Published by Niche
Colleges want students to participate in authentic, meaningful community service that deepens their sense of gratitude, responsibility for the future, and appreciation of diversity.
In a report published by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, a coalition of college admissions officers joined together to create and endorse recommendations related to community service and ethical engagement, among other topics.
In summary, the report recommended the following:
- Students should engage in authentically chosen community service. This means that the volunteer opportunities you choose should emerge from your interests and passions.
- Ideally, students should spend at least a year on sustained service or community engagement. Community engagement refers to working in groups on community problems, like beautifying a local park or participating in an environmental initiative. The report states that individual service is also valuable, but community engagement develops problem-solving skills, group awareness, and an understanding of and investment in the common good. This also means consistency and commitment are important. Working on one project over a long period of time is better than working on twelve different projects to “collect” hours.
- Students should also work on community service projects that deepen their understanding of diversity. The report specifies that this should not be a patronizing act of “doing for” students from different backgrounds. Instead, students should “do with,” collaborating with diverse groups on school and community issues.
- The report explains that there is no need to “game” community service by seeking high-profile or exotic service opportunities in faraway places. The emotional and ethical awareness and skills generated by community service experiences are far more important.
So, it’s not about how much community service you do, and it’s not about serving your community in ways that no applicant has ever served their community before.
Colleges value community service that you’re passionate about, that you’re committed to, that betters your community or school, and that builds skills and deepens your understanding of diversity and ethics.