How to write a great community service essay

How to write a great community service essay

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 your readers and clearly show the impact your work had on yourself and others?

What is a community service essay?

 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 benefitted people around you.

Community service essay are typically needed for two reasons:

To apply to college
Some colleges require students studying 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.

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.

Getting started with your essay

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Know the essay requirements:
Before you 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:
Length requirement
Application deadline
The main focus of the story
If the essay should follow a specific structure

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Answer the following questions to help you brainstorm essay ideas

What community service activity that you have participated 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 you?
How has your community service affected your plans for the future?

You do not need to reply all these questions, but if you find you have a lot of ideas for one or two of them, those may be things you want to include in your essay.

Writing your essays

How you structure your essay will depend on the requirements of the scholarship of school you are applying to. You may give an overview of all the work you did as a volunteer, or highlight a particular memorable experience. You may focus on your personal growth or how your community benefited.

Step 1

Hook your readers 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 is to start in the middle of the action. Your first sentence could describe you helping to build a house, releasing a rescued animal backto 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 writings

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 tall 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.

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 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 fraction. As part of my work…”

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 math skills. Provide more detail in their 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 shows your personality strengths, then provide examples to support you claims. Take sometime to think about which parts of your personality you would like your essay to highlight, then write specific examples to show this.

If you want to show that you’re a 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 fr a family to move in? help students improve their reading skills? Clean up a local park? Make sure the impact of your work is clear; don’t worry about bragging here.
If you can include specific numbers, that will also strengthen your essay, for example, “ 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 mattes. 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

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 because trite statement wont impress readers.
In other to support your statement, 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 your more willing to help group partners who are struggling with their part of the work? You have probably notice by now that including specific examples and details is one of the best ways to create a strong and believable essay.

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.

Copied from Christine Sarikas. Guides and Tips