The Importance of Service (In College Admissions… and Beyond)
Over the summer I discussed with a student her plans to volunteer for the summer, and it got me thinking: what if every high school student was as motivated as her to change the world?
This student’s passion for service was so evident in the way she discussed her plans to get involved, and it was clear to me that she was volunteering to better the lives of others—not just to have community service hours to list on her college application.
Sure, National Honor Society and Beta Club students need a certain amount of service hours to maintain eligibility, and many high schools require mandatory volunteer work for graduation. But I like to challenge my students with a greater task: go above and beyond. Serve in a capacity where you feel your time and efforts are benefitting others. Don’t just do it because you feel it will look impressive on your college application. Of course, it ultimately will! But think of that as an added bonus.
Looking back to the thick of summer break, I often find myself starting conversations with students by asking them what they’re up to during these school-free months. I hear stories of vacations, time spent with friends, summer jobs, college visits… the list goes on. But one thing I don’t hear much of is tales of consistent volunteer work.
The key word here is consistent.
College admissions officers won’t be impressed with an applicant who did the bare minimum. They will be impressed by the student who got involved, remained involved, and achieved results through the fruits of their labor.
Summer is a common time for mission trips. I do have a lot of students doing service in other parts of the country and across the world. But these are often isolated acts of service, and you certainly don’t have to travel far to help others. In fact, I recommend you start by improving your own community!
Thinking back on that student I mentioned earlier, I was particularly impressed by her desire to seek out an opportunity that would allow her to use her gifts to help others through a local organization that was close to her heart. So often are students quick to rush out and spend a Saturday morning here and there getting a few hours at an organization that means little to them, or racking up those hours on a once-a-year mission trip overseas. But what are you PASSIONATE about? Perhaps you enjoy working with animals and find joy serving at your local animal shelter. Or maybe you are a social justice warrior and dedicate your time to being an advocate for battered individuals at your city’s homeless shelter.
Whatever it is that tugs at your heartstrings and makes you want to give back, pursue that! Take advantage of some time off of school to give to those less fortunate than you, and go do some good for your community. And if you can stick with it even after the chaos and pressures of college applications are behind you, do it! Don’t stop once you’ve hit your minimum service hours needed to graduate. List it on your apps, and keep going.
Get into college, and continue changing the world.