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Marike Lauwrens
How volunteering will add to your university application

Some images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19. 

Responsible volunteering abroad makes a positive impact with local communities, and has plenty of benefits for volunteers too. 

Many young people wonder if a volunteer experience will make a difference on their university applications. The answer is, yes, of course!

In the words of Malcolm X , “Education is our passport to the future; for tomorrow belongs to those that prepare for it today.” And volunteering is an excellent way to become educated. 

In this article we’ll tell you why volunteering is great for your development, and how it’ll help with your university application and future employability.

Reasons to volunteer abroad

Find out the reasons to volunteer abroad for your university application.


For almost 40 years, Harvard University has recommended that students take time off before applying to university. Taking time off and volunteering can make you more globally aware, broaden your views and understanding of critical issues, develop your skills and make you more employable.

Travelling and volunteering abroad is a popular way to make time off more meaningful. It gives you the opportunity to learn more about yourself and the world you live in, while allowing you to make a positive contribution to global goals. 

And, research has found that when students take time off before applying to university, overall graduation rates improve, as well as educational experience. Most students who took time off to volunteer indicated that they gained a clearer vision of their career goals, went into their studies with a better frame of mind, and would do it all over again if given the chance!

Here are some of the most meaningful ways that volunteering will add to your university application.

Gain practical skills

Learn new practical skills when you volunteer abroad.


Volunteering lets you continue your education, while exploring a range of new career paths. 

You can gain a deeper understanding of the skills you’ll need to further your career by volunteering in the field you’re interested in, because practical experience gives you the type of insight that theory can’t. 

Reputable volunteer organisations hold orientation at the beginning of each volunteer program. They also support their volunteers throughout the entire project. 

This means that even if you’ve never tried something like scuba diving before, you can join a volunteer program and give it a go without worrying about your safety!

Develop your soft skills

Develop your soft skills when you volunteer abroad.


When travelling and volunteering abroad, you get the chance to develop your soft skills, such as teamwork, leadership and listening skills. 

When volunteering, you’ll work towards the goals of the project you signed up for. But, it’s also important to think about the type of personal development you want to dedicate time to while abroad.

Here are some things you can do to work on your personal development while abroad: 

  • If you want to improve your writing skills, why not start a blog?
  • If you want to test out your leadership skills, you could take charge of a project at your volunteer site.
  • If you want to learn a new language, make sure to interact with local people often and take time to practise new words and phrases. 

As you volunteer and travel abroad, you’ll come across new people and places that challenge and expand your ideas and beliefs. This is not a bad thing at all. In fact, this experience can put you ahead of the rest of the pack when applying to university.

Improve your employability

You can improve your employability when you volunteer abroad.


So, a volunteer experience abroad counts in your favour when applying for university, but what about when it comes to landing a job?

International experience helps you become a global citizen, improves your intercultural interactions, and develops your personal and professional skills. And, these attributes add to your employability in a big way. Let’s find out how.

A World of Experience is a report, released by the British Council, which discusses the benefits of international experience. It states that people with international experience are more flexible and adaptable in the workplace. 

Experience abroad is often associated with self-development, like building confidence when communicating with people who speak a different language, and finding an understanding of how to interact with others throughout society. An experience abroad can also help you fine-tune your ability to collaborate and problem-solve.

While you’re volunteering, you’ll also have ample opportunity to network with the volunteer organisation’s staff members, as well as other international volunteers and local people. Try to interact with as many people as possible, because your networking efforts can help you build contacts to land your future dream job.

By volunteering abroad you’ll end up with a university application that stands out from the crowd, and be able to build on your future career in a meaningful way. 

Take a look at GVI’s international, award-winning volunteering programs and internships and start building on your future in the best ways possible.

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