Do Service Hours Need to be with an Official Nonprofit?


I received a question asking if community service hours have to be done with an official nonprofit, or it can count if you are helping an individual or unofficial organization. 

It's a great question, and the answer is a little nuanced.

First off, what kind of school are you applying to? Do they have a holistic application process? If not, then you should have no problems at all. Highly competitive, holistically-evaluating colleges are more likely to care about the specific organization that you volunteer for. However, even in those cases, they are likely still willing to accept and count the service hours for a group that isn't a nonprofit, as long as a name for the group is provided (and possibly contact information).

A lot boils down to how you present the information. It helps a lot if you can provide a letter of recommendation from the individual or group you helped. You can also discuss and explain your volunteer efforts in your essay (depending upon the prompt).

With community service hours, colleges are looking for you to demonstrate the following:

  • Can you integrate socially/get plugged in with others? This means you are more likely to connect with the college's student body.
  • Do you demonstrate care for helping others? This can benefit a college's image.
  • Are you dedicated/consistent/a leader? All qualities that colleges know make a good student.

Your involvement can actually communicate a lot about who you are as an individual, and how well you will connect with (and therefore benefit) a college's student body.

Overall, quality matters over quantity. Helping an individual for several years, and being able to articulate how you grew from that experience in an essay (and possibly having them write a letter of recommendation) would hold more weight than a lot of small separate volunteer efforts for a variety of recognized non-profit organizations, but that ultimately do little to change who you are as an individual.

What questions do YOU have regarding community service? Post in the comments below!





Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.


50% Complete

Join Our Newsletter

We know that college prep can be overwhelming. That's why we work hard to simplify and streamline the advice on how to guide your teen to success. Sign up below to join our newsletter (we hate spam, and never sell or rent out your info).