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Good Schools Guide

Volunteering is the gift that keeps on giving to students’ CVs

Lending a hand can broaden horizons, improve academic outcomes, and make a student’s résumé stand out from the crowd

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2018, 10:03am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 February, 2018, 2:17pm

University applications often require students to submit a list of their volunteer experiences. These experiences add humanity to an application, and can showcase community involvement, passion for a cause, or practical skills. There are plenty of students out there with high marks – volunteering is an effective way to stand out from the crowd.

But volunteering offers much more than a foot in the door to university admission offices. It has real world benefits that translate directly into better academic and career outcomes, and most importantly, a healthier, more satisfying life.

Homework and tutoring take up a lot of time in the lives of many Hong Kong students as they pursue success at school. It may come as a surprise that while volunteering may not have an obvious connection to better grades, there is evidence that lending a hand is linked to improved academic outcomes. Research shows that children who volunteer often have higher GPA’s and higher university enrolment, and lower levels of engaging in risky behaviour like alcohol and drug consumption.

Students are also exposed to a variety of job experiences when they volunteer, which can help them develop a clearer vision of their future. For example, teens can try using their computer or artistic skills to help charitable organisations. This gives them a chance to see what marketable skills they have and use them in a real-life setting with a team of colleagues. It is a rich learning experience not only in applying learned skills, but also in being punctual, attentive, organised, presentable and professional.

“A great reference for college applications or future employment may come from charitable work”

It’s also important to consider the networking opportunities that come from volunteering. A great reference for college applications or future employment may come from charitable work. In Hong Kong, where many teenagers do not have a job, it may be the only letter of reference they receive from outside their school.

Volunteering can open students’ eyes to other perspectives and experiences, in turn developing empathy and kindness. An expanded view of the world has been shown to consistently reduce stress, depression and anxiety. When youngsters volunteer, they are allowed to focus on something outside themselves, setting aside their workload, homework, and stress around university applications. More importantly, they get a chance to put their problems in perspective. A bad test grade can seem less devastating when faced with poverty, illness, illiteracy, extinction – or any other pressing cause.

Volunteering often occurs in a warm environment of goodwill and gratitude. Such positive social interaction where individuals are valued for their participation has real physical health benefits like lower blood pressure and reduced stress. These effects are present for anyone who volunteers, not just students. It is key to note that students who are inclined to volunteer often do so because their parents do so and have taught the importance of caring about things outside oneself.

The benefits to volunteering are not limited to those who give their time on a weekly basis. Having family volunteer days a few times a year will still give your child a chance to feel good about doing good, and provide bonding time over a positive shared goal.

So as your child faces the prospect of university applications, or wherever they are in their academic life, consider how volunteering is not just another box to tick along the path to academic success. Rather, it is a treasure trove of real-world experience, and physical and mental resilience.