Student wondering how many volunteer hours are needed

Volunteer Hours and Your College App

How Many Volunteer Hours Do Students Need?

Colleges are not shy about telling you what they want to see from undergraduate applicants.  Many publish their admitted students’ average GPAs and ACT/SAT scores so prospective students can gauge if they are a good academic fit.  But unlike, grade point averages and standardized test scores, colleges do not the average number of volunteer hours.  

VolunteerCrowd reviewed hundreds of undergraduate admission pages.  Not once did we encounter a minimum number of volunteer hours or even a range.  Why?  Because volunteering is not a test. It’s a demonstration of the impact students can make with what they learn.  How you help your community shows admissions offices what motivates and interests you.  

What Colleges Ask About Community Service

Fordham University understands that academic metrics alone do not define the student:  “As we consider your application, we seek to get to know you beyond the numbers, including how you will give back to Fordham, and/or your local, national, and international community via service and social justice.”

Emory University wants details and wants asks students how they will give back as undergraduates. “We seek students who will contribute well to the life of the university and to Atlanta and beyond. What will you gain from our community, and what will you give? Whether you’ve been involved in clubs, sports, a job, helping with family, research, or community service, we want to know more about those things.”

Colorado State seeks insights about how students contribute to their world.  They want to know how students will add value to their classrooms and campus:  “Your meaningful engagement in school, extracurricular, and community activities can help us understand your strengths and interests.”

Admissions officers do not have a standard measure of how many hours=commitment. 

William Conley, former VP for Enrollment Management, Bucknell University, co-founder of Enrollment Intelligence.  

Fordham, Colorado State, and Emory are among hundreds of other colleges and universities that approach admissions holistically. Many higher education institutions understand what counts can’t always be counted. Describing your contribution to your community cannot be reduced to a single number like total volunteer hours. 

Describing Your Community Service Contribution to Colleges

The Common App is used by over 900 colleges. The app asks students to list extracurricular activities in order of importance and estimate how many hours per week they dedicate.  Think of any number describing your volunteer time as a supporting point to your narrative: “You can share your interests and who you are outside of the classroom in the activities section. You can share information about things like work, hobbies, clubs, and community engagement. And don’t forget, family responsibilities can be important to share as well. This is the place to show colleges what makes you unique!”

Don’t just list the activity, but take the time (and free text space we provide on the application) to give us more details about your level of involvement in an activity.”

Georgia Tech – Undergraduate Admission Community Contribution Guidance

The Coalition for College is accepted by over 150 top colleges and universities, including Ivy League schools.  The application includes a digital locker to include your academic and outside-the-classroom highlights, a collaboration space to connect with others, and an application.  This is one of the 2020-2021 essay prompts:  “Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.”

Creating Your Service Transcript and Portfolio

Like all activities related to college admissions you should plan in advance, find the right resources, and get guidance from your trusted resources. VolunteerCrowd supports students through the entire process from finding the first volunteer project, to tracking volunteer hours, to submitting a descriptive service portfolio to college.  For additional details see our recent webinar, “Class of 2021 – A Changing Admissions Process and Why Volunteering Matters.” VolunteerCrowd presented with William Conley, Bucknell University’s former VP for Enrollment Management and current co-founder of Enrollment Intelligence.  

VolunteerCrowd finds academic-related volunteer opportunities to inspire students and helps them build a verified service transcript to inspire colleges and employers. Visit VolunteerCrowd or download the app.

Inspiring images by SHUTTERSTOCK

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