These days, getting accepted into the college of your choice requires more than good grades, strong SAT scores and a high class rank. In fact, according to, many colleges rank community service among the top four factors in determining college admissions. While it’s true that opportunities for community service are as wide as they are varied, you’ll want to make choices that you are passionate about and committed to and that provide a valuable learning experience.

Passion and Commitment

In its annual Community Service and College Study, reported that, in 2010, more than 70 percent of colleges surveyed placed more value on a four-year commitment to a local shelter than a one-month commitment helping orphans in Somalia. In 2008, 100 percent of colleges surveyed valued the local shelter commitment more. This indicates that, no matter what volunteer opportunity you pursue, the key is to commit to it for the long haul – not just so it looks good on your college application.

Working with Animals

If you are passionate about animals, volunteer at an animal shelter. Animal welfare organizations are always in need of volunteers to help clean cages, walk and play with the animals and answer phones. Try contacting your local shelter’s volunteer coordinator to see what assistance the shelter may need.

Helping Senior Citizens

Most communities have senior citizen centers that need and readily accept volunteers to help with recreational activities, arts and crafts, and holiday services. Even simply going on a walk or playing a board game with a resident can brighten his day. If you have talents or special skills, such as music or painting, you may be able to perform for the center’s residents or lead a craft class. Contact the center’s recreation director or volunteer coordinator to learn how you can help.

Environmental Activism

If you’re passionate about taking care of the natural world in which we live, you can volunteer with a local environmental group to clean up roadways, parks and beaches, plant flowers at a municipal site, or promote a recycling program. Start by checking in with your community’s parks and recreation department to see where they need volunteers. Another option is to search for activities on the All at Once website, musician Jack Johnson’s social action network that helps you connect with nonprofit environmental organizations in your community.

Helping Kids

Perhaps you’re passionate about education or teaching, plan to pursue a career in the field of education or simply like hanging out with other kids. In this case, you may wish to volunteer with an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Special Olympics. Not only can you serve as a mentor, but if you’re proficient at a certain subject or sport, you also may be able to serve as a tutor or coach.

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