Admissions To Great Colleges

I am aware that colleges really want you to be well-rounded. Part of this is to show that you have done community service. What is an amazing amount of hours that will make me stand out on an application for service?

Ah, Grasshopper, I’m going to give you an answer that will sound like Kung Fu mumbo jumbo and that you won’t like. At first. But stick with me.

There is no magic number. Because colleges aren’t looking at this like just one more item on a check list. They don’t have a rubric that says 10 points for 2000 hours of volunteering, 6 points for 1000 hours of volunteering and 2 points for 100 volunteer hours and then they admit the person who gets the most points.

Instead, selective colleges look at any volunteering you do as one more way to show them who you are, why you do certain things, what’s important to you. So the total hours are less important than what you do, what you get out of it and how it contributes to your community. 2000 hours at BS volunteering that makes little impact on you or the community won’t be impressive. But a lesser amount of hours spent on something that makes a difference, that ties in to what you’re interested in as a person, that changed who you are and made you think a different way … is golden.

Choose your volunteering - and how you describe it - for what it shows about you and do it often enough to make a difference. One last Kung Fu style thought - it’s not about the total hours, it’s what you do in those hours.

what makes you think either of these statements are true? (hint: they are not)

Common fallacy. While a college may endeavor to assemble a well-rounded freshman class, that does not mean that all the students need to be well-rounded. Some are well-rounded, but others are lopsided. But no applicant should try to be something that s/he isn’t.

Few, if any, colleges will care if you’ve done community service. Fewer will care if you’ve done 100 hours vs. 1000 hours. Community service is a very nice, noble activity. But don’t do it simply to “help” with admissions.

@milee30 says it perfectly: there is no magic formula with respect to admissions for ECs, volunteering, community service, etc. Merely putting in time – without without demonstrating any true commitment, achievement, or leadership – is worth little from an admissions perspective. An activity in which you’ve managed to truly make a difference in the lives of others or you’ve been able to have a positive impact on your community (school, team, etc.) will get you much further in admissions (and in life) than just “showing up and putting in the time.”

It looks like you have only finished 2 years of HS. I think you fundamentally misunderstand the college admission process. I suggest you spend time with your guidance counselor in the fall. Here are a few things to consider:
–There is no minimum number of community service hours. The idea of ECs is to do things you care deeply about and to make a meaningful contribution to the groups you are involved in.

–You can be either well rounded or be focused on a particular area of interest/skill and get into top colleges.
–There is no such thing as a pre-med major (from your other post) – you can get into med school with any major as long as you take the prerequisite courses.

colleges dont actually want well rounded kids. a mile deep not a mile wide

^^^^ I’ve heard more than one admission officer from top colleges say that they look to create a well rounded class – and that includes some individuals who are well rounded and some individuals who have a particular focus/talent. My advice is for each person to pursue what they care about – it may be just a single thing for one person while another person may make very meaningful contributions in multiple outlets.

@happy ^^ agreed. I’ve also heard AOs say well-rounded is not a bad thing. Our family will soon find out.

S19 has taken all honors and APs in all subjects. He’s received all 5s on his APs, including BC Calc as a junior. He’s a writer who has placed in state-wide writing contests. He is an artist who has studied art since he was eight and had his art chosen for a teen art show at a tippy top university this winter. He’s a three season athlete who is just shy of being recruitable, but top D3 coaches in his sport have told him that he will be welcomed as a “strong varsity athlete” if he’s accepted.

He’s pretty well rounded. Strong in all subjects, a good writer, an artist, and an athlete. 99+ percentile on the SAT and most likely NMSF. He’s totally undecided on major. In about nine months, we will know if schools like his “resume” or if they prefer kids more pointy kids.

@homerdog my D19 should meet your S19. She is Varsity Cheer Captain, 5 on most all of the AP’s, including BC Calc. Will have 11 AP’s at graduation. She takes photos for a hobby and has won a few photo contests. She will most likely be Editor in Chief for the yearbook. Has a 1500 SAT and 3.9 UW GPA. and won’t qualify for NMF. She is currently finishing up at the MIT WTP program this summer. She loves math but hasn’t gone the AMC Test route. She will have about 500 hours of volunteer, mostly Math Circle stuff. She doesn’t know what she wants to do yet, Not sure she will target engineering, math or finance but all her current desired schools are very competitive. She is clearly more well rounded then pointy. It will be an interesting year…

@homerdog and @19parent

a little bit of recent reality for our family.

D. valedictorian of the number one usnwr public high school in a major state, top 35 in usnwr. 4.0 uw. 34 act 35 ss. 1520 sat. Near perfect subject tests. 13 aps including 5 5s this year alone. Ap scholar nm commended. varsity athlete in lacrosse. 2 years as captain. Pres of span nhs. Only girl on academic decathlon team School government and mock trial.

Numerous other. And volunteered one day each week for four years at a local hospital. Ivy summer program in medicine worked and worked for summers as a full time camp counselor and tutored math for students prepping for sats. And a very grounded and almost shy kid.

Applying most as pre med or public health

Brown, Harvard Rejected Really tough week or two

Georgetown deferred then waitlist, took name off Brutal three months waiting after ea

Bowdoin deferred ea then accepted. Tough night in December and the long wait

USC. Accepted Exciting

Boston College. Accepted ea. Honors biochem track Super exciting. Helped it came early in process
Two state unis. Accepted for honors college. Made February a little more bearable for d who thought it was going to be a massacre. And all her work was for nothing. Many many nights and conversations around this subject.

It was such an emotional roller coaster. It was wonderful and gut wrenching.

I knew nothing about this process. It was brutal. And went into it thinking it would be hard but pleasant.

Get ready. And have better expectations is all I can offer. And really read these threads for direction and realistic understanding of how hard it is for these kids. 37k high schools and 150k stars if each have 4 top students. Which is an understatement. There are about 14k seats for all the ivy schools. And half are one gender. 7k spots. 150k realistic hopefuls. Bad math for all.

But in the end you always get some great options and they fall in love with one. And then you do as well.

Best of luck and be there for your kid.

It’s also worth nothing that there’s no specific community service log on the Common App, rather, an activities portion with a maximum of 10 slots where community service may or may not be listed.

@privatebanker I hear you! That is why I spend so much time on this forum (and keep her away from it). We have a few safety and matches lined up and the rest she will do her best to pull everything together in the essays. Luckily she is a very level headed kid who will be fine with where ever she lands. I am glad to hear you say it was gut wrenching but wonderful. I am trying to absorb as much of the stress for her as possible, keep the expectations low, and look at this as an exciting journey.

@19parent That’s perfect. It’s so stressful for the students. Like they are letting everyone down or something. And I stopped being able to help her with math in 9th grade and I’m pretty good at math!

And a rejection isn’t personal and doesn’t change all the hard work and accomplishments. It’s also not a predictor of future success :slight_smile:

@momofsenior1 You are so right. It was really hard to get her to believe me on that subject s lot of nights though. Was that your experience too? I felt like there was nothing I could do to help. But persevere.

@privatebanker - I’ve been doing alumni interviewing for my alma mater for nearly two decades so my daughter grew up hearing the rejection stats and horror stories. There were always incredible applicants not getting in so she knew that there was a high likelihood that she wouldn’t get into her reach school (she only had one true reach on her list). She also opted not to apply ED and knew that lessened her odds more but they weren’t her first choice. She totally shrugged off that rejection when it came. She was more surprised/hurt to be wait listed at Michigan but so was her school’s valedictorian with perfect stats and amazing ECs, so that ended up lessening the blow more than anything I said. She was accepted everywhere else, received a number of merit scholarships, and honors college. Probably the single best thing she did though was apply to a safety that had rolling admission. She had full tuition offer to their honors college in hand in October. That helped the process tremendously and I recommend that to everyone now!

Thank you. That’s good advice for all parents. And a couple of early wins definately helped.

If an applicant is trying to gaming on what colleges/OAs are looking for these days, he or she would risk the danger of becoming just like any other applicants. To be a standout applicant in the OAs’ eyes, an applicant just need to be himself or herself by discovering who he or she really is and what’s his or her worthiness and uniqueness to contribute to the class the college and OAs are trying to put together. Our school district requires a student need to have at least of 75 hours of community service from start of the middle school to the end of high school in order to graduate from high school. My D got to 150 hours after 7th grade and then too lazy to apply more after that despite few more hundreds of community services. She just wrote a line or two on her EC list without hours, and the OA could smell they are real or not.

I believe college AO’s can see right through some applicants that do things just to bolster their application. What are you passionate about? Volunteer in that area til your hearts content. Passionate about nothing? Get a job. That will likely teach you something and maybe even give you something to write your essays about. Best wishes to you!