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New Year's Resolution: Experience the Benefits of Volunteering

With the new year upon us, many will pause amid the celebration to reflect on goals they'd like to accomplish over the next 12 months. As you think about what your year will look like, consider putting some of your time toward volunteering.

Volunteering can be an ideal way to enrich your high school years, and volunteer opportunities abound. Whether you help serve food at a soup kitchen, help students learn to read or speak English, or help take care of animals at an animal shelter, volunteering can be a rewarding experience. Furthermore, it may be beneficial to you, in addition to those you are helping. Here are a few of the ways you may benefit from volunteering in your community.

Get a new perspective
We all have busy schedules, and it can be difficult to break out of the routine of those schedules to gain new perspectives. Many students concentrate on school-related extracurricular activities, such as sports, band, and after-school clubs. These are worthy endeavors, but there's also a lot of value in volunteering outside of your school. Doing so may help you to meet people you otherwise wouldn't have, and to see the world from the perspective of people with life experiences different from your own. You may even learn something about yourself and what's important to you.

Improve college admissions prospects
As you prepare to apply to college, keep in mind that while GPAs and standardized test scores matter, just as important are more intangible qualities that help admissions counselors get a sense of who you are and what you may add to the college community. These traits include leadership, responsibility, and personal interests. Community service, in the form of sustained volunteer work for a cause you are passionate about, will tell admissions counselors a lot what you believe in and what you may contribute to their campus.

Develop new skills
When choosing a cause to volunteer for, seek out organizations and community service opportunities that match your interests. Considering a medical or legal career? Think you might want to be a teacher, a social worker, or a counselor? Look for volunteer opportunities in these fields. Being a volunteer can help you learn important skills you can use in future careers, as well as provide a fuller understanding of what working in particular fields is like.

Not sure if you can find what you're interested in somewhere nearby? Check out volunteermatch.org or idealist.org to find community service projects that match any schedule or interest.