Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Volunteering and Admissions

Well, the votes are in (at least about what readers want more information on), and you have stated that you would like to learn more about what things play a factor in admissions.Today, I would like to focus on how we look at students giving back to their community. And for student's who are looking at volunteering at UGA, the UGA Center for Leadership and Service is a great place to start.

When the counselors in our office are reading admissions applications, one of the things we look at is how an applicant uses their available time. While we can not say an exact amount of emphasis activities count within the review process, it is important to our review. We do not classify one activity as better than another (such as quilting over baseball, or the science club over the debate team). What we are looking at is what you are active in, how active are you (how long have you been involved, leadership, etc), and how has this impacted both you and your community. If you are a part of your school's theater group or sports team, you are both representing your school, performing for an audience, and putting in time and effort.

We look at volunteering in the same way, with a focus on commitment and impact on the community. But one thing I want to stress is that UGA does not require community service, and just like other activities, we suggest you only be involved if you truly desire to be involved. Don't come at this situation by looking at it as a way to boost your profile or make your application look better. Do it, or don't do it, because you want to. One thing that is a little more apparent when volunteering is the impact to the community, as (hopefully) a person is volunteering specifically to help out others. This does not mean volunteering is better than another activity, all it means is that tells us more about who is impacted and your motivation.

Lastly, I would suggest that if you write about a volunteer experience, especially if you help disadvantaged communities, you should review your essay. More times than we would like to count, our counselors have read an essay where one of the closing lines begins with "I am now much more thankful for all that I have...". While we understand this response, we hope that your time interacting with a culture, background or situation that is different from yours may bring about personal growth and insight about the larger world.

Overall, find activities you love, and if volunteering is one of those activities, we hope you make an impact both for others and yourself.


  1. My son has volunteered a lot- almost counting 700 hours and has a great work experience but his unweighted gpa is 3.4 (took multiple honors and will graduate with 5 ap classes) - a little under the average; when you said you look at the whole applicant, could his volunteer and work experience make up for his lagging gpa?

  2. Anon: I could not guess about whether he would be admitted or not based upon his strong volunteerism and work experience, as we are looking at him as compared to all the other applicants, and I do not know what everyone looks like. I will say that a strong base of activities and volunteer work is a positive, especially if he is able to do well in challenging courses at the same time.

  3. I have a question under the work experience, it does now allow a presently employed, the latest date you can put is Dec, 2010? Just want them to know that my child will be working through her senior year!! Thanks!!

  4. Anon: Just put down Dec. 2010 (you can never know what might change in the future), and in the description you can say that the plan is to work there through senior year.

  5. Thank you!! I just went to your leadership and service page and my daughter will love this. She has been to Guatemala and worked with preschool children and is trying to fund another trip to Peru to work with chidren there as well. Should she put down in her app that she is planning another volunteer trip or leave it out? She decided to do regular decision due to her less than stellar SAT/ACT scores, but with what her HS offers she has done well with her course rigor, should finish with 3 Ap's and 1 college dual enroll class. 4yrs spanish, thats why she has volunteered abroad. Good GPA. Do you put the employment down in summer activities as well as work experience section. I also can't believe that 5 APs is less than average?? My daughter could not of taken that many, she is yearbook editor her senior yr, which means she had to commit a whole yr to that class, limited another AP, hopefully the title editor will help.

  6. Anon: I would suggest she put in her plans to do another volunteer trip in either her essays or another area that fits. We will look at her overall application in the holistic review process, so we will look at the areas you mentioned.