Oct 15, 2010

Community Service and College Admissions: Does It Matter?

Community service not only “matters,” but according to findings from a recent study by DoSomething.org, the nature, duration, and level of volunteer commitment are also significant and figure into admissions decisions made by many “name” institutions.

In a survey sent to some of the most “selective” colleges in the country, DoSomething.org probed questions commonly asked by college-bound students weighing the relative importance of community service in their high school careers.

The results paint an interesting picture of what college admission officers really look for when they review applications:

• Almost three-quarters ranked community service in the top four most important factors considered along with GPA/Class Rank, standardized tests, and other extra-curricular activities.
• 70 percent valued consistent local volunteering over a long period rather than a “short stint” abroad.
• Commitment to a single cause was preferred 5 to 1 over scattered involvement with a variety of causes.
• Having a “founder” role in creating a new idea or project was chosen as the most important marker of good citizenship.
• Application readers like to see words like “commitment” and “passion” when applicants describe their community service in college essays.

Survey respondents were a little less definitive about the relative value of fundraising over an actual hands-on work experience with an organization. Forty-three percent, a slight majority, were more impressed with high level fundraising, while 30 percent supported the work experience, and 27 percent had no preference over either community service option.

And the results were very encouraging for students involved in political campaigns. Seventy-two percent of the admissions officers considered political work to be a type of community service, although one remarked, “It depends on the political work done. Community organizing seems more like service to me than working on a politician’s campaign.”

In her admissions blog, Notes From Peabody, UVa’s Dean J provides advice that seems to agree with the DoSomething.org survey findings, “I want to see that you’re involved in some stuff.” She adds, “There are people with long activity lists and there are people with short activity lists….We want to see commitment.”

DoSomething.org supports teen involvement in community service and provides a web-based forum for teens interested in creating projects or otherwise contributing to the world around them. For more information on the Community Service and College Admissions Survey, visit the DoSomething.org website.

1 comment:

  1. I think it's important to note that my blog post was not suggesting a specific sort of activity. Whether a student's involved in student government, a cultural club, academic team, sport, or service doesn't matter. We just want to see that there's something more to them than just going to school and going home every day. There is no hierarchy in our minds when it comes to clubs and organizations.

    I do not need a student to be a founder of a club to consider their involvement meaningful.