What College Admissions Officers Look For in Students’ Community Service Work
SuperCamp helps high school students and middle school students gain the skills to prepare for success in their volunteer and community service work that college admissions officers look for in college applications.
First, let’s clear up one popular myth that exists regarding students’ community service commitment. There isn’t a direct correlation between the number of volunteer hours a student puts in and the “grade” given by a college admissions officer. In other words, 500 hours of volunteer service isn’t necessarily looked upon as two-and-a-half times better than 200 hours. However, as a minimum guideline, a student should log at least 50 hours, with 50 to 200 hours generally considered acceptable.
What’s more important to college admissions officers is the type of work the student has done, why they’re doing it and what they say they’ve gotten out of it. The qualities they look for from students in their volunteer work align very well with the qualities students develop by attending SuperCamp.
The first quality is Commitment. A study with college admissions officers conducted by DoSomething.com reports that 70% prefer seeing a student who has had a long-term dedication to a meaningful cause rather than involvement in something more glamorous for a short period of time. In fact, this study found that the majority of college admissions officers prefer to see students commit to just one cause over their time in high school. Fifteen percent suggest that a student should begin their volunteer work before high school.
At SuperCamp, students gain an understanding of the importance of commitment when they learn the 8 Keys of Excellence. Commitment is one of the Keys! As they learn about this Key during camp, they discover that commitment is not made lightly; the decisive act of making a commitment is about deciding to do “whatever it takes” to reach a goal … such as going to college and getting a degree.
A second and equally important quality is to show Passion. College admission officers want to see students involved in a community service or other volunteer work that relates to something they’re already interested in or care about deeply. The area of interest is very personal and can be as varied as caring about animals (e.g. volunteering at an animal shelter) or concern about the environment (e.g. heading up beach or park clean-up programs).
Toward the end of each SuperCamp program, with students having acquired several new learning and life skills and having gained confidence in their ability to move outside their comfort zone, they experience a goal-setting activity in which they write a goal they want to accomplish on a board. On the other side of the board, they write something that has prevented them from pursuing or accomplishing the goal. With the support of their team and with a great deal of personal passion and energy, each student breaks through their board (“barrier”), symbolizing their ability to overcome any obstacle on their way to achieving their goals. This activity shows students that when they are passionate about something and pursue it with full commitment, they can succeed.
College admission officers also are very interested in seeing applicants’ Leadership skills. The thinking here is that colleges want students who are able to positively impact their community and the world, which in turn, reflects well on the school. One of the best ways a college applicant can demonstrate their potential as a leader is by serving in a leadership capacity role as part of their volunteer work or community service. Applicants can take it a step further by showing that, in their volunteer work, they were more self-aware and were capable of motivating others to succeed.
SuperCamp helps high school and middle school students develop their leadership skills in a number of ways, including teaching effective communication and listening skills, positive role modeling, how to advocate for others, how to maximize the individual strengths of team members for the greater good of the team, how to find your voice as a leader and how to work with varying personalities. Included in our leadership training are Leadership Track programs for returning Senior Forum and Junior Forum students and a Leadership Team program for graduates of the Senior Forum Leadership Track.
Developing these three qualities as a SuperCamp participant, as well as the added maturity and strength of character gained at SuperCamp, helps set a student up for success in their volunteer and community service work, which will contribute greatly to their success during the college admissions process.