If you’re a high school teacher, you know that a large percentage of the students in your classes are very interested in going to college. Right now, many of these students are preparing for the SAT (originally called the Scholastic Aptitude Test) or the ACT (originally called the American College Testing Program) as well as achievement tests in important academic subjects.

Students are constantly worrying about their grades and doing everything they can to raise their grade point averages. Your students are probably aware that many of the nation’s best colleges consider extracurricular activities, particularly sports, when they decide whose application to accept.

They might not know that many colleges also consider character.

The New York Times once published an article by the Dean of Admissions of a competitive college that said he decided to reject the application of a student with close to perfect high school grades and standardized test scores. His rationale? The student’s course schedule during his senior year was preposterously easy. The Dean wrote something to the effect of, “The student felt he deserved a rest. I felt he should rest elsewhere.”

Students with much worse grades were admitted to this school because they had superior character, the Dean wrote.

As a teacher, you can help your students demonstrate the kind of superior character that many colleges are looking for. You can do this by showcasing student projects for demonstrating altruism and compassion. Perhaps you can make the projects an option so you can sincerely write to colleges in your letters of recommendation that the students chose to be altruistic and compassionate. Hopefully, the projects will also genuinely make your students more altruistic and compassionate.


Please remember that each of the projects should also have an academic component so the students are simultaneously demonstrating altruism and academic ability. Colleges are more impressed by students who demonstrate both.

Here are 10 ideas for student projects for demonstrating altruism:

1. Tutoring Younger Students

Many libraries give high school students an opportunity to tutor younger students. Some of the opportunities are voluntary, and some actually pay. You can investigate these opportunities and try to match the skills of your students with the needs of the younger students. You can even start a tutoring program at your school district, with high school students tutoring middle school students.

2. Tutoring Less Fortunate Students

You know that your teaching skill matters, but students often learn better when their instructor is a peer. How about setting up a program with a teacher from a poor school district? Your students might improve their communications skills as they tutor poor urban or rural students. Meeting people of diverse backgrounds might also make them more altruistic.

3. Tutoring Adults

Local community colleges often have programs to help adults in their communities improve their academic skills. Just making your students realize that there are adults who can’t read or write can make them more worldly. Imagine how compassionate they would look to colleges if they spent considerable time during a school year helping adults read for the first time during their lives.

4. Talking To Senior Citizens

How about setting up a regular forum with a local senior citizens’ community, a retirement community, or a housing facility where only senior citizens live? Many senior citizens love talking to young people and sharing their experiences and ideas. A weekly forum where seniors and students discuss contemporary issues could make your students more understanding and mature.

5. Helping Senior Citizens

Delivering food to immobile senior citizens at their homes is an excellent way to help people. Students will feel instantly that they have made an altruistic contribution to people. Many communities have Meals On Wheels programs, but students who don’t drive can certainly also deliver food to seniors who live near them.

6. Fixing The Community

Do your students feel like they are part of their community? Many students feel like they’re part of their school community, but they might become more compassionate people if they’re part of their town’s community. Even the best communities have homes and businesses that need repair work. Here is an example of a project that consisted of student volunteers repairing senior citizens’ homes. Your own school might need repair work.

7. Cleaning The Community

Many grammar schools have programs that help get students interested in the environment. If your students are still interested in the environment, they might be enthusiastic about participating in a recycling program. Picking up trash in local parks and schools and making sure it is delivered to the local recycling center sounds like a menial project, but colleges might be impressed by students who are involved in their community.

8. Learning Life-Saving Skills

High school students are old enough to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Here is an example of a program that teaches high school students how to be emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Your students could be one of the volunteer paramedics who are ready to help classmates who are injured at high school sports events.

9. Working For The Government

It’s not unheard of for high school students to be volunteer interns for local lawmakers such as a mayor. The work is often mundane, so students must find lawmakers who will teach them how local government provides services to people. The students also need to make this an academic experience by writing about it. Colleges will definitely be impressed by students who have had government internships.

10. Helping Animal Shelters

This might be the easiest project to get students interested in participating. Nevertheless, students who actually work at a local shelter for dogs and cats are more apt to become altruistic people than students who don’t. Students can feed the animals, walk the dogs, keep the animals company, and help find homes for them.

A student with a low SAT score and low grades might not get accepted by an Ivy League school, but a B student who has demonstrated compassion might have a better chance than an A student who has never accomplished anything outside the classroom. Hopefully these student projects for demonstrating altruism and compassion will be useful to them. It could make all the difference needed for them to get into the university or college of their dreams.

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