Volunteer for what you want

October 26, 2018 — by Justin Guo

Reporter argues that Volunteering should be used to help a cause you care about, not to pad your resume.

“Ugh, I really don't want to go to volunteering tomorrow. I need more time to study for my math test.”

Students often complain that volunteering takes up too much time on top of school and extracurricular activities, so they don’t ever have time to hang with friends out or relax.

Volunteering has become such an expected extracurricular requirement a lot of high school students that it has lost much of its meaning and value.

The original idea of volunteering is for people to make time in their schedule to do something they enjoy that also benefits the community.

But nowadays, many students at schools like Saratoga look at volunteering and community service as a chore and an unavoidable obstacle that stands between them and acceptance to a prestigious college — and that’s not necessarily their fault.

Before there was a widespread expectation for volunteering, the students who took the time to volunteer were driven by genuine passion for a certain cause. But when others realized that people were receiving acknowledgement from colleges for volunteering, they realized that they could also volunteer to look just as good, even if they didn’t care about the cause they were volunteering for.

And as time went on and an increasing number of students began to catch onto the trend of volunteering, three distinct groups of people began to form: those who have figured out exactly what they want to volunteer for and how to go about doing it, those who want to contribute to the community but don’t really know how, and finally, those who volunteer just to fulfill the necessary requirements.

Those in the first group of people know exactly what kind of volunteer work they want to do and have found a convenient place and time to do it. These people epitomize the ideal student volunteer, but they aren’t representative of the majority of students.

Most students fall into either the second or third category. However, since those in the third group don’t really feel any emotional connection to the volunteer work, the primary problem of finding meaningful volunteering activities is for those in the second group.

Those in the second group want to make a meaningful impact in the world, but struggle to find out what that is exactly, or can’t find an opportunity to do so.

And due to the previous standards set by past generations of students, students in this second group feel pressured into doing any sort of volunteering just to appear on the same level as the first group, even if they don’t necessarily like what they are doing.

This eventually results in a vicious cycle: As current students continue to force volunteer hours onto their college applications because of the expectations set by previous students, future generations of students will continue to participate in volunteering opportunities just to stay on track.

Consequentially, it has become increasingly hard for colleges to differentiate students that genuinely care about volunteering from those who volunteer just to look good.

But what all students need to realize in general is that it’s OK to try out certain volunteering opportunities a few times to see what interests them. If anything, that experience gives students a good idea of what not to volunteer for if they didn’t like it.

Students should try to find something enjoyable and do it, regardless of what they think colleges want. In the end, all the extensive hours a student accumulates over the years are condensed into a single line on their college applications.

Volunteering pushes the idea of altruism and giving back to the community, but when people think selfishly about colleges, they undermine the entire purpose of it.

So instead of adopting a quantity over quality mindset regarding volunteering, students need to realize that they should be volunteering for their own sake and benefits — not for college applications.