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Are you applying to a college or a scholarship that requires a community service essay? Do you know how to write an essay that will impress readers and clearly show the impact your work had on yourself and others?
Read on to learn step-by-step instructions for writing a great community service essay that will help you stand out and be memorable.
What Is a Community Service Essay? Why Do You Need One?
A community service essay is an essay that describes the volunteer work you did and the impact it had on you and your community. Community service essays can vary widely depending on specific requirements listed in the application, but, in general, they describe the work you did, why you found the work important, and how it benefited people around you.
Community service essays are typically needed for two reasons:
#1: To Apply to College
- Some colleges require students to write community service essays as part of their application or to be eligible for certain scholarships.
- You may also choose to highlight your community service work in your personal statement.
#2: To Apply for Scholarships
- Some scholarships are specifically awarded to students with exceptional community service experiences, and many use community service essays to help choose scholarship recipients.
- Green Mountain College offers one of the most famous of these scholarships. Their "Make a Difference Scholarship" offers full tuition, room, and board to students who have demonstrated a significant, positive impact through their community service
Getting Started With Your Essay
In the following sections, I'll go over each step of how to plan and write your essay. I'll also include sample excerpts for you to look through so you can get a better idea of what readers are looking for when they review your essay.
Step 1: Know the Essay Requirements
Before your start writing a single word, you should be familiar with the essay prompt. Each college or scholarship will have different requirements for their essay, so make sure you read these carefully and understand them.
Specific things to pay attention to include:
- Length requirement
- Application deadline
- The main purpose or focus of the essay
- If the essay should follow a specific structure
Below are three real community service essay prompts. Read through them and notice how much they vary in terms of length, detail, and what information the writer should include.
From the Equitable Excellence Scholarship:
"Describe your outstanding achievement in depth and provide the specific planning, training, goals, and steps taken to make the accomplishment successful. Include details about your role and highlight leadership you provided. Your essay must be a minimum of 350 words but not more than 600 words."
From the Laura W. Bush Traveling Scholarship:
"Essay (up to 500 words, double spaced) explaining your interest in being considered for the award and how your proposed project reflects or is related to both UNESCO's mandate and U.S. interests in promoting peace by sharing advances in education, science, culture, and communications."
From the LULAC National Scholarship Fund:
"Please type or print an essay of 300 words (maximum) on how your academic studies will contribute to your personal & professional goals. In addition, please discuss any community service or extracurricular activities you have been involved in that relate to your goals."
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Step 2: Brainstorm Ideas
Even after you understand what the essay should be about, it can still be difficult to begin writing. Answer the following questions to help brainstorm essay ideas. You may be able to incorporate your answers into your essay.
- What community service activity that you've participated in has meant the most to you?
- What is your favorite memory from performing community service?
- Why did you decide to begin community service?
- What made you decide to volunteer where you did?
- How has your community service changed you?
- How has your community service helped others?
- How has your community service affected your plans for the future?
You don't need to answer all the questions, but if you find you have a lot of ideas for one of two of them, those may be things you want to include in your essay.
Writing Your Essay
How you structure your essay will depend on the requirements of the scholarship or school you are applying to. You may give an overview of all the work you did as a volunteer, or highlight a particularly memorable experience. You may focus on your personal growth or how your community benefited.
Regardless of the specific structure requested, follow the guidelines below to make sure your community service essay is memorable and clearly shows the impact of your work.
Samples of mediocre and excellent essays are included below to give you a better idea of how you should draft your own essay.
Step 1: Hook Your Reader In
You want the person reading your essay to be interested, so your first sentence should hook them in and entice them to read more. A good way to do this is to start in the middle of the action. Your first sentence could describe you helping build a house, releasing a rescued animal back to the wild, watching a student you tutored read a book on their own, or something else that quickly gets the reader interested. This will help set your essay apart and make it more memorable.
Compare these two opening sentences:
"I have volunteered at the Wishbone Pet Shelter for three years."
"The moment I saw the starving, mud-splattered puppy brought into the shelter with its tail between its legs, I knew I'd do whatever I could to save it."
The first sentence is a very general, bland statement. The majority of community service essays probably begin a lot like it, but it gives the reader little information and does nothing to draw them in. On the other hand, the second sentence begins immediately with action and helps persuade the reader to keep reading so they can learn what happened to the dog.
Step 2: Discuss the Work You Did
Once you've hooked your reader in with your first sentence, tell them about your community service experiences. State where you work, when you began working, how much time you've spent there, and what your main duties include. This will help the reader quickly put the rest of the essay in context and understand the basics of your community service work.
Not including basic details about your community service could leave your reader confused.
Step 3: Include Specific Details
It's the details of your community service that make your experience unique and memorable, so go into the specifics of what you did.
For example, don't just say you volunteered at a nursing home; talk about reading Mrs. Johnson her favorite book, watching Mr. Scott win at bingo, and seeing the residents play games with their grandchildren at the family day you organized. Try to include specific activities, moments, and people in your essay. Having details like these let the readers really understand what work you did and how it differs from other volunteer experiences.
Compare these two passages:
"For my volunteer work, I tutored children at a local elementary school. I helped them improve their math skills and become more confident students."
"As a volunteer at York Elementary School, I worked one-on-one with second and third graders who struggled with their math skills, particularly addition, subtraction, and fractions. As part of my work, I would create practice problems and quizzes and try to connect math to the students' interests. One of my favorite memories was when Sara, a student I had been working with for several weeks, told me that she enjoyed the math problems I had created about a girl buying and selling horses so much that she asked to help me create math problems for other students."
The first passage only gives basic information about the work done by the volunteer; there is very little detail included, and no evidence is given to support her claims. How did she help students improve their math skills? How did she know they were becoming more confident?
The second passage is much more detailed. It recounts a specific story and explains more fully what kind of work the volunteer did, as well as a specific instance of a student becoming more confident with her math skills. Providing more detail in your essay helps support your claims as well as make your essay more memorable and unique.
Step 4: Show Your Personality
It would be very hard to get a scholarship or place at a school if none of your readers felt like they knew much about you after finishing your essay, so make sure that your essay shows your personality. The way to do this is to state your personal strengths, then provide examples to support your claims. Take some time to think about which parts of your personality you would like your essay to highlight, then write about specific examples to show this.
- If you want to show that you're a motivated leader, describe a time when you organized an event or supervised other volunteers.
- If you want to show your teamwork skills, write about a time you helped a group of people work together better.
- If you want to show that you're a compassionate animal lover, write about taking care of neglected shelter animals and helping each of them find homes.
Step 5: State What You Accomplished
After you have described your community service and given specific examples of your work, you want to begin to wrap your essay up by stating your accomplishments. What was the impact of your community service? Did you build a house for a family to move into? Help students improve their reading skills? Clean up a local park? Make sure the impact of your work is clear; don't be worried about bragging here.
If you can include specific numbers, that will also strengthen your essay. Saying "I delivered meals to 24 home-bound senior citizens" is a stronger example than just saying "I delivered meals to lots of senior citizens."
Also be sure to explain why your work matters. Why is what you did important? Did it provide more parks for kids to play in? Help students get better grades? Give people medical care who would otherwise not have gotten it? This is an important part of your essay, so make sure to go into enough detail that your readers will know exactly what you accomplished and how it helped your community.
"My biggest accomplishment during my community service was helping to organize a family event at the retirement home. The children and grandchildren of many residents attended, and they all enjoyed playing games and watching movies together."
"The community service accomplishment that I'm most proud of is the work I did to help organize the First Annual Family Fun Day at the retirement home. My job was to design and organize fun activities that senior citizens and their younger relatives could enjoy. The event lasted eight hours and included ten different games, two performances, and a movie screening with popcorn. Almost 200 residents and family members attended throughout the day. This event was important because it provided an opportunity for senior citizens to connect with their family members in a way they aren't often able to. It also made the retirement home seem more fun and enjoyable to children, and we have seen an increase in the number of kids coming to visit their grandparents since the event."
The second passage is stronger for a variety of reasons. First, it goes into much more detail about the work the volunteer did. The first passage only states that she helped "organize a family event." That really doesn't tell readers much about her work or what her responsibilities were. The second passage is much clearer; her job was to "design and organize fun activities."
The second passage also explains the event in more depth. A family day can be many things; remember that your readers are likely not familiar with what you're talking about, so details help them get a clearer picture.
Lastly, the second passage makes the importance of the event clear: it helped residents connect with younger family members, and it helped retirement homes seem less intimidating to children, so now some residents see their grand kids more often.
Step 6: Discuss What You Learned
One of the final things to include in your essay should be the impact that your community service had on you. You can discuss skills you learned, such as carpentry, public speaking, animal care, or another skill.
You can also talk about how you changed personally. Are you more patient now? More understanding of others? Do you have a better idea of the type of career you want? Go into depth about this, but be honest. Don't say your community service changed your life if it didn't because trite statements won't impress readers.
In order to support your statements, provide more examples. If you say you're more patient now, how do you know this? Do you get less frustrated while playing with your younger siblings? Are you more willing to help group partners who are struggling with their part of the work? You've probably noticed by now that including specific examples and details is one of the best ways to create a strong and believable essay .
"As a result of my community service, I learned a lot about building houses and became a more mature person."
"As a result of my community service, I gained hands-on experience in construction. I learned how to read blueprints, use a hammer and nails, and begin constructing the foundation of a two-bedroom house. Working on the house could be challenging at times, but it taught me to appreciate the value of hard work and be more willing to pitch in when I see someone needs help. My dad has just started building a shed in our backyard, and I offered to help him with it because I know from my community service how much work it is. I also appreciate my own house more, and I know how lucky I am to have a roof over my head."
The second passage is more impressive and memorable because it describes the skills the writer learned in more detail and recounts a specific story that supports her claim that her community service changed her and made her more helpful.
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Step 7: Finish Strong
Just as you started your essay in a way that would grab readers' attention, you want to finish your essay on a strong note as well. A good way to end your essay is to state again the impact your work had on you, your community, or both. Reiterate how you changed as a result of your community service, why you found the work important, or how it helped others.
Compare these two concluding statements:
"In conclusion, I learned a lot from my community service at my local museum, and I hope to keep volunteering and learning more about history."
"To conclude, volunteering at my city's American History Museum has been a great experience. By leading tours and participating in special events, I became better at public speaking and am now more comfortable starting conversations with people. In return, I was able to get more community members interested in history and our local museum. My interest in history has deepened, and I look forward to studying the subject in college and hopefully continuing my volunteer work at my university's own museum."
The second passage takes each point made in the first passage and expands upon it. In a few sentences, the second passage is able to clearly convey what work the volunteer did, how she changed, and how her volunteer work benefited her community.
The author of the second passage also ends her essay discussing her future and how she'd like to continue her community service, which is a good way to wrap things up because it shows your readers that you are committed to community service for the long-term.
Are you applying to a community service scholarship or thinking about it? We have a complete list of all the community service scholarships available to help get your search started!
Do you need a community service letter as well? We have a step-by-step guide that will tell you how to get a great reference letter from your community service supervisor.
Thinking about doing community service abroad? Before you sign up, read our guide on some of the hazards of international volunteer trips and how to know if it's the right choice for you.
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Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.
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Essays About Community Service: Top 5 Examples Plus Prompts
If you are looking for your next writing topic, discover top examples of essays about community service and helpful writing prompts in our guide.
Community service refers to an individual or a group’s volunteer work dedicated to improving the community and its people. In America, Benjamin Franklin introduced community service in the 18th century by developing the idea of the first volunteer firehouse in Philadelphia . Since then, stepping up has become a norm, with more people encouraged to participate.
Volunteering helps individuals gain experience, improve self-esteem, expand knowledge, and promote healthy goals. In addition, choosing community service as a topic in your essay allows you to explain its significance to entice your readers to get involved. To give you an idea of how to write essays about community service, here are five examples that will help you.
5 Top Examples On Essays About Community Service
1. essay on community service and its importance by joni kim, 2. community service experience: essay on what i learned by anonymous on gradesfixer.com, 3. why is community service important by perry mullins, 4. concept of the community services in modern society essay by anonymous on ivypanda.com, 5. community service experience essay by writer molly, 1. community service vs. volunteering, 2. community service: then and now, 3. why we should volunteer, 4. community service in schools: mandatory or voluntary, 5. community service and its influences, 6. types of community service, 7. my community service experience, 8. donation or service: what’s better to give.
“The service helps the group of people in need, for example, senior citizens, children, people with disability and the likes. Sometimes community service is geared towards solving problems related to the needs of community members, especially low-income earners.”
Kim explains that community service is a voluntary action done through various means. It includes health and child care services, education, housing, and other improvements to aid and support the community members who need the most assistance. Then, Kim focuses on its importance to individuals, the community, and the country. The essay showcases how community service improves social, interpersonal, and decision-making skills. It also allows students to explore and find their interests. Ultimately, Kim believes that the real-life experience of volunteering assists in determining one’s career path, providing advantages when applying for a job.
“This experience has helped me to cherish my ability to influence and impact others in a positive way, and it helped me to look at community service as a benefit for myself, instead of just another obligation to fit into my schedule.”
In this essay, the writer reflects on their community service experience, sharing the gains they reaped from the program. They discuss how their undying love for animals and tight-knit communities made them realize the gravity of sharing. They also had the opportunity to strengthen and develop a new set of talents and skills from the encounter. However, the author also mentions that when the desire to do good morphs into a forced responsibility, it leads to failure. The writer says they often receive more benefits than the people and animals they help, as the experience makes them more patient, flexible, and responsible.
“True volunteering lies in an individual’s will and drives to help other and enforcing it eliminates that drive.”
Mullins focuses his essay on explaining why it should not be mandatory for students to do community service. For him, mandatory volunteering takes away the true meaning of volunteerism. Students only view it as additional work – an obligatory criterion they must check off their list to graduate. He claims that students will gain nothing but stress instead of new skills and knowledge when compulsory community services are in place.
“As for me, I consider community work as a good opportunity to get the main idea of some particular services, still, I would not have the same great desire to participate in social life if the services would become obligatory for graduation.”
In modern society, volunteering is becoming a necessary factor in many organizations. People with experience in community service have more opportunities to get a job. The author delves into community service’s importance but also criticizes that making it a requisite takes away its value. With various arguments from professionals like Alina Tugend , the essay further argues that no one would want to receive help from people who consider it an obligation.
“The community service project is different from other school educations the community service can teach us how to love others and how to fulfill our heart with joy.”
Molly dislikes homeless people because of their appearance and smell, but this all changes when cleaning and selling preloved items to homeless people becomes the best experience of her life. Community service taught her that the homeless are no different from her. She also learned to be thankful for her situation. She concludes that after the program, she became more respectful, responsible, and caring to other people.
Do you want to secure that A+ Grade? Check out our round-up of the best essay writing apps for students and academics.
8 Helpful Prompts on Essays About Community Service
If you’re still confused about the topic and can’t choose what to talk about, you can use the prompts below:
To write this prompt, the first part of your essay should discuss the meaning of community service and volunteering. Next, identify and examine the different characteristics of a community service worker and volunteer to clearly explain their similarities and differences. Then finish your essay with your opinion on the matter or look for more information you can expound on in your own words.
This prompt shows how people’s definitions, processes, and perceptions of community service changed over time. Research and write down how community service started in your country or area to make it more relatable. Include examples of community services that made a big difference for the community and consider how these services impacted people’s lives.
Explain to your readers what voluntary work means and why exposure to it is crucial. Next, write the advantages and disadvantages of volunteering and what they should expect if they decide to be a volunteer. Finally, share your experience to clarify your comments, suggestions, and other points.
The decision to make community service mandatory in every school is still up for debate. First, pen your opinion on this topic and whether or not you agree with compulsory community service. Then, discuss your reasons and provide examples or factual evidence to support your arguments.
Identify and scrutinize the positive and negative effects of community service. Find news articles where one type of community service impacted its volunteers, community, and people differently. Write down how the organizer dealt with different situations and if it affected the program’s outcome.
There are three kinds of community service: direct, indirect, and advocacy. First, discuss and give examples for each one. Then, explain how these services differ from programs under service-learning. For example, direct community service includes directly serving homeless people food and clothes, while in service-learning, volunteers will teach people to garden and earn income.
Use this prompt to share your memorable experience while doing community service and what you learned from it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a short program at your school, work, or organization. The important thing is that you have experience in community service. Include your initial reaction and if it changed over time while you were doing the service.
Some choose to donate money to various organizations that perform community service. Others join the program and personally help other people. In this prompt, share your opinion on the topic and whether you consider donating as community service. To make your essay more intriguing, look for prominent personalities who consistently contribute or engage in community service versus those who only present monetary assistance.
AI grammar checkers are powerful resources that can help you improve your writing. See our guide on how to use an AI grammar checker. For help with this topic, read our guide explaining what is persuasive writing ?
Maria Caballero is a freelance writer who has been writing since high school. She believes that to be a writer doesn't only refer to excellent syntax and semantics but also knowing how to weave words together to communicate to any reader effectively.
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Tips for Writing a Standout Community Service Essay
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Through your college applications process, you’re likely to come across the term “community service” many times. In fact, you may be asked to write an essay about it. This post will cover the specifics of a community service essay and how to go about writing one, including what to cover and common mistakes to avoid.
What is a Community Service Essay?
You may encounter the community service essay as you’re writing your supplemental essays for college. These are school-specific prompts that only go to the college that requests them, unlike the personal statement , which goes to every school you apply to. Not all schools require community service essays, but several do. It’s also a common requirement for scholarship applications, especially if it’s a school-specific merit scholarship.
The community service essay is an essay that describes the initiatives you have taken outside of the classroom to benefit your community. In a 2018 survey of 264 admissions leaders across the US, 58% said that community service is a tie-breaker between students who are otherwise equally qualified. The community service essay offers you the opportunity to shine light on the work you have done to make an impact on the world and people around you, and is an additional way to help you stand out among other applicants.
Approaching the Community Service Essay
Understand the essay requirements .
As with any essay, it’s important to first understand what is expected of your essay. For a start, elements to pay attention to include:
- Length requirements
- Focus or subject of the essay prompt
- Organization of the essay
Although all community service essays ultimately have the same purpose of having you describe your local service activities, they can come with different types of prompts. Below are three sample prompts. Note the differences in topic specificity, length requirements, and breadth of the prompt.
From the CGCS – Bernard Harris Scholarship Program:
Please describe a meaningful volunteer or community service experience, including what you learned from participating.
From the University of California Application :
What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? (350 words).
From the Equitable Excellence Scholarship:
Describe your outstanding achievement in depth and provide the specific planning, training, goals, and steps taken to make the accomplishment successful. Include details about your role and highlight leadership you provided. Your essay must be a minimum of 350 words but not more than 600 words.
Brainstorming for your community service essay
Once you have an understanding of what is required of the specific you are to write, the next step is to brainstorm ideas for a specific topic. If you have various community-engaged service experiences under your belt, consider the following before you finalize your decision.
The best topics:
Are substantial in length and scope. It’s better to cover a long-term commitment than a one-off afternoon at the food pantry or animal shelter.
Are transformative or inspiring. Although community service is “others”-oriented, colleges are looking to learn more about you. The ideal community service essay topic should be an experience that changed or challenged your perspective, and was ultimately fulfilling.
Illustrate personal qualities or passions that you want to highlight. Given the specific prompt, and taking the rest of your application into consideration, which personal interests do you want to highlight? Which activity illuminates the personal quality that you want to bring attention to?
These are all elements to consider before you begin writing your essay.
Tips for Writing Your Community Service Essay
1. include anecdotes.
Anecdotes are a great way to begin your essay, not only as a way to grab your reader’s attention, but by launching right into the experience of your service activity. You can start with a line about a particularly busy afternoon at the orphanage, or a morning cleaning up the streets after a storm, or the sense of accomplishment you felt when you watched a dog under your care at the animal shelter get adopted.
2. Show, don’t tell
We’re sure you’ve heard this axiom of general writing before, but it applies to college essays just as much as with any other piece of writing. Opt for evocative examples over plain explaining whenever possible. Take this sentence: “There was a lot of food waste at our school cafeteria.” It’s not nearly as powerful as this description: “I peered into the tall, gray trash cans to inspect the mountain of Styrofoam trays and discarded food. There were countless pizza crusts, globs of green beans, and unopened cartons of milk.”
Anyone could write the first sentence, and it’s not a unique experience. In the second description, we’re shown the scene of the writer’s lunchroom. We get a peek into their perspective and life, which makes the writing more vivid and relatable. Aim to bring your reader into your world as much as possible.
3. Share your responsibilities and accomplishments.
The more tangible your community service activities feel to the reader, the more powerful your essay will be. Concretize your work by stating the basic details of what kind of work you did and what your duties involved, where it was based, when you began working, and the amount of time you spent working.
Be sure to quantify your work and accomplishments when possible; it’s better to say your fundraiser yielded 125 books than “a large number” of books. It’s important to also elaborate on why the work you did matters. Why was it important? Did the books you collected or purchased after the fundraiser expand the library of the local orphanage that they already had, or did it offer the children easy access to books that wasn’t available previously? Be specific and detailed.
4. Highlight what you learned and how you’ll use those lessons moving forward.
Towards the end of your essay, you’ll want to share how you benefited from the community service work you did. This is an important part of the essay, because it shows how you are able to distill your experiences to applicable lessons in your own life.
Think of this section in two potential parts: skills you learned, and personal development. Did you gain any hard skills, such as public speaking, poster design, or funds management? Then think about how you developed as an individual. Are you more empathetic or patient now?
Things to Avoid in Your Community Service Essay
1. don’t list out everything that happened..
You want to keep your essay well-structured and concise. This isn’t a résumé, or a play-by-play of the entire experience. Stick to the most telling details and anecdotes from your experience.
2. Avoid using a pretentious or privileged tone.
Humility goes a long way, and entitlement can be smelled from afar. The purpose of this essay is not to paint yourself as a savior of any kind, but rather to show what’s important to you in your non-academic life, and how you approach solving real-world and interpersonal problems.
3. Avoid clichés.
It may be tempting to quote famous people, but doing so can easily seem like a shortcut, plus it shows little of who you are. Try also to steer clear of trite and vague life lesson lines such as “I learned that people can be happy with so little,” or “I learned the importance of giving back.” Not only do they carry a tone of privilege, they are also sweeping general conclusions and don’t convey anything specific of what you learned.
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