Parents always ask about what their child should do over the summer to improve their executive functioning skills. While SAT tutoring and academic enrichment will help, one of the best ways to improve EF skills over the summer is volunteer work. Volunteer work is about more than graduation requirements and college admissions resumes. It is an excellent way for students to develop essential skills and gain valuable experience with relatively low stakes. Volunteering also provides opportunities to learn new things, meet new people, and positively impact the community. For the purposes of this blog post, volunteering is also an excellent way for students to build EF skills, such as organization, time management, and problem-solving.
Let’s start with organization skills. When I was a high school student, I volunteered at a homeless shelter. My job was to work the front desk, figuring out what services this person needed and inputting that information into the online database. My position required me to manage time and resources effectively. I had to figure out the best process, keep my work area clear of clutter, and make sure the line kept moving. Zooming out, a summer volunteer position helps with EF because it creates something to build into the schedule. Students must schedule their volunteer work around their academic and extracurricular activities, plan their transportation, and coordinate with their volunteer organization. While EF skills are tested in school, they are often improved over the summer. Spending some time in a new environment, with non-academic tasks is one of the greatest EF benefits of volunteering.
Moreover, volunteering helps students develop problem-solving skills. Volunteering requires students to think critically, analyze situations, and develop solutions on the fly. Students may encounter challenges while volunteering, such as communication barriers, resource constraints, or conflicting priorities. For example, in my volunteer position, I had to adjust to new personalities every day. I also had to work with scarce resources and endless need. Doesn’t that sound familiar?
During the school year students are working with scarce resources (time, energy, etc.) but need to respond to a seemingly endless task list. One of the main goals of school is to teach students how to handle this resource constraint problem. Volunteering over the summer will place students in an environment where that problem has tangible components. By developing problem-solving skills while volunteering, students can become more adaptable, innovative, and resilient, which can help them succeed in all aspects of their lives, but especially for the next few years of school.
Volunteering provides students with valuable experience and connections, which helps test a student’s impression management skills. The fourth pillar of our research-driven EF curriculum is impression management; it sets us apart from other academic coaching companies. Students must learn to manage the impressions they leave on teachers, parents, and peers. This only happens when a student can build self-awareness, confidence, social awareness, and self-advocacy skills. Volunteering helps students explore different fields, industries, and careers, providing insights into their interests and goals all while building these core impression management skills. It also provides students with opportunities to develop social and emotional skills like empathy, compassion, and teamwork. Volunteering often involves working with people from diverse backgrounds and experiences, providing opportunities to learn about different cultures, perspectives, and values. Moreover, volunteering provides opportunities to develop leadership and communication skills, such as public speaking, conflict resolution, and negotiation.
At SAOTG, we believe volunteering is essential for developing EF skills and achieving personal and professional success. We offer a range of programs and services designed to help students find meaningful volunteer opportunities and develop the skills necessary for success. Through our volunteer programs, students can explore different fields, develop organizational and time management skills, and build networks of connections.
For more ideas on building a student’s EF skills over the summer, please check out our other posts. If your child could benefit from one-on-one academic support over the summer or during the school year, please reach out to us today!