There is a famous Dr Seuss quote: You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut.
Being so caught up with our lives, and not to mention having our eyes often hidden behind phones and computers, we tend to become blind to the vulnerable people around us who need our help. Volunteering is a great way to keep those eyes open, and it is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your community.
Beyond gaining good karma, a strong volunteering record can help set you apart from the other exceptional students with similar outstanding academic achievements in a scholarship application. It gives you a unique story to tell, allowing the review committee to learn more about your personality and the issues you care about.
Beyond good grades, character matters. Academic records do not say much about a person’s character, but volunteering work can, such as to highlight an individual’s dedication to help others. It is easy to say that volunteer work brings personal satisfaction, but the truth is that volunteer work can be tedious and challenging, and not everyone will be appreciative. It takes true grit to press on with a thankless job.
The Next Change Champion
You feel strongly about something that is happening or not happening in your community, and that is why you are getting involved to make things right. You are a person of action and will not let a problem go unsolved. Dependable and will get things done, more than anyone else, you are the most likely candidate who will break ground and catalyse change, driving the impact that all organisations are after.
Making Up for The Lack of Work Experience
It is difficult to claim that you possess a host of skills without being able to support them with real-life work experiences. But volunteering changes all that. Volunteer work offers unlimited opportunities to cultivate desirable employability skills, from leadership to teamwork to communication skills and even creativity. And best of all, you get to practise them in a relatively risk-free environment and yield some authentic, real-world accomplishments.
Empathetic Leadership Wins
Volunteering goes hand in hand with empathy, a skill that helps us relate to others, work with them, and form lasting and meaningful bonds. In the workplace, empathy is a vital leadership competency. Scholarship providers seek to groom future leaders who can help move their organisations forward not just in good times but also in challenging times.
With transformation on the agenda for many organisations, they need empathetic leaders who can show compassion and help balance workplace emotions as the changes take place. The ability to relate to the perspectives of others makes these people not just great leaders but also effective conflict mediators and cross-cultural collaborators who will make workplaces more harmonious and inclusive.
Don’t Limit Volunteer Work to The Communities You “Live In”
In today’s converging world of interconnected communities, it is worth to broaden your horizons by exploring volunteering opportunities beyond your immediate neighbourhood or community. You don’t have to be in the construction industry to be involved in a migrant worker volunteer group, nor do you have to be studying geriatric nursing to volunteer at an elderly home. Sponsoring organisations want to know that they are growing their community impact by investing in open-minded and creative individuals with wide and divergent perspectives.
Develop Strong References
Finally, what better way to meet new people while doing something noble? During your volunteer work, you will form relationships with people from all walks of life, and you may even get to know influential community leaders who may serve as useful contacts for the future. Don’t be shy to ask them for a testimonial regarding your contributions.
The Best Place to Start Is from Your Heart
Before you start scouring the internet for volunteering opportunities, be sure to be strategic in planning your volunteer work. Volunteering should be more than just checking a box. A record of over one hundred hours of community service will not mean anything in your scholarship application if you do not demonstrate commitment in your volunteer work.
Here’s how a volunteer record that lacks commitment looks like:
- The student volunteers randomly with multiple organisations, volunteering only once for each organisation each time.
- There is no reason for the volunteer work and no connection or alignment of the cause with the student’s personal beliefs, interests, or field of study.
- The student cannot articulate the learnings and personal development value resulting from the volunteer work.
Whenever in doubt, the best place to start is from your heart. Passion for what you do will shine through in your application, and that’s how you stand out to the scholarship committee with your individuality.
Don’t wait for the opportunities to come to you. Scholarships are awarded based on merit, meaning that they must be earned. So start taking volunteering initiatives. Because either way, you’ll be helping others and doing yourself a favour.