count as your work-study arrangement.
If you are committed to a career in public service, you can take advantage of a loan forgiveness plan. If you work for the government or a public-service nonprofit, and you’re willing to pay back your federal student loan for 10 years, applying to a loan forgiveness plan can help you have the remainder of your loan forgiven.
You can probably find dozens of opportunities if you keep looking. The Sen. Robert J Dole Public Service Scholarship that comes with a $1,000 award is open to all students of the state of Kansas. The George and Donna Nigh Public Service Scholarship is for residents of Oklahoma, and the Gregory A. Chaillé Public Service Scholarship Fund is for students of Oregon. The National Caring Award, the Heart of America Christopher Reeve Award, the Disabled American Veterans Jesse Brown Scholarship, the Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship Program and many others are wonderful ways for anyone with a volunteer record to find recognition and college funding.