Plan For College

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Community Service and College Admissions: How, When, and Why to Volunteer

High school community service and college admissions fall into the "chicken or the egg?" bucket. Which comes first for high school students: wanting to help out around the community or wanting to give a boost to the college resume? Either way, they're both great things for a young person and volunteering can help kill two birds with one stone. Since we're a college planning blog, we're going to focus on what types of community service can help you look better on college applications. Here are some things for your high school students to follow:  


1. Commitment is statistically proven to look better


DoSomething.org is an organization that encourages teenagers to take action in the community. In a 2011 survey conducted by Do Something, admissions officers from 32 of the top schools in the country were polled. Seventy percent of the admissions officers said they'd rather see students commit to one cause for a long time than dabble with a handful of short-term volunteering opportunities.

On top of that, over 90% of those officers said they'd rather see a four-year commitment at a shelter rather than a short term project abroad.

2.  Places to find volunteer opportunities

3. Write about your experience 

Simply listing your volunteer positions on a resume or application isn't enough. Be sure to cover your experience in your college essay and college interview if you have one. Tie your experience to what you learned and how it made you look at the world differently or changed your perspective on things. 

4. If you can't or aren't interested in opportunities

Some teens won't be able to volunteer. If you need to help out around the house or help your family financially, that shouldn't be held against you. Working to help support your family is considered good citizenry and college admissions will understand. Write about your work experience in your college essay. However, do not use this as an excuse if your family can support you.

On the other hand, maybe none of the community service opportunities interest you. What is a passion of yours? Consider starting your own organization or cause. As some college admissions people noted in the Do Something study, this could be considered even more impressive than volunteering for another organization. Initiative is a great way to stand out from the other stacks of applications.


Do your students/children volunteer? What organizations are they involved with?

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