HomeArticlesVolunteering—Important for College Admissions?

Dear Estelle.  How important is community service for admissions to college? Jonah is just a 10th grader now and at the crossroads of planning his high school career. He’s an excellent student with lots of interests in sports, social activities, and his youth group. We also think he has good potential for leadership. What is your advice regarding volunteering in high school?  His schedule is so full already with his academics and everything he enjoys doing but we don’t want him to miss something important that could make his college applications stellar. Please advise.  JA, Parent, Centennial

What an excellent question.  With sophomores and juniors thinking ahead to college, it’s a terrific time to map out a strategy for the next few high school years with an idea towards your son’s college applications.  Many high schools have community service  built into their graduation requirements, often expecting students to fulfill 50 plus hours during their time in high school. These are mandatory and don’t necessarily show a dedication by students to a cause or issue.

Getting involved in volunteer work is important but the caveat is to do service that requires a long-term commitment, not just a few hours here and there. Admissions reps at most schools are especially impressed by students who initiate innovative programs which benefit others. These types of leadership roles are particularly noteworthy when reviewing a college application. Although most high school students  don’t personally develop these opportunities, a commitment to doing some type of work that improves the lives of others, not only in the community but also in your school is impressive. Words that seem to impress admissions officers are “commitment”, “leadership,” “passion,” and “meaningful.”  Required or mandatory activities mandated by your school are less impressive.

Let’s face it though, not everyone is interested in community service. Others prefer or need to work and this should be highlighted on an application. Above all, the most important requirements for gaining admissions to all college, selective or otherwise, are maintaining an outstanding GPA, receiving quality test scores and participating in school activities, athletics, and clubs.

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