Finding the Best Community Service Projects for Summer

Embarking on a community service project can be the perfect way to spend some time over the summer that will do double-duty as college application gold.  Not only will you have something interesting and worthwhile to add to your resume, but your experience may experiences and insights you’ll turn to later in your college application essays.

College admissions officers have always looked favorably on students’ community service commitments and contributions, but as the applicant competition continues to stiffen, colleges are looking even more to the quality and creativity of an applicant’s community service.  Meaningful time spent, rather than a few hours here and there, can make a big impression.  But with school years packed with homework and extracurricular commitments, it can be difficult or impossible to find a significant chunk of time.  Summer, however, is three wide-open months and the perfect time to find a week or more to do a serious service project.

Increasingly, students are looking to service projects abroad.  This is a great way to see the world but keep in mind – community service should not feel like a luxury vacation! Seek out a program that is part of an established organization in the area you want to go and make sure that the program spends the majority of your time there on the service project.  It is also good to make sure they’ll immerse you in the local culture – that is part of the allure!  In fact, some schools, including selective Tulane University in New Orleans, specifically ask applicants whether they have done an international service project.

Students also frequently embark on mission trips through their church, mosque, or synagogue. These trips encourage kids to share with their neighbors to give back to those less fortunate and often include a lot of work. This is good! Mission trips often give students over a hundred hours of community service which can qualify for service awards and recognition. One way to make this even better:  try to obtain a leadership position on the trip – this can make an already great program even more significant.

Another option is to take the bull by the horns and start your own service organization. Come up with an idea, enlist some friends to help, and you’re off and running!  This may sound overwhelming but it can be easier and cheaper than going on a trip with an organization.  A run-down of steps to start a grassroots service group is outlined in our book – Get Your Summer Strategy On! It is available on or you can download it as an eBook from our website by clicking here.  This book will give you loads of ideas for turning your summertime into college admissions gold.