According to a 2010 survey by DoSomething.org, evidence of community service is one of the four most important things to include in a college admission packet. Consider using your volunteer experience as the subject for your college admission essay. This is an ideal opportunity to show how volunteering has helped you grow and develop. Long-term commitment to helping others shows your ability to stick with something and provides a glimpse of who you are as a person.

Inventory Your Experience

Before you begin writing, reflect upon what it has meant to be involved in community service. Write down your volunteer experiences and rank them from having the most to least impact on you. Jot down some notes about why you got involved and what you learned from your experience. Consider how you’ve changed as a result of helping others. Note who helped you along the way, and what you learned about community needs. This information will serve as an outline for your report.

Use a Specific Introduction

Begin your essay with a statement that directly introduces your community service experience. For example: “Volunteering at the local food bank helped me realize how fortunate I am to eat three meals each day.” Follow it up with two or three main points that you’ll cover in the body of your essay. You should include why getting involved in the community is a personal value. The introduction will signal a college admission committee that you took the initiative to volunteer and that you learned something from the experience.

Write a Detailed Narrative

The body of your report should reflect your passion for serving the community. Explain why you chose a specific cause and what you did in your role as a volunteer. Provide examples of the outcomes of your community service experience. What did you accomplish, and how did it feel to be involved? Combine facts about the organization you served with personal emotion connected to what you learned from the experience. This section fills in the details for the reader and tells more about your personal character as a volunteer.

End With a Compelling Conclusion

The conclusion of your report should reinforce the main storyline and shed light on your plans. Think of this section as the “now what?” part of your report. Describe how the experience has shaped your plans. For example, describe how you plan to continue your service involvement, and whether your career path will be related in some way. Use your conclusion to show how you’ve been transformed by your experience. A strong conclusion should compel the reader to want to know more about you and your cause.