Community service is often a topic of interest for parents and students considering the college admissions process. The short answer is yes, community service does matter, but perhaps not always in the way one might think.

Community service, at its core, demonstrates a student’s willingness to invest their time and effort in making a positive impact on their community. For college admissions officers, this is an indicator of a student’s character, empathy and civic responsibility. It reflects a commitment to something larger than oneself, a quality that colleges value in their student body.

However, the impact of community service on college admissions goes beyond just ticking a box. Admissions officers look for authenticity and depth in these activities. They are more impressed by a genuine commitment to a cause over a long period than by a brief stint undertaken solely for the sake of a college application. What matters is the impact the student has made and what they have learned from the experience.

Moreover, community service can provide a rich topic for college essays. Reflecting on these experiences allows students to showcase personal growth, understanding of societal issues and the ability to effect change. It can also highlight leadership skills and initiative, especially if the student has played a key role in organizing or leading these activities.

Parents can encourage their children to engage in community service that aligns with their interests or sparks a genuine passion. The key is to approach these activities with the intent to contribute and learn, rather than just to enhance a college application.

Community service is a valuable aspect of college admissions, but its true worth for high school students lies in the genuine desire to make a difference and the personal growth that comes from these experiences.

About the author
Marc Zawel

As author of Untangling the Ivy League, Marc literally wrote the book on gaining admission to highly selective colleges. He earned a BA from Cornell University – where he met AcceptU’s co-founder – and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Marc chaired the admissions advisory board; he has also conducted alumni interviews for Cornell for more than fifteen years.

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