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How important is community service?

microssrunner17microssrunner17 Registered User Posts: 148 Junior Member
As a rising senior, i only have about 25 total volunteer hours and no work experience. I was meant to get a job and start volunteering the summer before junior year, but my family moved states halfway through the summer so that kinda complicated things. As a freshman and sophomore, college wasnt even on my mind so i didnt even think of volunteering.

Im feeling pressured to get like 100 hours of service in this summer because i dont know what schools want to see. I go on CC and see that people have like 350+ hours and it really stresses me out. Is 100 hours even possible to do from june-august, on top of summer work and applications?

Whats a number that looks impressive? I read an article somewhere saying that 50 hours is too little, but 200+ might be too much?? Ugh, i dont know. I just dont want my application to be frowned upon because i dont have 100+ hours. Maybe if i volunteer ~10 hours a week, itll add up at the end of the summer?

Replies to: How important is community service?

  • T26E4T26E4 Registered User Posts: 24,274 Senior Member
    no college requires a single hour of community service. That being said, what are you planning to do this summer? Is it constructive? Then you're fine. If it's not, then well ...

    I interview for an Ivy. One of my fellow alums is a judge and he marvels at how much students overestimate their profiles simply b/c of community service hours -- he rejects it saying: "I SENTENCE people to community service!" My very selective alma mater doesn't care if you have zero community service hours.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 32,368 Senior Member
    But top colleges do care that you are wise, compassionate, and able to figure out how to do for others, not just what pleases you or advances you. It may not matter as much for OP's targets. But good service often comes from having good values and other skills. It's not just hours, racking up some total.
  • lostaccountlostaccount Registered User Posts: 5,409 Senior Member
    You should do ZERO hours for the purpose of appealing to college admissions counselors. Volunteer only if you'd do it if you were not going to tell anyone about it. In fact, if you do it, don't tell anyone about it. That is better! People in need are not there to be used by perspective college applicants.
  • bopperbopper Forum Champion CWRU Posts: 13,894 Forum Champion
    First, look at colleges that you are potentially interested in and see how much they care about ECs.
    Google "Common Data Set <college>" and look at "Relative importance of each of the following academic and nonacademic factors in first-time, first-year, degree-seeking
    (freshman) admission decisions."

    At NJ's State Flagship, ECs are only "considered" (vs. Very Important or Important). For big schools, admission is mostly based on GPA/SAT/ACT.

    Working is an EC.

    What do you want to major in? Is there related volunteering ? For example, my daughter wants to be pre-med so she volunteered at a hospital to a) help the community b) see if she liked the medical profession c) For community service hours for NHS/College apps.

    Do you belong to a house of worship? You could volunteer there as part of that community.

    Is there a disease (breast cancer, autism, etc) that anyone in your family has? YOu could volunteer for those charities.
  • microssrunner17microssrunner17 Registered User Posts: 148 Junior Member
    I plan on majoring in psych or neuroscience. Im going to volunteer at my local animal shelter because its close and i love animals. I tried seeing if i could shadow a psychologist or work at a therapy center or something, but no avail.

    I was under the impression that community service is something that we absolutely need because our school counselors are practically drilling it into our brains, but its a comfort to know that i dont need hundreds of hours to be competitive with everyone else. Thanks for the advice everyone :)
  • happy1happy1 Forum Champion Parents, Forum Champion Admissions Posts: 24,492 Forum Champion
    Community service is one type of EC, and while it is nice to do if you find it fulfilling, it is not required by colleges.
  • nugraddadnugraddad Registered User Posts: 1,332 Senior Member
    None of my kids had any community service, though they did have a lot of other ECs. But as lostaccount suggests - none of their ECs were done for college admissions - ONLY do ECs you are interested in.
  • mikemacmikemac Registered User Posts: 10,369 Senior Member
    edited May 2016
    like everyone is telling you, there is no requirement for a single hour of community service. The stuff you hear in the lunchroom about colleges wanting kids that "give back" is just HS kids making stuff up, projecting their views of what a good candidate is onto adcoms.
    I was under the impression that community service is something that we absolutely need because our school counselors are practically drilling it into our brains
    Then they have their own ulterior motives for a free labor force, or they are fools. Now you know how much trust to put in anything they tell you. Go get a good book or two on college admissions, it looks like you'll be doing this without their "help".

    Most colleges give little or no weight to ECs. Those that do give a lot of weight, they want to see achievement and/or leadership. Member of this or that, building up volunteer hours, that is not the kind of EC that stands out.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 32,368 Senior Member
    edited May 2016
    Where do you get this idea service is a sham? No, there is no official requirement. But anyone aiming for a competitive holistic should be a rounded individual, able to give back in meaningful ways. If anything, some of the silly clubs, useless honor societies. awards for perfect attendance, fakey leadership titles, etc, should be discouraged. It's bad enough to tell kids only their own passion matters, misleading to suggest they just need to be bumps on the high school log. This thread really surprises me.

    OP, if you don't know what schools like, at least try to do "the right thing." Your service may not be a tip for your particular college targets, but it's a good thing, nonetheless.
  • arc918arc918 Registered User Posts: 736 Member
    My kid ended up with 1,000+ hours during HS. But she totally loved it! She was passionate about the causes and genuinely loved the process and helping out with the various events.

    Her senior grad night is coming up next week, she'd honestly rather be volunteering to set it all up (as she has in previous years) than attend the event.
  • mikemacmikemac Registered User Posts: 10,369 Senior Member
    edited May 2016
    But anyone aiming for a competitive holistic should be a rounded individual
    That's one point of view.

    Another is expressed by people such as college counselors.
    Logan, now the director of college counseling at Phillips Academy in Andover, has worked in admissions at Williams and Occidental colleges, as well as Harvard and Stanford universities. “This issue of angular versus well-rounded kids, it’s really a conversation that has grown up around the most selective schools,” Logan said. Beyond the most selective colleges, well-rounded students are still being told that they are welcome, but they are warned not to get involved in too many activities.
    Or by college admission directors in interviews.
    Harvard's director of admissions, Marlyn McGrath Lewis, admits as much. "In order to make a final decision to admit," she says, "we have to identify for ourselves some unusual characteristic that will set the candidate apart in our pool -- either a very unusual academic accomplishment, a contribution to the humanities or writing, a great performer or composer, or someone who can help one of our 41 intercollegiate teams. Once we're as sure as we can be of the academics -- which highly developed, one might say overdeveloped, talents set the person apart as someone we'd want to bring here?"
    Or by elite colleges in their FAQ. Stanford says
    Students often assume our primary concern is the number of activities in which one participates. In fact, an exceptional depth of experience in one or two activities may demonstrate your passion more than minimal participation in five or six clubs. We want to see the impact you have had on that club, in your school, or in the larger community, and we want to learn of the impact that experience has had on you.
    Back to the topic at hand, there's nothing wrong, per se, with volunteer work, and I don't think anybody has said there is. Helping out the community is a good thing. But we're talking about college admissions here, and how to be an attractive candidate given a limited amount of time for ECs. The kind of coaching that kids with private counselors or attending prep schools get.

    There is no requirement, implicit or explicit, for volunteer work to be part of what helps a kid stand out. If someone has a passion for volunteer work and really jumps in as an organizer and leader, that can be a great EC. What isn't going to help an app is putting in 100 hours (or was it 200?) doing volunteer work just because you think adcoms expect to see it.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 32,368 Senior Member
    I save my rebuttal for when the topic is top tier. But "ulterior motives for a free labor force" sounds like one heavy POV.
  • nw2thisnw2this Registered User Posts: 2,632 Senior Member
    I think it is important for competitive scholarships.
  • LindagafLindagaf Registered User Posts: 9,263 Senior Member
    I will disagree with others a little on volunteering. Okay, no college requires it that I am aware of, but what kind of person would you rather admit? The one who only pleases himself, or the one who helps others? Colleges do want to admit people they like, and I think many would prefer a kid who volunteers, and works, and does things they are interested in over a kid who pretty much just does what they are interested in, and nothing else. Look at each college's CDS. Even Harvard says they "consider" volunteering.

    Many HSs require volunteering. Ours doesn't, but too bad for my kids, because I do. So many American kids have no idea how good their lives are. Volunteering helps someone who needs it, even indirectly. Also, volunteering can lead to legitimate jobs. I myself have two jobs, both of which I got because I was able to use the volunteer coordinators as references. I then was offered a paying job at one of the places I volunteer. There are no cons to volunteering, only pros.
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