Volunteer and Extracurricular Opportunities Answered
I want to start doing extracurricular activities and volunteer work because I'm a freshman, but in light of the coronavirus pandemic what should I do? Also without considering coronavirus are there certain extracurriculars that I should do that will guarantee getting into a top school, if not what should I do still?
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There's no one extracurricular activity that's going to guarantee you into a top school. Instead, during your freshman year, take the time to browse through your school's clubs and organizations. This is a great time to explore and find something that you're interested in, and when you find something you really like, stick with it and make it your thing for the rest of high school. Top applicants typically don't have 10-20 different extracurriculars because that indicates the person joined a ton of clubs but never delved deep. If there's something you're interested in but your school doesn't offer, consider starting a club because that also shows a ton of dedication in a specific subject area, which top schools like to see.
The best thing you can do for your application is to craft a story, so you don't have to start out as the top of a club or activity. For example, debate or mock trial are activities that really help develop confidence and public-speaking, and you can use participation in these types of activities to write a story explaining how the activity shaped you as a person.
That said, to answer your other question: there are things you can do now in the current situation as extracurricular. Bear in mind it's not going to last forever, so eventually you'll go back to a normal extracurricular schedule. For now, consider starting a non-profit by making face masks, or gathering donations to your local hospital. You can also start a delivery service for collecting food for people in need: many food pantries are still open and need help more than ever.
If you want to do more school-related extracurriculars, you can continue doing those or starting something through Zoom. Talk to your administrators or counselors and with their permission, you could start hosting official club meetings digitally. There's a lot you can do even now as a freshman, but don't feel like you have to do everything. Try a little of everything and look for something that really speaks to you, whether it be volunteering or an extracurricular.
You can also to virtual volunteering--you can find these opportunities at scistarter.org that includes sites where you can volunteer. I personally enjoy the Smithsonian transcriber program where you transcribe historical documents to be more accessible in the future and Stall Catcher, where you can detect blockages in vessels to assist in research for finding a cure for Alzheimer's.
In my area, there's a youth group that is making face shields for health workers and our family has made 60 of them :) Find something you're passionate about that will enhance you as a person. You can participate in citizen research for science such as Galaxy Zoo (https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/zookeeper/galaxy-zoo/) where anybody can identify pictures of galaxies. Since the sheer volume of data is so large, they are asking people to identify galaxies for them. It's quite simple and you don't need any prior knowledge. However, there are also other scientific projects you can contribute to if you're more interested in those. I encourage you to explore the options!
You can also start a passion project about something that you care about, whether it be creating a podcast, making a website, starting a virtual club, tutoring kids, etc. I'm currently trying to start a blog about study tips and time management in high school. I wish you the best of luck!
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