How to Start Volunteering and Contributing in Your Community


As a high school student, you’re in school for at least 30 hours a week, participate in extra-curricular activities, and might even work part-time. All the work that you put in as a student will eventually pay off; however, getting some community service hours on top of your other work will benefit you and the people of the community you’re helping; so it’s never a bad idea to search for some community service opportunities.

 What is community service?

 Community service is basically any voluntary act that benefits a community or group of people; you don’t get paid but you do benefit by building your character. Recently, I visited an animal shelter; although I went home with bloody scratches and fur all over my clothes, I learned the importance of caring for others (even if they’re not humans).  According to the ASPCA, there are 7.6 million animals in the shelter every year; knowing this, I wanted to make sure that I helped a local shelter in any way I could.


Where can you find community service?

 Firstly, check with your guidance counselor! Your guidance counselor is a great resource for reaching out to others in the community. You could possibly send them an email asking if there are any organizations that reached out to them about the need for volunteers. Last month, I visited a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital and told my guidance counselor about my experience; she offered to help me find more opportunities in which I can volunteer and talk to veterans. According to, there are over 21,000,000 veterans; knowing this, I for sure wanted to help any veterans in any way I can because I am a military child.

Secondly, contact local groups, non-profit organizations, churches, or even elementary schools. The nearest elementary school to me, often holds annual family-fun fair events; they always reach out to the community asking for volunteers to help run the event. Also, by contacting local groups and organizations yourself, you are able to create relationships with people that’ll authorize your service hours or even write you a recommendation letter.

Last but definitely not least, you can simply google “volunteer near me,” use the website, or check your local newspaper. My local newspaper happens to have a section where local businesses and organizations can post about their donation/volunteer needs. Also,, will allow you to narrow down what kind of service you’d like to do and where you’d like to do it.

 Why should you do community service?

 Besides the fact that you might need service hours as a requirement for clubs or school, you should do community service for a number of reasons.  First of all, you’ll learn more about yourself. Everyone is different in their own unique way, but when you utilize your skills to help other people, you’ll learn more about yourself and gain even more skills. For example, I shaved my head for childhood cancer when I was 13 years old; it was then when I realized that I am a “people person” and want to continue helping people for the rest of my life.


Also, you’ll have experience to put down on your resume. Whether you’re applying to college or a job, you will have something to write down under the “experience” section of your resume. Colleges love seeing diverse and well-rounded students; so, take action and show colleges what you’re capable of! Lastly, you’re simply helping others. Kindness goes a long way; whether it’s saying “hello” to a war veterans, walking a lonely dog, or serving food to the homeless, you’re filling their hearts with joy that they probably needed.


 To wrap it all up, participating in community service will not only benefit you, but the people and groups you help. The work that you put in will be greatly appreciated and you’ll feel better for helping someone. Remember to keep in mind that you are representing yourself and your school as you participate in community service. Go out and find service that’ll mean a lot to you!




Early Graduation: Things to Consider Before Making a Decision


"High school sucks." Some variation of this phrase has been uttered at one point by most high school students. The homework, the tests, the drama, and having to wake up before the sunrises all culminate to form a generally stressful environment for all those who enter. But if you had the chance to shorten this stressful time from 4 years to 3, would you?

There are a growing number of students who, for one reason or another, are deciding to skip their senior year and head straight for college. Juniors who have enough credits and have taken the courses required to graduate have the option to graduate early, usually with the condition that they provide a list of the colleges they are applying/have applied to or have already been accepted to a school. This idea may peak the interest of some, but is missing your senior year really worth it? Here are some things to consider:

The High School Experience

Whether it’s its ability to relate or just some odd cultural fascination with teenagers, cheesy movies set to the backdrop of high school have become a genre in their own right. These movies showcase all the events seniors participate in a light that could convince someone who life the rest of life is pretty lackluster in comparison to those wonderful memories of prom and football games. Despite the exaggeration of these clichéd stories, they do pose an interesting question to those looking to graduate early; do you want to miss out on a final year of high school memories? The freedoms senior year provides makes many former students look back on it as their favorite year of high school, as it was an opportunity to let go and have fun before going off to college. Even if for those who aren't as keen on the whole "high school experience" as others, it’s still worth considering the benefits (or lack thereof) of having an extra year before entering the chaos of work that is college.



For many, the hardest part about going to college, especially out-of-state, is leaving their friends. Sure, it's easy to stay connected through social media, but by graduating early, you are, some ways, leaving your friends in high school for college. Even if you are going to a community college, your experiences will be largely different from those of your high schooler friends, so it may be more difficult to connect with them than when you saw each other every day and could commiserate over the English homework. This is, however, all dependent on the individual; graduating early could also have a positive effect on your friendships. Spending too much time together can oftentimes strain a relationship, so time apart could be just you need; every person is different. Maybe all your friends are seniors or you just never really got along with anyone while in high school; college is the perfect place to find people you actually connect with.



Anyone who has searched for scholarships, online or otherwise, will tell you it is quite the process. The process becomes even more complicated for those graduating early. While you are graduating the same year as the seniors in your school, you technically aren't a senior, so the wording of scholarships becomes more important than ever. If the scholarship says "open to those graduating in ___ year" or "for student who are going into their freshmen year of college"  then you're in the clear, but when it says "open to all seniors in high school," the waters become murky.  Luckily, this technicality isn't fatal to one's chances of getting scholarships; it is more of a nuisance that can usually be resolved with an email to the provider of the scholarship. In addition, there are also some scholarships specifically for early graduates, though they tend to be specific to individual states.


High school is a time of great exploration, not only of the world but of the self. It's a time of refining tastes, changing value and new experiences that leave you, more often than not, much different from who you once were. Think about yourself in your freshmen year of high school; how much did you change in the time span of one or two years? If one or two years can you change you so dramatically, what can another year do? An extra year of high school could give you some well needed time to prepare. There are some students, however, who are much more mature than those the same age as them who have outgrown the high school curriculum, and those tend to be the students that should graduate early. In the end, however, the decision of whether or not to graduate early is all up the individual. Everyone is different and there is no one formula that can decide who should and who should not skip senior year. If you are considering early graduation, the best advice I can give you is to talk to your guidance counselor and your parents to find out what path is right for you.



My Experience Applying to My First College


August 1st: the day most college applications open and one of the most stressful days of the whole application process.  On August 1st, I started receiving a lot of emails from colleges stating that they had opened up their applications.  This is where the stress began.  busy

I am a very busy person, like most high school students.  I have a job in the summer and participate in many extracurriculars, plus I will have all the homework that gets piled up over the school year.  I knew that if I didn’t start college apps right when they opened, I might never get any done.

After August 1st, I started receiving personalized emails from colleges saying that I had been ‘specially selected’ to complete shortened versions of applications, and without the typical app fee (most schools charge anywhere from $55 usd to $90 usd), which was very exciting for me.  One email that caught my eye was the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.  I had UMN on my list for quite a while, so I already knew I wanted to apply and the shortened app made it even better.

Even though the application was shorter, it still took me about two hours to actually complete the finished applications.  They still asked for short writing supplements, so I had to complete those as well as all the basic information that the school needed to know.  I had to think about what I actually wanted to say and stay in the word limit.  (Trust me, it’s hard to write about something in 200 words or less).  

After I finished the actual online application, I still had to have my counselor submit my high school transcript and send my ACT score from the actual ACT agency.  This might take a little longer, especially if your specific counselor has a lot of students applying to different colleges.


Even though I was not officially done after just submitting the online application, I felt like I really accomplished something.  This was taking a small step leading up to my next big stage of life and it felt really good knowing that I completed three years of high school successfully.

College applications do bring stress, but it’s amazing to realize what you have actually accomplished when applying.



How to Create the Perfect Kick-Butt Resume


There I was, sitting in my first college class. The teacher had just given us our first big assignment….to create a resume. As a dual enrollment student, I was struck. What exactly is a 17-year-old supposed to write about on their resume? I knew this assignment was very important. After all, a resume is a key to success. You use it for jobs, internships, scholarships, and college. But many teens like myself may have little to no work experience. Creating a resume doesn’t have to be difficult, though. With careful reviewing and processing, anyone can come up with a resume that’ll leave future admission officers and employers in awe.

Personal Information

Begin your resume by providing your background information. Don’t, however, provide your race, social security number, or age. All resumes should include your contact information. This should include your first and last name, your email, and a phone number you can be reached at. Be sure to make sure that this information is as current as possible because you never know when someone may call to offer a position or admission!


Next, you need to include your highest level of education. List where you attend or have attended school and when you graduated. If you are still in high school, put down your anticipated graduation year. If you are a dual enrollment student, be sure to put the name of the college you are currently taking classes at. Your GPA and class rank may also be included next to your school’s name if it is appropriate. You should also list any awards or recognition you may have received. This can include Regional Science fair awards, academic honor roll, art competition awards etc.



Now this is the important part! Listing the activities you do outside of the classroom gives others a view of you as a person (test scores only tell so much). It gives future employers and admission committees a glimpse of your interests and passions. You may want to begin by listing the activities that you have gained valuable skills and experience from that are school related. When writing these experiences on your resume, be sure to spell out the names of clubs or societies like National Honor Society. Even though you know it as N.H.S., others may not know what it stands for. Also, include a brief description of the club if it is unique. For example, you may need to describe what clubs like Key Club are. It is also important to include any leadership roles you have taken on. Taking a leadership position is a great way to show others that you are capable of having many responsibilities. When you are describing what your responsibilities are, avoid using “I “or “me”. Instead, use action words like “organized” or “cooperated”. Having a commitment to a certain activity also shows colleges what type of person you would be on their campus.



One of the most important parts of your resume is your work experience. As usual, having more experience makes you look more favorable to whoever is looking at your resume. However, as teens, we may have less than stellar experience. But that’s normal for people just entering young adulthood, and colleges and employers will know that. So don’t worry if you don’t have much to put in this area of your resume because that’s where your involvement in extracurricular activities will benefit you!

If you do happen to have work experience, that’s great! Work experience can mean anything where you put your skills to work. Specifically, on a part-time job, at an internship or through volunteer work. Keep in mind that even a simple after-school job can leave you with a positive effect on future employers and admission officers. It shows your maturity and ability to handle responsibility. You also get bonus points from admission officers when your part-time job or internship relates to your intended area of study.

Even though it may seem as if you won’t need a resume until you are out of college and looking for work, that’s not the case. Many colleges are recommending students to send in resumes along with their application for review. So if you use these tips, you’ll be well on your way to getting accepted or landing a job!



The "Getting In" Podcast: Why It's Worth the Listen



If you haven’t heard, Getting In is a podcast by Slate Magazine’s Panoply podcast network, and it’s all about the college admissions process. Hosted by Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of freshmen and undergraduate advising at Stanford University, this podcast is a gold mine for anybody who wants a closer look at the college admissions process.

The podcast follows the path of a group of high school seniors throughout their last year of high school… in real time. Everything is unfiltered, and it’s refreshing to see the ups and downs of each student. This podcast is as real as it gets. It’s described as “your college admissions companion,” and I would highly recommend the podcast to high school juniors, who will make the most of the advice. And here’s why.

 The Emotions:

The most memorable episode of Getting In was when one of the seniors opened her response letter from her dream school and recorded it. I could definitely tell she was nervous, and I felt it with her. And then I felt it even more as she read off her own rejection. That’s what makes the podcast all so real. Each senior in the group has their own character, background, goals, and struggles. After all, they are all real students going through a momentous part of their lives. This feature resonates with me because it’s all so relatable.

The Advice:

In the college application process, almost nothing is definite. But it’s reassuring to have tons of advice from college experts; Getting In provides just that. As a companion to the main episodes with student check-ins, the podcast includes Q&A sessions with former college admissions officers and college counselors of highly esteemed schools. All advice can be validated by experts with years of experience under their belts. All sorts of questions are answered about extracurriculars, future planning, test-optional schools, interviews, financial aid, and so much more. The fact that most of the questions are asked by the seniors themselves or listeners who have called in tops it all off because there were questions answered that I know I had.

The Message:

One of my favorite things about Getting In is the genuineness behind the message every expert is conveying. Over and over, they reiterate the same idea that getting into college isn’t about getting into the school your mom can brag about at family reunions. It’s about finding the right college for you, meaning a college you will excel at and love. This is too often overlooked by other sources of advice. There has to be something about a college that draws you to it besides its prestige, and the podcast conveys this in an inspiring way. While still providing the information you need to get into prestigious schools, it advocates for a future with happiness and growth in the picture.

150908_GettingIn Listening to Getting In has been one of the best things I have done so far in my college applications process. The podcast has given me a new outlook on where I want to be in regards to college. I could not recommend this podcast more to any prospective students out there who are willing to take a quick listen!



 Photo Credit: