I have required community service hours to finish high school but there isn’t anything I’m really interested in at this point. How closely will colleges look at this?

Answers

Robyn Scott, Educational Consultant, TutorNerds LLC

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Hi,

What you choose to do for your community service will tell colleges a lot about your interests and abilities. If you don't have particular interests at this point I would suggest trying out a few different things until you find something that you enjoy. One great resource is Volunteer Match (http://www.volunteermatch.org/). Once you have had a few experiences you can then choose where you want to go from there. Colleges do look closely at extracurricular activities (anything other than your GPA and test scores) closely, especially if they have a holistic admissions process. Holistic means they look at the whole student, which includes volunteer activities. Do you have a subject in mind that you would like to study in college or ideas for a career? If so I would recommend volunteering in that area to start out.

I hope that helps!

Dave Nguyen, Education Consultant, College Lecturer, PhD

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Community service hours are the last important type of extracurricular activity when it comes to getting into college. However, there is a hidden value in community service. Colleges and universities value other extracurricular activities such as leadership positions and internships. Being a great volunteer can open doors into these valuable activities. Think quality, not just quantity.

Maryann Aita, Writer and Expert Tutor

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I think you've gotten some great advice and I would encourage you, as Colleen and Robyn have, to explore community service for your own benefit. Colleges will look at this, but unless you've done something really unique or long-term, it probably won't be the deciding factor on your application. Still, showing dedication to community service will only help your chances of getting accepted.

If you have a required number of service hours, you could find several things you might like and divide your hours across those activities. Trying different things will help you figure out what fields you may want to work in and to develop skills you may not be aware you had.

I'd suggest you find out more about the community service requirement to see what fulfills it. Community service could mean anything from working with people or animals, building and organizing projects, fundraising, or volunteering at certain events.

Volunteer match is a great resource to look at, but if you really can't find anything that interests you, another option would be for you to found a community service program or club at your school. A student a year above me founded an Amnesty International chapter at my high school and organizations like GlamourGals and the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts have a national office that can help you start a club at your school. Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts may sound "young," but they allow you to do all kinds of community service projects that you can design yourself. Alternately, you could create your own solo community service project that meets your school's requirements.

Vielka Cecilia Hoy, Founder/Director at Vielka Hoy Consulting, Teacher, and Parent

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I agree with the above and I will add that I have been in discussions with admissions people who have a very specific number in mind when looking at applications, and that number was well over 100. I have also heard admissions people say that because their school may be lacking Greek life or many D1 sports, for example, they have an implied expectation that their students would organically create opportunities to know one another or work in the community--both of which community service is a great way to demonstrate one's ability to do that.

Also, with clients I sort of calculate what would be a reasonable expectation for doing something additional on top of schoolwork, extra-curriculars, and working part-time, for example. Let's say one was taking three AP classes and was a Varsity athlete in two sports. That person's community service shouldn't look the same as someone who doesn't play a sport and is not taking AP classes.

In short, it is an important question to ask the school/s you are targeting. I have found them to be really upfront about a certain number of hours.

Other than that, yes, staying with one thing is good and using the opportunity to work on your own soft skills while giving to the community is important.

I hope that helps!

Anonymous, Former graduate student

Community service is not a huge part of what is considered for college admissions, compared to other factors such as GPA and SAT/ACT scores. However, it is not a negligible factor that you can ignore in considering colleges. It can definitely help you with getting into schools, especially if it's related to your major. For example, if you are applying as a biology major, volunteering at a hospital will look good on your resume and may help you get into the school(s) of your choice. The bottom line is, while it's not likely something that will hold you back, it can definitely work in your favor, especially if the hours are spent in fields related to your desired major. Even if the community service is general and service-based, having 200 hours of community service will look better than another applicant with only 50 hours. If all other factors between two students are the same, the different in community service could be the difference between which student gets in.

I hope this helps you and I wish you the best of luck in finding community service that fits what you are looking for!

Stacey Ebert, Educator, Writer, Event Planner, Traveler

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Great question. Colleges will take a look at your community service along with other details of your years within high school. Keep in mind that universities like to look at a whole picture of a person and what you do outside of your academic career sets the stage for the type of person and student you might be at their establishment. Also, seeing that this is graduation requirement, it has another level of meaning showing that you were able to follow through and complete what is necessary.

Remember that community service envelops heaps of various options that don't have to be within the walls of your school. Look outside within your community and even businesses or national/international organizations that exist. Perhaps you're not interested in anything that exists, but there are those you don't even yet know. Medical foundations, world issues, community development and private businesses all often have an arm of engagement, development and service that you might be able to tap into. Perhaps you want to start a drive, be a part of a national campaign or help one person to make their life better. Have a look at national and international charities to spark your interest and talk to school and community leaders, counselors and advisors to see what they think. Perhaps there's something that you like that can be linked to community service or a talent you have that can be channelled to helping others.

You'll find what interests you - it might take some time, but don't give up the search. If I can be of any help, please let me know.

Colleen Clemens, College Professor, Writer, Editor, Tutor & Parent

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Colleges look at different things. A huge school is really only going to look at standardized test scores and grades because they don't have the time to look holistically at a student. You are getting good advice above, and I would ask that you really try to find something you care about. Is it just that the opportunities don't speak to you, or haven't you found something you care about? If it is the former, can you seek out your own opportunity? If you care about animals, the local shelter might need a dog walker. Do you have an elderly neighbor who needs her sidewalk shoveled? Can you consider service in a different way to fulfill your obligation to the school?

I do hope you find something you care about. The world needs everyone to pitch in, and we need you!

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