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Good citizenship matters on college admissions

Community Columnist

Colleges and universities are no longer satisfied with top students and high test scores. Increasingly schools are examining students’ commitment to service and volunteerism.

A commitment to helping develop and educate “good world citizens” is part of most colleges’ mission statement.

Consequently, a demonstrated commitment to service is another criterion by which colleges select students.

Unfortunately, many college–bound students aren’t aware of the importance placed on service and find themselves lacking in this area. Not everyone is comfortable volunteering at food banks or relief agencies.

Others have not had volunteerism modeled at home and are encouraged to excel in academics, sports, student government and clubs.

These are all valuable, but college-bound students should be aware that both college applications and admission interviewers inquire about volunteer efforts and service to others.

Don’t bother trying to convince colleges that one-shot community service efforts demonstrate a true commitment to helping the less fortunate.

Dishing out turkey on Thanksgiving is a good deed, but will not convince a college admission officer that the student is passionate about the homeless.

And not all volunteerism is weighted equally, having less to do with the cause and more to do with the time commitment.

In a recent poll conducted by “U.S. News & World Report,” 70 percent of admission officers preferred students to be consistently involved with one issue rather than a variety of causes.

That is a significant increase over the 2010 survey results when 50 percent of admission officers preferred consistency over variety.

Interestingly, nearly 70 percent of officers considered a political campaign to be community service, as long as the student is not paid for his or her contribution.

Nearly 96 percent of officers valued a student who took a gap year and did a service project, versus the 4 percent who thought travelling was worthwhile.

Students shouldn’t approach service as something to pad their resumes and college applications. They should find an organization or cause that they are passionate about.

These are what make essays and interviews meaningful and unique, but more importantly, create a generation of good citizens.

Maria Badami, MS, is a Cazenovia resident and college consultant with College Directions of CNY, located 7030 East Genesee St. in Fayetteville. She can be reached at 243-6658 or collegedirectionscny.com.

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