4 Steps to Making a Change in the World

Parents frequently ask what type of extracurriculuar activities their student should participate in to get into a selective college. It's not so much the activity itself, but what the student's participation in that activity shows about student. In general, colleges look to admit students who participate in activites that involve leadership, demonstrate personal growth, and show genuine interest and enjoyment. One of the ways that a student can show some of these qualities is by getting involved his or her community (whether locally or globally) and to strive to make a change in the world.


4 Steps to Making a Change in the World (adapted from The Teen Guide to Global Action by Barbara A. Lewis):


1. Find Your Cause. Figure out what issues are important to you by understanding your personal interests, abilities, skills. You are more likely to find meaning in and enjoy working to advance a cause in which you have a personal interest. In turn, you are more likely to create more real and lasting changes in the world.


2. Research Your Cause. Research an issue in order to better understand how to effect positive change and to rally the support of other around that issue. Check out the newspaper and other news media. Surf the Internet. Talk to people in the community who are already working to promote the cause or issue.


3. Plan Your Action. Consider how you can utilize your skills and talents to address the problem or cause that you have identified. Be realistic about how much time and energy you will be able to spend. And consider how deeply you want to get involved. Decide if you want to take the lead in acting on the issue or if you would feel more comfortable volunteering with others in an established organization or group. The scope of action include volunteering at school or at a community or service center, organizing service efforts, and advocating for a cause at school, at a public hearing held by the local government, or through a letter-writing campaign. The table below gives you an idea of the types of extra-curricular activities and different levels of involvement.


4. Take Action. Create a road map to effect the change that you want to see in the world. Start by defining and writing down your goals. Decide how you will reach those goals. Set a timeline for each action. Decide who will participate, and how you will promote and raise funds for you cause.


Less Intensive

More Intensive

  • Peer tutor other students at school
  • Tutor younger students at an elementary school or at the library
  • Volunteer at the local library to shelve books and assist patrons
  • Participate in the reading program at the local library or an after school program to read to young children
  • Fundraise for a school department or project
  • Create and maintain a website for a student group or community organization
  • Teach English in a foreign country
Environment and Conservation
  • Volunteer at a school or community recycling project
  • Volunteer to pick up trash/debris at your school or a local park or beach
  • Volunteer at the local office of an environmental or animal rights group
  • Collect and refurbish old computers from businesses and schools and donate them to familes without computers
  • Start a community garden
  • Organize a tree planting campaign
  • Organize a demonstration to promote the humane treatment of animals
Health and  Safety
  • Volunteer at a local hospital (perform clerical work and assist at the help desk)
  • Volunteer to coach children in a sport that you play
  • Volunteer at the local Red Cross center (perform clerical work)
  • Volunteer to erase graffiti in your neighborhood
  • Volunteer at a senior center
  • Fundraise for cancer/AIDS research (hold bake sales and benefit concerts, join walk-a-thons)
  • Start an after-school/weekend sports program for children in the community
  • Start a Red Cross club and fundraise for humanitarian and disaster relief causes
  • Petition for a traffic light at a dangerous intersection
Human Rights
  • Fundraise for human rights causes (hold bake sales and benefit concerts, join walk-a-thons)
  • Start your own non-profit organization to raise awareness for human rights issues locally and in other parts of the world
Hunger and Homelessness
  • Volunteer at soup kitchen and homeless shelter
  • Donate food/clothing 
  • Organize a food and/or clothes donation drive at school or in the community
  • Build homes in an economically depressed neighborhood
Teenager/Young Adult Issues


  • Train and volunteer as a Peer Counselor to help other teenagers cope with stress and problems in life
  • Organize an anti-drug-abuse/anti-drunk-driving/anti-bullying campaign