Article written by Jason Patel for Niche
On your college applications, you’ll list your community service along with your other extracurricular activities. The essay and/or personal statement provides another opportunity to share your community service experiences with admissions officers. So, how can you write about your community service hours in a compelling way?
First, a word of caution: Community service essays are common, and many share similar themes and ideas (e.g. helping the less fortunate, gaining a new perspective and learning to appreciate what you have, developing a passion for helping others, etc.). If you choose to write about community service, try to take a unique approach.
Share a very specific experience, perhaps occurring in just one day, one hour, or even less. Avoid a “big-picture” essay about a project or generalizations about how community service changed your life. Home in on one significant moment and explain why it was meaningful to you and what you learned as a result.
If you do write about community service in response to short answer questions, a personal statement, or an essay, remember these principles:
- Be reflective. Explain what you learned and how you grew from the experience.
- At the same time, be honest and specific. Avoid generic or cliché statements about how community service made you a better person or taught you to appreciate what you have. Think deeply about what you’ve really learned through community service.
- Focus on one anecdote or experience. This will make it easier to get specific and develop a more personal reflection about how your community service experiences have impacted you and your perspective.
- Remember what colleges consider important when it comes to community service: authentic passion, sustained commitment, community engagement, diversity, ethical and emotional awareness, and skills developed. If you have a genuine story related to one or more of these principles, share it.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to write about community service (unless a college asks a question prompting you to do so). And if you don’t have a compelling story to share that fits the guidelines above, it’s probably best to avoid this topic.
If, however, you can think of a meaningful experience that genuinely impacted you, a reflective essay about community service may be the way to go.