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Community Service and Summer: Steps to College

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Community Service and Summer: Steps to College

The simple fact is that colleges want good citizens.

That's why high school community service is an important factor for college admissions. And there are places where teenage volunteers can make a difference, in their own towns and around the world.

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Summer Service Programs

Many summer community service programs for teens are based in impoverished or rural areas in the United States or Third World countries. They vary in size but usually include 12 to 25 students. Service in these sorts of programs typically involves different projects: physical work (construction of schools, clean up, restoration); teaching; working with underserved children and adults; caring for animals; or environmental projects. Some programs allow you to do community service in more comfortable surroundings, such as California, Costa Rica or Hawaii.

There is usually an added component to summer service programs, such as language immersion, adventure, cultural exchange, or a focus, such as soccer or photography. Living arrangements are usually very basic, including home stays, centralized group housing, hostels and/or camping accommodations. However, some programs have participants living in university dorms or hotels.

Many high school students wonder what colleges look for in community service projects. To this end, DoSomething.org conducts annual surveys on community service and college admissions. They have found that most admissions officers prefer students to be consistently involved with one issue over a variety of causes.

Make the Most Out of Your Experience

Integrate year-round and summer experiences. Doing this demonstrates consistency. Commit yourself to an organization or cause that genuinely inspires you. Admissions officers really do know the difference. Use your college admissions essay to explain why that cause matters to you.

Everything Summer interviewed Danielle Toglia, George Washington University’s Regional Admissions Director, on the value of a positive summer experience. She advises students:

1. Not to try to trump others with your experiences.

2. Work on time-management skills.

3. Spend time away from home where you learn to share common spaces.

4. Experience diversity in a different setting.

5. Think outside the box.

6. Take note at summer’s end.

And, the most important thing to consider when performing community service is that when all is said and done, doing “good” is more important than doing “well."