Many students and their parents believe that participating in community service is essential to gain admission to a highly selective college — including an Ivy League college. They think that if you aren’t a member of eight community service organizations, you’re not doing as much as your competition and you just won’t have an edge. They think that if you participate in community service activities for over twenty hours a week, you’re a good person. And college admissions counselors will be so utterly impressed by the quality of your character that they’ll just yearn to admit you.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. So wrong. First of all, students do not have to participate in community service to gain admission to highly selective colleges. Community service is not a prerequisite for Ivy League admission and many students admitted year in and year out do not participate in community service at all. The fact is that highly selective colleges aren’t looking for well-rounded students. They are looking for singularly talented and unique students to form a well-rounded class of talented students. There’s a big difference and this is a fundamental of highly selective college admissions.
Participating in eight community service activities can often show that you have no singular commitment to any. You’re spread too thin. You don’t seemingly have a passion for anything in particular. And you don’t need to serve soup in a soup kitchen to prove that you’re a good person. You don’t even need to do community service to prove that you’re a good person. Can community service be helpful to some applicants? Absolutely. But not all. It’s not mandatory and it’s not always helpful. If you want to do good, do good! We encourage you to be do-gooders. But don’t do it just because it’ll help you get into college. Because, often times, it just won’t.
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