Why is community service important for colleges?
For many colleges, the reason community service is important is less about the total hours you put in (by the way, there is no “required” number of community service hours that gets you admitted or keeps you out!), but more about the reasoning behind why you are performing the service. For example, I had one student last year who volunteered stocking shelves at his local food bank on a consistent basis for 2 years. On paper, this might have looked good, however, when asked in an interview or on an application essay to explain further how this activity helped him develop into the person he is, he had no answer. He had only been doing this because “mom and dad made me.” Compare this to a student who started a campus clean-up program at her high school, where she and some of her teammates picked up garbage and painted over graffiti a few times a year. When asked why she did this, she passionately explained that an environment contributed to the learning process and when her high school was clean, students felt safe and inspired to learn. A college would react positively to this service act. It's less about WHAT it is you but WHY you do it. It should be clear to anyone looking at your application that you truly care about the program you are involved in.
Photo Credit Knox College
Last, it is important to note that many college communities have thriving service clubs on campus and look for prospects who are interested in participating once they are on campus. It may be a big part of what makes their college unique and special and therefore, they may be looking for high school students who also share their priorities.
How do I find a "good" community service?
There are many ways for students to become engaged – first, you might look close to home or in activities you already participate in. Could you do more at your church? On your team? For your family or neighbors? If you open your vision up a little more, what about the school community? Could you join a Community Service club on campus (Key Club is a good one or National Honor Society which requires service as a component of their club) or talk to teachers or administrators on campus about ways you could help? Last, think about what issues you really care about. Are there things you could do to help those organizations and make a difference? I have had many students participate in national organizations like Wounded Warrior Project, Walk for Life, Habitat for Humanity, and PAWS, to name a few. Find what you care about, grab some friends, and do something!
Obviously, during the pandemic, many in-person opportunities were no longer available, however, there may still be ways you can help your community virtually. Here is a recent article with some ideas for students to support others remotely. Also, with some areas opening up, you may also wish to look for ways to help where it can be easier to be distanced from others or even do work individually (e.g. stocking shelves at a local food bank, helping to walk dogs or take care of animals for folks who may be immunocompromised).
photo credit: Atlantajcc.org
Here is also a great list of opportunities for Teens.
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