This Saturday, many secondary schools and colleges will be celebrating Make a Difference Day by encouraging their students to participate in volunteer activities and other events that seek to support their communities. It’s a great opportunity for students to give back, but also a chance for them to earn potential college scholarships. Many state programs, as well as some private scholarships, now require a minimum number of community service hours to compete for college cash. For some students, the thought of working for free or carving out time in their already hectic schedules may not seem all that appealing, but I would encourage them to make the time.
Volunteering actually helped me narrow down my college degree path and connected me with several leaders in my community. Many of those leaders wrote letters of recommendation for me when I applied for internships, jobs and scholarship opportunities. Although I was ‘working’ for free, it seldom ever felt like work; I made new friends, learned new skills, and knew I was making a difference in my community. That alone would have been payment enough for the hours of service I contributed, but my community service projects also helped pay for my college education. In fact, I earned more in scholarships than I ever did at my part-time job.
This weekend is a wonderful opportunity for students to get out into their communities and help others, but they could be helping themselves, too. Here are just a few of the volunteer-based scholarships that are available for those who give back.
This scholarship program recognizes students in middle and high school who have demonstrated outstanding community service in their schools and communities. Two winners are selected from each state and receive a $1,000 scholarship. Ten national winners receive an additional $5,000 scholarship, as well as an engraved medallion. Deadline: November 5.
High school seniors who reside in certain California counties, and have demonstrated extraordinary community service accomplishments, may be eligible for one of twenty $5,000 scholarships offered by the Good Tidings Foundation. Deadline: November 12.
Each year, the Sodexo Foundation awards five students (kindergarten through graduate school) with a $5,000 scholarship. To be eligible, students must participate in unpaid activities that help fight hunger in their school, community or within the United States. Deadline: December 5.
Current undergraduate or graduate students, who are pursuing a pre-law or law degree, may be eligible for this $1,500 scholarship. Students must have participated in volunteer activities during the last 24 months and demonstrate academic achievement. Deadline: December 15.
Any U.S. student, 13 years or older, may apply for this scholarship. Students must submit a short essay (250 words or less) describing how their volunteer work has changed the world for the better. Those who have not volunteered may also apply by submitting what they will do in the future to make a difference. Deadline: December 31.
October 26, Make a Difference Day, is the largest national day of community service. For more information on volunteer opportunities, students should contact their local United Way office or visit VolunteerMatch.org. They can also find project opportunities by visiting the Make a Difference Day website and using the project search tool.
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