Students participating in a community service event

Community Service Can Help Your Application Stand Out

You want your application to stand out from the others. Community service is one way to set yourself apart from the crowd.

College applications are like job résumés—admission offices receive hundreds, if not thousands, of applications from potential students every year, and after a few dozen, most of them start looking alike. You want your application to stand out from the rest, and community service is one way to set yourself apart. Colleges prefer well-rounded applicants who not only want to succeed but enjoy helping others succeed as well—students whose applications contain a mix of good grades, extracurricular activities, and volunteerism.

It might seem as though you don’t have time to fit one more thing into your already jam-packed schedule of homework, extracurricular activities (like band, sports, or drama club), and a social life, but there are lots of things you can do for community service. Everything counts, from clearing tables at a local fire department breakfast to working at an annual car wash for your church to volunteering for just an hour a week at the county animal shelter. The key is to match your interests and availability with the right organization.

Start where you are

If you’d like to get involved but aren’t sure where to start, look at the groups you’re already familiar with. Do you or your parents belong to a church, community organization or civic group like the Lions Club, Kiwanis, or the Rotary club? Ask if you can help out at their next fundraiser or event. This will give you an opportunity to learn more about the group and what they do without investing too much time. If you like the organization, ask about becoming a junior member. Some groups have restrictions on what their junior members are allowed to do because of safety risks (for example, a junior firefighter can’t go into a burning building), but there are lots of other ways you can help out.

Related: 4 Summer Activities That Will Impress Colleges

Start leading others

It’s great to help at fundraisers and events, but it’s even better to take on a leadership role for a club or group in your school or community. Although leadership styles are different, the best leaders tend to have a few common traits:

  • The ability to motivate and inspire others
  • Good organizational and problem-solving skills
  • A willingness to collaborate
  • The ability to see the “big picture”
  • Self-confidence
  • Empathy
  • Maturity
  • Optimism

Maybe your peers see these traits in you and nominate you for a leadership position such as student council or class officer, or your teacher might think you’re a good choice to lead a club. Maybe you don’t see yourself as a natural leader, but sometimes others see things in us that we don’t see in ourselves.

Whether you’re selected or you volunteer, leading a group is a great way to build on your strengths, develop new skills, and gain valuable experience. But being a leader isn’t always easy. You must work with many different personalities, all of whom have different priorities or solutions for reaching a common goal. (Think of it like working on a group project all year long!) But colleges always take special notice of applicants who have held leadership positions in high school—this tells them you have the capability and maturity to work with others and will make a valuable contribution to their campus.

Start something new

You help your community because you want to improve your life and the lives of others, but maybe there’s an important need not being met in your area. What will make your hometown even better? Every day we hear stories about kids taking the initiative to donate their hair to Wigs for Kids or holding collection drives for families displaced by natural disasters or facing serious illnesses. How can you make a difference? This could be a great opportunity to fill a need and start a group that will provide a service to others.

Related: Making a Difference With Philanthropy

Colleges love to get applicants who are active in their communities. Part of the college experience is learning more about the world around you and finding ways to make your corner of it a better place. Admission representatives appreciate hearing from students who are already doing that.

What other volunteer experiences can students look into? Tweet us some organizations @CollegeXpress!

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:
application advice college admission college applications community service

About Sara Karnish

Sara Karnish is a freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. 

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
CollegeXpress Logo

$10,000

Are you our next winner?

Register now for our scholarship giveaway

Leah Maciel

Leah Maciel

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me with all aspects of applying for college. The website is extremely easy to navigate and gives access to so many resources. I was able to research all of the colleges I was interested in, find out any information I wished to know about, and keep them organized in a list. I've also been able to research scholarships and save them as resources for later. I've used many websites in my college and scholarship search, and CollegeXpress has by far been my favorite one to use.

Yuhlani Patterson

Yuhlani Patterson

None

CollegeXpress has helped me find so many scholarships that fit me. They match me to colleges I have specific interest in to make searching for colleges way easier and more efficient. CollegeXpress refers me to schools that have my major of interest and backup schools if I want to change my mind. CollegeXpress also gives out their own scholarships, so you have even more of a chance at gaining multiple scholarships. This website has helped me de-stress from the pressure of not being able to afford college, [of finding] what schools are right for me, and how to find easy access to scholarships that most people never knew existed.

Caitlin Eaton

Caitlin Eaton

$10,000 Scholarship Winner, 2021

I first discovered CollegeXpress during my sophomore year of high school while researching colleges that interested me. My SAT prep class the following year further familiarized me with the opportunities available through the organization. CX has personally helped me by exposing me to a diverse selection of schools as well as scholarships and life tips that have provided valuable guidance in my college search.

This scholarship will help me adjust to college life without worrying as much about tuition. This gives me more room to truly explore and benefit from all aspects of higher education. I plan to study Conservation Biology and work protecting species/ecosystems. I’m looking forward to getting field experience and seeing firsthand the problems research is solving.

Brooke Maggio

Brooke Maggio

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me tremendously in my college search in narrowing down the schools I’m interested in. Using the college search tool, I was able to narrow down my choices to schools that matched what I was looking for. I also used CollegeXpress for their scholarship search, which helped me find scholarships that I meet the requirements of.

Asia Stockdale

Asia Stockdale

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me overcome a huge hurdle. Because of the small town I live in, I felt like I would never achieve more. I felt like I could never go beyond because of costs. I feared I wouldn’t be able to find scholarships. I had no idea of where to start. With CollegeXpress, I easily found scholarships—they came to me. It was a helper, and I was instantly matched with opportunities to go above and beyond educationally.

College Matches