When you take on the large task of applying to college, a part you’re likely to dread most is writing an essay. Why? Because it can be so hard to get started!
But, we can help. Most of you will be asked to write an essay about your community service experiences, and most of you already know that other applicants have had experiences similar to yours. So, how do you make yourself stand out?
First, plan in advance, and check out Baylor University’s excellent guide to help you organize and focus your thoughts. Also, take a look at our earlier post about avoiding common pitfalls.
Then, when you’re ready to write, consider these useful tips to help you write a stellar community service essay.
Start in the Middle of the Action
If a professional writer reviewed the first draft of your essay, he or she might cross out the first couple of paragraphs and instruct you to turn the middle into the beginning. That’s because a great way to hook your reader is to start in the middle of the action. Remember, your readers are reviewing hundreds – maybe thousands – of other community service essays. Perk them up by grabbing their attention from the get-go. Get rid of most of your background information, especially if it’s covered in your resume already. Select a poignant moment, and go from there.
Show Your Personality
A community service essay is your chance to let your readers get to know the real you – not the “you” that your teachers see in your term papers. It’s okay to use “I” statements, to thread in some humor, and to share your personal reflections. Be genuine, and let your voice set the tone. Make sure to complement the bullet points of your resume with anecdotal stories that show your values. By the end of your essay, your readers should have a clear understanding of how your passions led you to choose such an activity, and how it helped you grow.
Include Thoughtful Details
Professional writers commonly offer sage advice to budding writers: “Show, don’t tell.” That goes for community service essays, as well. Explaining significant moments is much more effective if you illustrate them in action, instead of describing them with a bunch of adjectives. For example, a mediocre sentence might be, “When I served homeless people meals at a soup kitchen, I learned to value what is really important in life.” A more effective way to convey the same point might be, “As I watched families in tattered clothing walk through the line for a free meal, it felt like the smart phone in my pocket got heavier and heavier. I knew then that I should spend less time and money on the latest fad and more time and money on serving others.”
The heart of your community service essay should show how you developed. Personal growth might be experienced because of the team you worked with, or the mistake you made that taught you a valuable lesson. It’s okay to show your readers a bit of humility. Dig deep and consider how your perspective evolved as a result of your experience. Show readers how your routines or priorities changed after you completed your service. Remember, community service is all about making a difference, so be sure to demonstrate how you and your team made an impact on a worthy cause.
When you end your essay, you want to leave your readers thinking about your experience hours later, or even days later. A good way to achieve this is by finishing with some thoughts or questions that your experience prompted. You can indicate how you answered these questions, or explain how you’re still considering them. If you have ideas of how to continue serving the same cause, suggest ways you might accomplish this while a student at their school. Don’t be shy about pointing out a resource or initiative that the school has already in place, and explain how you could contribute to it. This will show your readers that you are genuinely committed to advancing the common good.
When you finish, leave your essay alone for at least 24 hours, and then return to it to proofread. This will allow you to read it with fresh eyes and ears. Ask a trustworthy family member or teacher to read it and give you feedback. After you proofread it several more times, you’re ready to submit!
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Community Service Isn't Just Words
by David Lazar
College Essay - Community service isn’t just words, but an opportunity in life to contribute one’s time to helping others and making a difference in society; and thus a better place to live for all. Throughout my years of school, I have been fortunate enough to see hands on, how sharing what I’ve learned in my life with others, makes a directly positive influence in their lives. Music and academics, along with my Christian faith, have always been at the forefront of my life and has educated and inspired me to enjoy serving in the community.
Throughout my years of school, I have increased my knowledge of music and have shared what I’ve learned by performing in the metropolitan Detroit area. I have had the opportunity to perform with different bands at Senior Citizen Homes for their holiday parties, awards banquets and summer picnics. Through school, I have learned how to prepare, set-up rehearsals, and organize music so that the event runs smoothly. The Seniors Citizens are always very appreciative and truly enjoy the experience. I have helped set up games, sing and dance with them and we all have a very good time. I am also the leader of our school’s Jazz Combo. We have performed not only at senior citizen events, but also at restaurants, churches, holiday and retirement parties, and various fundraisers. Additionally, I am a member of the Detroit Symphony’s Civic Jazz Orchestra, a youth program in Detroit. Through this venue, I’ve learned new ideas and techniques from the mentors, teachers and students that are from all different parts of out community; once again serving in the Detroit area through this group as well. In all these instances, if it wasn’t for my education, I would not have been able to donate my time.
However, as much as I love music, it’s not my only focus in my life. I have always aspired to have a career in the medical field. Academically, I have been working diligently to prepare myself for my future. By taking honors and AP classes now, it has already allowed me to do some community work with respect teaching. I have tutored younger students and helped them improve in their own studies. As I move forward in my life, I hope to attain knowledge in medicine and eventually become a doctor. Once again, as I educate myself in this new field, I hope to give back by serving in my community and perhaps different communities throughout the world.
I know serving in the community will always be part of my goal in life, whether it is musically, academically or my new venture of medicine. I have a lot to learn, but once I become more educated, I will also increase my ability to share what I’ve learned. Donating my time to a community is something I will always pursue, because sometimes people just need support and it’s what life is all about.
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Thank you David for sharing your college essay about your community service. Best of luck in college.
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by Allison Harvey
College Scholarship Essay Example - The word “amazing” is defined as “to overwhelm with surprise or sudden wonder; to astonish greatly, to bewilder,” and lastly, “to perplex”. In my opinion, however, the word is extremely overused. To me, something truly amazing takes your breath away or leaves you speechless. But who am I kidding; I say it all the time.
My trip though, my 8 day, 9 night trip to Appalachia, really changed my whole mind-set. I don’t know if it was seeing the faces of strangers light up as we finished tearing out their moldy, bug-infested flooring, or if it was installing insulation and painting their children’s bedroom, things they said they would never have been able to afford if it weren’t for us giving up our summers to work.
Or maybe it was Norma’s amazing story. Norma lives in a small trailer, her family depends on her husband’s salary as a mechanic, and she watches over 6 children ages 9 months to 12 years. Some of them are hers, and some of them are her oldest daughter’s. Her daughter made some bad choices and is unable to raise them, so Norma took on that responsibility.
A few years ago, Norma was diagnosed with Breast and Uterine Cancer. She prayed continuously for the Lord to cure her. When she walked into her first treatment, she told the nurse to re-scan her because she was certain the Lord had cured her. While the nurse protested, she respected Norma’s wish. Sure enough, after double and triple checking, the doctors could find no trace of Cancer still in her body. If that is not a testimony of faith then I don’t know what is.
Another family that touched me has 5 people, 4 cats and a dog in their small trailer. Their home was in desperate need of new flooring, a roof, and a front door; all things I take for granted. But it wasn’t the work that we did on their house that was really incredible. It was the personal relationships we developed with the family. John, the head of the household, didn’t show up until after lunchtime, as he had gone to a food pantry to receive handouts and had decided to stay and volunteer his time afterwards. When John arrived home, I helped him carry in groceries and he told me how the Lord is working in his life. A month prior, a friend of his had randomly invited him to church, so he went and prayed. A few weeks later, Appalachia Service Project showed up asking if they could fix his trailer free of charge. John told me that to him, volunteering was his way of giving back for all of the blessings he has received in his life.
The family also had two daughters, one going into 6th grade, Abby, and a two-year old, Lily, who could really wreak havoc. Since the 2 year old is in constant need of attention, it was easy to notice that Abby was desperate for her own spotlight and needed a friend. Even though I went to their house to give them a new bathroom floor, I left Abby with not only a new friendship, but she learned how to shuffle cards and play Miss Mary Mac, things she had always wanted to do. I enjoyed my time with Abby. We danced and sang like idiots to the Disney channel, we jumped on her trampoline for hours, and we just enjoyed each other’s company. She taught me that friendship and a smile can go a long way.
The difference between a foreign mission trip and a domestic mission trip is that while they provide political barriers to overcome, receiving help from other Americans inspires unity.
I will never forget the families we met. Their ability to open their arms to complete strangers regardless of our backgrounds is something truly beautiful. No prejudice, only love. They live their lives as if they were Jesus, and they don’t even realize it.
While I left Pike County, Kentucky with what seemed like 100 mosquito bites and a nice cowboy hat; Pike County left me with hope and a realization that it isn’t always the big things that matter, just as long as we have our family and friends by our sides. And to me, that is truly amazing.
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Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice
Thank you Allison for sharing your personal story about your trip to Appalachia. It sounds like you had a great experience. We appreciate you allowing us to include it in our collection of college scholarship essay examples. Good luck to you.
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