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One Way to Stand Out

Hi parents! Do you have a teen who will be entering high school soon? If they are planning on attending college, you might want to check out this article. Most of the time parents of high schoolers (and high schoolers themselves) begin to think about college around 10th or 11th grade but honestly, this is way too late!

As a violin teacher, I have been helping teens prepare for college auditions for over 20 years and the one thing I notice is that most of my students begin looking for a university in the middle of high school. Now, I know I said I am a “violin teacher” and maybe your teenager doesn’t even play an instrument but in the process of preparing my students for auditions, I have noticed other aspects of the college preparation process that get left behind. I say this because when I have been coaching my students to ace their playing and audition skills, I have seen many areas in their life that could have been enhanced to help them get into a school that they really wanted to attend. Most of the time, a student’s high school existence is overshadowed by their GPA and practice time (at least for music students). But there are three things parents need to consider when helping their teens look for a college. They need to take a look at their teen’s academic, social and financial needs. The financial needs are mostly the parents’ due to the fact that they will be paying the college bill. To keep this article short and sweet, I will present only one need that consists of a way to get a bit of money for college as well as boost the chances of your teen’s college application to be noticed and appreciated. I am talking about financial needs.

While helping my young violinists prepare for college, an activity that could have been very helpful but was left on the sideline was the student’s volunteer hours. Usually I notice that there is nary a thought about the type of volunteering they are going to do, only that it needs to be accomplished to graduate. Volunteering is so important that some of my students even receive a list of organizations to reach out to from their high school college counselor but that list is meaningless if the volunteer work doesn’t coincide with the student’s interests or future college major. For teens, volunteering can be life changing especially if it sparks a lifelong journey towards a career or meaningful service to the community.

So, when should your teen begin volunteering? I would seriously think about 9th grade. They should start as early as they can and make those hours count. As I said before, I am not talking about random volunteer hours that fulfill a graduation requirement but something meaningful to themselves, the community and for the admission committee who will be reviewing many, many college applications.

And, let’s not forget about how volunteer hours can help with scholarship opportunities. If those volunteer hours are done correctly, they can also get your teen some money for college. When I was helping a few of my violin students go through their scholarship applications, one question stood out to me; “How long have you been donating time to this particular volunteer group and what was your role?” Turns out that the Rotary Club wants to know how dedicated students are to their community before they hand them money for college. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Organizations that offer scholarships to help prospective college students want to know where their money is going. By offering these scholarships, these organizations are also giving back to the community and they want to know where the student is going in terms of community service as well. Your teen’s volunteer hours will be a reflection of their future and will help scholarship organizations determine whether or not they are deserving of financial help for college so make those hours count and start early! The role your teen plays in their community service makes a difference as well. Has your teen taken on a leadership role? Believe me, a leadership role will help your teen stand out and the role they play in the community can make or break their opportunity to get funding. And, if possible, I would have them go out and start their own organization. That role will show the scholarship committee that they are a go-getter, a leader and someone who is organized and disciplined enough to carry through with a goal that they set.

If it seems as if your teen has a lot on his or her plate, you can look at their volunteering as a part time job. Think about it, what would look better on a scholarship application, volunteer hours that care for patients at an assisted living center or a job as a barista? This “job” will help ensure that your teen receives money after graduation when they receive their scholarships for college. Also, their volunteer time spent will educate them in compassion and empathy. I believe that is something the world really needs right now. So, start your teen’s volunteer hours early (I would say 9th grade) and make it count. I wish you all good luck on your journey!

Here is a list of organizations that offer scholarships to hard working students.

Going Merry (I highly recommend this website you can find many scholarships and it simplifies the process.)

Niche College Scholarships

Coca-Cola Scholarship

Elk Most Valuable Student Scholarship

The San Diego Foundation (This has quite a few scholarships, the biggest one is the Kyoto Prize Scholarship.)

Your Rotary Club Chapter

Local Boy Scout organization

Veterans of Foreign Wars Scholarship (I believe it's called the Voice of Democracy essay contest.)

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