Community Service: Is it important and why should you think about it?
I spent last night at a local food bank volunteering with my daughter. We walked into a warehouse full of pallets of apples that were going to be boxed up and distributed. As we were sorting apples and weighing boxes I got to thinking about volunteering and community service. Is it important? Why should you do it? I’m not looking at this existentially, I’m thinking more about how you spend your time in high school and what’s important.
Here’s the thing, volunteering like anything else is meaningless if you just want to check a box and add it to your activity list for applications. Any admissions officer can see right through a student who is doing things to try and pad their application. My advice to students is find something that’s meaningful to you and stick with it. That might be a paid job, a volunteer commitment, involvement in a student led organization at school, sports, music, art or any combination of the above. The way you spend your time outside of school reflects your values and your personality. Everyone is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all extracurricular list. When it comes time to applying to schools, if you are volunteering at an animal shelter sporadically but have no other connection to animals or interest in them your volunteering is meaningless. You should be able to tell a story around any activity you are pursuing in high school and connect the dots to your interests and values.
The other thing that’s important to consider is how you present your activities when you are applying to school. Listing your activities is boring, using verbs and adjectives make your list of activities come to life.
How to write about your activities:
- Include name of organization and your role
- Talk about the impact you’ve had; do you sit for chair in your instrument? Did your school band make it to an all-state competition? Include this.
- Use verbs
- Lose the superlatives
- Convey leadership (lead, taught, supervised, tutored, mentored)
Lastly, for students starting high school (I will continue to write about this): be open-minded, try new things, explore clubs and organizations or maybe check out the no-cut sport this fall to see if you like it. Now’s your time to see what you like. This isn’t because it’s important for college, but it’s more about finding your people and filling your bucket. How are you engaging with those around you? This is what speaks to who you are and makes you unique.