Seniors: Get a head start on your college apps this summer!

How Community Service Can Impact College Admission Chances

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Students volunteering at a food drive during the holiday season

As you may know, colleges care about what students are doing outside of the classroom just as much as what they accomplish inside. While grades are still the most important metric when evaluating college applications, high grades are not enough to gain admission. Colleges want to see students engaging in activities outside of the classroom and making an impact in their local community. One way to do that is through community service.

The Value of Community Service

Community service isn’t something students should do just to “look good” when applying to college. Community service can be extremely rewarding and can go a long way toward helping students not only make an impact in their community, but also learn more about what they’re passionate about.

Community service provides students with the opportunity to show compassion, leadership, creativity, and depth. Colleges don’t just want students who will do well in class – they want students who will also engage outside of the classroom and make a positive impact on campus. But that’s not all. A past survey found that admissions officers value community service because it shows that students likely “share the school’s values” and they’ll “contribute to the school’s mission.” So in a way, community service can help demonstrate how a student is a good-fit for certain institutions. This is important for admissions officers when making decisions, as they look for fit – both on behalf of the student and the school.

Quality vs. Quantity

So if community service can give you a boost in the college admissions process you should immediately load up on volunteer activities, right? Not quite. Colleges can tell when students are padding their activity lists in order to impress admissions officers and it doesn’t go over well. Instead, seek out community service activities that you’d really enjoy and that align with your interests. Quality – a few activities that you’re really invested in over multiple years – is much more important than quantity – participating in a bunch of community service initiatives superficially over short periods of time.

How to Find Volunteer Opportunities That Align With Your Interests

Engaging in volunteer activities is a great way to expand upon an existing passion and strengthen your profile as a future college applicant. Here are some tips for high school students on how to develop community service ideas, broken down based on what they might be passionate about: 

Science and the Environment

You don’t have to travel far to make an impact. Does a local park have a problem with litter? Volunteer to pick up trash or help educate the community about the environmental impact of littering. If a local community center’s grounds need some sprucing up, volunteer to help beautify the area and make it more welcoming. You don’t have to join an already established volunteer project in order to make an impact. Identify a community need and come up with a way to fulfill it.

Working with Children

Look into serving as a mentor for a younger student in your community who may be struggling in the classroom or at home. Simply being a friend and positive role model can make a big difference in a child’s life. Having trouble getting started? Religious leaders and elementary school teachers or principals may know of young children in need of a buddy. Also look into opportunities at a local Boys and Girls Club, community center, or other organizations that offer after-school programs.

Working with Animals

Animal shelters are popular volunteer destinations, so contact local organizations if you’re interested in spending some time with animals. Guide dog training facilities also rely on volunteers but may be less of an obvious option—check them out as well!


Find a local sports camp and volunteer your time teaching your sport of choice! Likewise, maybe a younger team in your area could use an assistant coach after school or on the weekends. Volunteer your skills and talents to help others learn more about sports and help them improve. A little bit of guidance can go a long way.

Community Service and College Admissions Resources

Here are some additional resources to help you learn more about community service in the college admissions process and how to find community service activities that match your interests.

Finding Community Service Opportunities that Match Your Interests

Community Service During the Holidays

Making an Impact Inside and Outside of the Classroom

Quality extracurricular activities, including community service initiatives, can provide additional context to your application, show more of who you are as a student and citizen, and help to demonstrate why you’re a good fit for the schools to which you are applying. If you need help identifying new activities – or refining your current commitments – contact us today for more information on our college counseling services.


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