We’ve written about it before but we keep wondering why students want to write college essays about service trips. Maybe a student (or her parent) thinks that one particular service trip is the exception to the rule. It sure isn’t! That service trip to Chile in which you helped install whiteboards in classrooms, that was really nice of you! You are making a difference in this world. You are helping children learn through better tools. We applaud your efforts. We applaud your desire to change the world and we applaud your taking the time out of your day to help those in need.
But it’s not going to get you into a highly selective college. So many students and parents think that these kinds of service trips in which you pay thousands of dollars to go to a foreign country will help you (or your child) stand out in the admissions process. As Amy Winehouse would say, “No, no, no!” What it does say is that you’ve got money. Is that what you want to be conveying to college admissions officers? Your trip to Chile means (most likely) that your parents can afford to send you there. Not everyone is so privileged. This is basic psychology at play here. Your trip to Chile makes admissions officers think you did this to help get you into college but do you really think a highly selective college like Princeton absolutely needs sixteen kids who did service trips? As Amy Winehouse would say…”no, no, no.”
Highly selective colleges need great science researchers. They need great basketball players. They need great debaters. They need African American and Native American students. They need punters and swimmers. They do not need kids who had the luxury of going on a service trip — even if this service trip did serve to make the world a better place for humanity. Job well done. It won’t help you get into a top college. So before you write that college essay, think about something else to write about.