Community service, volunteering, whatever you want to call it, can be an important factor in college admissions. But what is the best kind of community service and how much difference does it really make?
Community service and volunteering generally comes under that broad topic, extra curricular activities. Like other extra curricular activities the type of activity makes little difference in the admissions process. However, if you can get involved in volunteer activities that reinforce your interests that is best.
Let’s look at some examples. If you are interested in science and plan on going to medical school after college, volunteer at a hospital or nursing home. If your interest is in theater then volunteer at a local theater group working with younger students. Interested in English? Volunteer at a local library or a local bookstore that has story time with children.
Why do colleges like to see students volunteering their time in the community? Because these are the activities that show you are a real person concerned with others. Given a choice colleges will always choose the involved student over the one who does nothing but sit at home all day.
I have talked before on the potential importance of having a job. If you have to work to help support your family and can’t volunteer because of this, should you worry? No, because supporting your family will always trump volunteer work. But if you can handle a job, volunteer and keep your grades up all at the same time, you will be a strong candidate at most colleges.
Will your volunteer efforts offset bad grades or bad test scores? No. But if you are competing with students similar to yourself, volunteering can be the one thing that tips the balance in your favor. And besides, it would be the right thing to do even if you weren’t applying to college.