Community service is an excellent way to help people and improve your community. It can also help you gain skills and experience to include on your resume and college applications.
What exactly is Community Service?
Community service is precisely what its name says; services you perform to benefit your community. Community service can be done by an individual or by several people that help others.
Community service can improve the lives of different groups of people like troubled children, senior citizens, people with disabilities, sometimes even injured animals, and save the environment. Community service is usually organized through a local group, like a church, temple, school, or non-profit organization. However, you can also start your community service projects.
People join community service because they enjoy helping others and improve their surroundings and community. Many students take up community service to graduate from high school or get particular honors. Sometimes adults are also ordered by a judge to complete several community service hours.
How Participating in Community Service will Help you in College Admission
Develop a Better a Perspective of the World
Volunteering is a crucial part of preparing students to take authority as open-minded, civilized citizens in a global community. While performing community service, students have the opportunity to observe in real life how much their work can have a positive impact on the world. Students volunteering locally at food shelves, retirement centers, animal shelters, and orphanages get to interact with people who have immensely different backgrounds learn patience and empathy as they develop a whole new perspective of the world.
Connect What They Learn in the Real World
Community service provides students a considerable opportunity to explore academic interests in the real world.
Volunteering can help students learn more about how certain things function; for example, clean up drives, recycling waste, etc., can help students learn more about environmental issues firsthand.
We have found that when students connect what they are learning in school to real-life issues that matter, they throw themselves into learning. Studies show that students who give back to the community perform better in university, especially in math, reading, and history. Moreover, students who participate in community service are also more certainly to graduate from high school.
Edge in College Admission Process
As admission to elite universities is becoming more and more competitive, volunteer experience can be a massive advantage in college admission. This is the reason many students start doing community service projects. However, students who start earlier have a distinct advantage because their span of experience allows them to step up to leadership positions within organizations quickly.
The advantage in Getting Scholarship
Those extra years of volunteering give students an advantage while applying for scholarships—usually, scholarships are planned to reward community service participation. The relationships students build with other volunteers also make their advantage when it comes time for college applications, letters of recommendation, and scholarships.
Volunteering looks impressive to employers and shows that the student is responsible and cares about their community. Also, volunteering can serve as an unpaid internship. Employers are often not ready to hire people without experience, and volunteering is an easy way for students to gain experience in various fields.
Create a network
Students who want to get into a particular field can use community service to network with other industry experts. As a volunteer, the students can learn about new job or internships. Students can also help some of their friends’ volunteer for references and advice on finding a career in the industry.
Overall become a better person.
“Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy”. -Gautama Buddha
Indeed, volunteering is a peaceful experience internally. Studies show that people who help others are happier individuals. Students can become more comfortable through volunteering, and they can learn new skills that help them succeed.
By learning communication skills and managing the books, students can pick up skills to grow. Students pay thousands of dollars every year for their schooling. Instead of spending more money on the school to learn a skill, students may pick up the same ability through volunteering. This will help students develop a great resume and network with professionals.
Improve your mental and physical health
A recent study shows that volunteers enjoy remarkable health benefits. Compared to non-volunteers, volunteers are likely to efficiently deal with stress, anxiety, and depression and have lower mortality rates. While older individuals had the most health benefits, young students also enjoy the health benefits.
Also, people who spend over 100 hours helping in services each year show excellent positive health outcomes. From health benefits to a better resume, students who undertake community services can gain exceptional benefits.
Community service allows students to show leadership, creativity, compassion, understand, and come to terms with the real world. Colleges do not just want students who will perform well in class – they want students who will also engage outside of the school and positively impact campus and the world.
How Should You Use This List?
We have covered more than one hundred community service examples. The list is organized by category, so let’s say if you are specifically interested in working with senior citizens, children, or animals, you can easily find community service activities related to your interests.
You can look for projects that are similar to your interests. You may also want to perform particular community service that allows you just enjoy, like baking, cleaning or acting,
Many community service work can help you gain skills. These skills include yoga, teaching, medicine, internet skills, CPR, construction, and many more. If there is a particular skill you'd like to learn for future classes, jobs, or just out of personal interest, you may want to see if there is a community service activity that helps you understand that skill.
List of Community Service Examples
We have put together a list of community service project examples to get you started.
Collecting things for your community
- Contribute to school supplies.
- Collect backpacks.
- Organize and make donations at a homeless shelter.
- Collect non-perishable food products.
- Get extra unused makeup to donate to domestic violence shelters.
- Collect Halloween candy to send to deployed military service members who cannot celebrate at their home.
- Collect hygiene items.
- Collect used jeans for homeless teenagers.
- Collect stuffed animals for small children.
- Collect SAT and ACT books and donate them to a library.
Helping School and Children
- Teach children after the school
- Organize fun games and activities for children in hospitals
- Knit blankets which can be donated to hospitals or homeless shelters
- Organize a Special Olympics event for children and teenagers
- Donate a used sports equipment to children and teenagers
- Volunteer at a summer camp for teenagers who have lost a parent
- Coach a youth sports team
- Give free music lessons to children.
- Organize a program to encourage kids to learn, read and work hard for a better future
- Help new students make friends.
- Become a counselor and help troubled kids
- Develop a new game for children
- Sponsor education of child living in an underdeveloped foreign country
- Pass your good religious knowledge to troubled teenagers
- Babysit children
- Volunteer local health department to set up an immunization clinic to immunize children against diseases
- Read to elderly at a nursing home.
- Deliver groceries and meals to senior citizens
- Teach internet skills
- Drive senior citizens to doctor appointments
- Now their lawn
- Host a bingo night at a nursing home
- Host a holiday meal
- Make birthday cards
- Decorate a Christmas tree at a nursing home
- Organize a family day for residents of a retirement home and relatives to play games together
- Deliver medicines to elderly neighborhood
- Organize a concert, sing or play some instrument at a retirement home
- Help the elderly clean their homes.
- Shovel snow, wash windows, and help in gardening.
- Deliver cookies
Taking care of Animals and Environment
- Take care of dogs and cats at an animal shelter
- Clean up a nearby park
- Help raise money and get a bulletproof vest for a police dog.
- Plant a lot of tree and plants
- Place a bird feeder and bird fountain in open spaces.
- Start a butterfly garden in your community.
- Segregate plastic waste into different categories for recycling purpose
- Cleanup drives for plastic waste removal
- Sponsor a recycling contest
- Create a new walking trail at a park
- Update the essential signs along a nature trail
- Adopt cats and dogs
- Organize the cleanup of a local river or lake
- Nurture animals that do not have space in shelters
- Take care of a neighbor's pet when they are gone away for a long time.
- Sponsor an animal at your local zoo
- Train your pet to be a therapy animal and take them to children’s hospitals and nursing homes
- Build a birdhouse
- Organize drives to inform people about the harmful effects of “Air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution, and soil pollution and how to prevent them.”
- Arrange a carpool to reduce car emissions
- Arrange more second-hand bikes in your town
- Volunteer at a nature camp and inform kids about the environment
- Test the water quality of a lake or river near you
- Plant trees and quickly grown flowers along highways
Helping Homeless People
- Build a house
- Donate your old clothes
- Volunteer at a kitchen
- Donate your old eyeglasses
- Donate blankets
- Organize a Thanksgiving dinner for people who are unable to arrange on their own
- Offer to for a family in need.
- Make “care kits” with daily necessities like toothbrushes, paste, soaps, shampoos, combs, etc., to donate to homeless shelters.
- Distribute a home-cooked meal for the residents of a nearby homeless shelter
- Help to fix the interior or paint a local homeless shelter.
- Donate art supplies to kids
- Organize a donations drive at a homeless shelter
- Babysit children while their parents search for jobs
- Become a Big Brother for children at a homeless shelter
- Take homeless children on picnics.
- Prepare food and deliver it to a soup kitchen.
- Build flower boxes for Humanity houses
- Organize a drive in winter to collect coats, blankets, scarves, and gloves to be distributed
- Distribute first aid kits for homeless shelters
Promoting safety and reducing crime
- Volunteer at a police station or firehouse
- Volunteer as a lifeguard
- Paint over bad graffiti in the neighborhood
- Train girls and children for self-defense
- Organize a drug-free campaign
- Sponsor or arrange a drug-free event
- Start a neighborhood watch program.
- Teach a home-alone safety class for children
- Organize a drive against drug and alcohol use
- Become CPR certified
- Volunteer as a crossing guard for an elementary school
Helping overall community to grow
- Paint park benches
- Donate used books to the local library
- Become a tour guide of your local museum
- Repaint community fences
- Plant flowers in bare public areas
- Start a campaign to raise money to install new playground equipment for a park.
- Help to organize a community parade.
- Clean up drives
- Produce a neighborhood newspaper
- Start a campaign for more lighting along the dark streets.
Let’s Explore the Extracurricular Activities for College Students
Extracurricular activities are activities that typically take place outside a classroom. According to the Common App, extracurriculars are activities that include arts, athletics, clubs, employment, personal commitments, etc.
Most well-known and top-rated colleges receive applications from incredibly accomplished students for mostly the same number of spots. How do applicants set themselves apart? How do admissions officers decide which student is the better investment?
Note - Before we get into extracurricular activities, I would just like to say that nothing can replace your high school grades and the results of your standardized tests (ACT/SAT). Your grades are still important- an excellent extracurricular profile will just make your application look good and make it stand out from the rest of the applicants. Do not take your grades lightly. You must enroll in challenging courses and do well in them if you aspire to attend top schools. Easy course loads, as well as low grades or test scores, cannot be overcome by developing a standout extracurricular profile.
However, it’s equally important to emphasize that doing well in challenging courses and on standardized tests like the SAT or AP Exams is not enough to get into elite universities. To stand out from the competition, you must pursue interesting activities in a focused way to demonstrate expertise, initiative, leadership, impact, and other positive qualities.
Most applicants are highly accomplished, and they have excellent stats while participating in various extracurricular activities. Therefore, a unique extracurricular profile will help the admissions officer pick you.
Typically, colleges would prefer a student with an average score of 85% and a lot of involvement in extracurriculars as compared to a student with an average score of 90% with no involvement. Also, colleges would rather admit two students from the 99th percentile in a particular field than admitting two students from the 80th percentile in various fields.
Colleges believe that what you do before college reflects what you will continue to do in college. College administration officers like students who are active and are contributing to the community. They believe that there is a good chance that applicants who are active and involved in the community will continue to do so in college. Therefore, extracurriculars can help you get into good colleges. But, how do you decide when to focus on schoolwork instead of extracurricular activities?
Colleges understand that not all students will get time for traditional extracurricular activities. Sometimes, obligations to family or financial constraints might restrict a student from taking up extra activities. Therefore, any way you use your time in a constructive or valuable manner will be acceptable by the college. For example, taking care of the family or working a part-time job are responsibilities that display maturity. This will show colleges that you are capable of being responsible and making serious commitments.
A study in the US showed that students taking up extracurriculars have a better chance at scoring well in exams. The logic behind this study was that sometimes extracurriculars help you feel better about yourself, which in turn helps you get better grades. Think about it this way- playing a sport makes you smarter than watching TV/movies. If you like watching movies, you can form a club for movies and increase the number of members of this group. This will also be considered an extracurricular.
What do Colleges want to see?
When admissions officers see a list of extracurricular activities that is very common, it becomes difficult to differentiate between applicants. Thus, while looking at applications, colleges are looking for students who are specialists in their chosen fields and have a deep and interesting reason for engaging in it.
Colleges care less about “what” activity you do and care more about “why” and “how” you do. No activity has more importance over the other, as long as your reason behind it is strong enough. There are three main things that colleges are looking for: Passion, Leadership, and Impact. The “why” and “how” define these three points.
Passion – Colleges believe that your passion is something that will create a drive in you to accomplish great things. They believe that this passion will most likely continue to drive you in college as well. Therefore, make sure your activity is not only for fun but also for passion.
Leadership - Leadership experiences include any time that you have been responsible for a project or for guiding, motivating, or instructing others. Many schools – especially the most selective ones – want to see students who exhibit leadership skills because they are hoping that their students will someday go on to be leaders who make differences on a larger scale in academics, business, or research. Therefore, showing that you have the desire and sense of responsibility that a leader needs can be very attractive to admissions officers.
Impact - One of the reasons that passion is so important is because admission officers want to see that you have made a significant investment in activity over an extended period of time. Though you’ll probably experiment with several different activities when you're younger, once you settle on the one you're most passionate about, officers are going to be looking for how you've made a difference in the activity and how you've changed because of it. Admission officers want to know about you, who you are, and what made you like this.
Best extracurricular activities in a college application
Listed below are some of the extracurricular activities that universities look for in applications and which you should consider pursuing so that it positively enhances your university applications.
1. Student Government
Students who stand for elections and are elected from the Student Government on campus. Typically, the student government’s functions can include:
- Coordinating events and activities for students
- Being the voice of students
- Allocating funds to other student organizations on campus
- Providing forums for discussions of students’ problems
- Strengthening the student community on campus
Everything listed in the extracurricular activities of the Student Government aims to hone the leadership skill in a student. By being part of Student Government, you will become:
- More articulate
- Enhance your interpersonal skills, as you will be interacting with different people
- Adept at handling activities beyond academics at school
The most salient takeaway of being part of the Student Government is that it infuses you with leadership skills. Extracurricular activities at colleges where Student Government is an option have additional functions like being part of the honor council that is responsible for the university’s honor code as well as being on the judiciary board to hear and pass verdicts in disciplinary cases.You can participate in extracurricular activities at colleges such as Student Government only if you have done so in the past and exhibited leadership qualities.
Watch this video about the merits of extracurricular activities in Student Government:
Watch this video of extracurricular activities at colleges:
By participating in extracurricular activities pertaining to sports, there are many qualities that you will refine. Sports will display your
- Leadership skills
- Obligation to practice
- Competitive spirit
All colleges look for such qualities in applicants so when you have demonstrated these qualities in extracurricular activities, colleges are bound to be interested in your application. There are many universities in the US like Stanford University, University of Florida, and the University of California, Los Angeles, – to name a few, who are reputed for athletics. By choosing athletics as one of your extracurricular activities, and studying at a university that further hones your talent, it could well pave the way for you to become a professional athlete. An added incentive in choosing sports is the possibility of getting financial aid to pursue your studies while participating in the university’s sports/athletics team.
For more information about getting financial aid for extracurricular activities in sports:
Watch this video of Stanford University’s extracurricular activities at colleges:
3. The Debate Team
If you love conversations and putting forth your point of view about current matters, become a part of the debate team. All extracurricular activities are meant to challenge you but this one does so from the moment you decide to participate in a debate.
By participating in debates you will be:
- Up to date in current affairs
- Fearless to speak your mind
- Think on your feet
- Analytical in your thinking
- Confident in your beliefs
With such qualities in extracurricular activities that are demonstrated and not simply mentioned in your personal statement, your college application will be high up in the pile of applications. If you have the qualities of being good at debating, it can well present you with career options – you could become a lawyer, politician, broadcast analyst, etc.
For information on extracurricular activities in debates at Indian schools:
Watch this video of extracurricular activities at colleges:
When you choose to intern as one of your extracurricular activities, it immediately signals that you are focused and intent on achieving your academic and career goals. By doing an internship, you are willing to work for free if necessary to gain experience.
What an internship says about you when mentioned under extracurricular activities is that:
- You are dedicated to your goals
- You are efficient
- You are competent and mature to begin working
- You are willing to work hard
- You will go that extra mile if necessary
All colleges look for such qualities in applicants and the college will be further assured that you will be willing to take on tough study programs and challenge yourself.
While choosing an internship, ensure that it is related to the major that you wish to pursue at college. In doing so, your efforts in enhancing your extracurricular activities will have direction and purpose.
For information on extracurricular activities in an internship in India:
5.Volunteer Work and Community Service
By choosing to do volunteer work and community service, you demonstrate your desire to do what you can to make a difference to your community or the larger world. By becoming involved in local groups or international organizations, you can participate in such extracurricular activities.
Volunteer Work and Community Service will make you:
- More sensitive to the needs of others
- Committed to giving back to society
- Willing to work beyond the call of duty
When Volunteer Work and Community Service is mentioned under extracurricular activities in your application, every college admissions office will place you a few notches higher than other applicants. The experience you gain with such extracurricular activities is what colleges look for in students to make their college a better place.
When you initially choose to volunteer or offer community service in an area that you love, e.g., something related to the environment, helping stricken animals, etc., it may influence the study program you choose and may even lead to various career options. An added advantage of volunteering can be in getting selected for a job because you already have working experience.
Watch this video about extracurricular activities:
Watch this video about how volunteering can help in finding employment:
How to explain your activities on your application?
Letters of recommendation - You can share your project with teachers and guidance counselors who, in turn, can write about the projects in their recommendation letters.
Common App Essay (i.e., personal statement) or supplemental essays - If a project took substantial time to complete, it may be worth writing about it in a reflective matter. You can also mention how you came across this project and what you learned from it.
Common App Additional Information Section - Unlike an essay, the Additional Information section is optional and should not be written in an essay form. It should simply provide a brief explanation—about a paragraph long—of the project.
Interviews - Although not every school requires one, an interview is an excellent time to share the details of an unusual project.
- It does not matter what extracurricular activity you select. I cannot stress this enough. Colleges want to see what drives you, they want to know what you are passionate about. They don’t care what you choose to do, they just care about the “why”.
- Colleges don’t like seeing the most basic extracurricular. For example, if you play a musical instrument, they want you to use that to do something on a larger scale. Host a talent show with an ulterior motive, for example, awareness for breast cancer, or anything along these lines.
- Colleges want an activity that is not easily explained. Activities that have a high threshold are more impressive as compared to low-threshold activities. Colleges want to hear about your activity and wonder how you pulled it off. The more interesting it will be, the higher will be your chances of getting admitted.
- Focus on only a few activities. Don’t be the jack of all and master of none. Pick 3 – 5 activities and narrow your focus on them. Specialize in one activity: colleges would rather you master 1 activity and be in the 99th percentile than be decent in several activities and be in the 80th percentile.
What you should and shouldn’t do
- Do as many activities as you can in the 11th grade to save time to focus on academics in the 12th.
- Narrow your focus to 3 – 5 activities that you care about the most and try to master them.
- Let your activities tell your story. What you choose to stick with defines who you are; your passion speaks for you.
- Don’t let your grades suffer.
- Don’t waste your vacations. Use your holidays to explore your interests and then focus on them.
- Don’t forget to enjoy the process, because this time will never come back! TIP - Trust the process!
What you are waiting for, start volunteering! You can withdraw from small projects that you can complete on your within a short time; then, eventually, you can take up much larger projects that will take more time and people. If you find anything interesting and are willing to do it, you can start on your own.
If you want to take up a large project, you will need more resources or people, and you can check around your community and get help or check if a similar program already exists that you can join.