5 Impactful Community Service Themes for College Applications

The role of community service in one’s college application and the much-needed edge it gives to the profile is widely acknowledged. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2030 there will be a huge demand for higher cognitive skills such as creativity, critical thinking, and decision-making. Today’s world needs future leaders who are socially conscious, responsive, and responsible. However, the domain of social impact may seem slightly overwhelming. Where do I start? Which issue should I tackle? Do I have enough time? How do I show my impact?; these can be the questions you face. In this post, we will walk you through some of the best community service themes to consider.

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As an aspiring student, you must find an area where they can make an impact in a limited time. This post will introduce five areas where you can carry out community work effectively and stand out in your college applications. Read on to also find where you can find comprehensive programs to put these into action.

What are Colleges actually looking for?

Before we move to the themes, let us look at the nature of work that is valued. 

Every college likes to have students who are “good citizens” and want to do good. Leadership and community service is your avenue to show them how you have made a difference and how you plan to be a good community citizen. Many students try to check this off on the list by doing a few weeks’ work. But that is not good enough to impress the admission teams at the top colleges.

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You should show them your commitment through involvement over years or by meaningful participation and results. When admissions place value on community service, colleges are not only looking to see if you have picked an issue that matters to you, but also the difference you made in the same.

Hence, colleges are seeking the values in people that community service cultivates and the potential impact of your work over the quantity of service you have done. 

The following are some 21st-century skills you must aim to cultivate and showcase through community service.

Community Service Themes for College Applications

Community Service Themes to Get Started With

The United Nations has a list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals ranging from No Poverty to Zero Hunger to Rights and Partnerships. You can pick an area that you feel strongly about. It is excellent news that admissions officers are not looking for a particular type of activity when it comes to community service as volunteering solely to impress colleges takes away from the essence of service and does more harm than good.

Here are a few themes to get started with:

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1. Design Innovation x Sustainability

The role of design in driving sustainability has been proven to be monumental, over the years. The world’s population is constantly increasing. To accommodate everyone, we need to build modern, sustainable cities. For all of us to survive and prosper, we need new, intelligent urban planning that creates safe, affordable, and resilient cities with green and culturally inspiring living conditions. The project focuses on sustainable urban development, innovating spaces and products to meet basic needs that contribute to healthcare, education, etc, and enhancing the development of innovative labs and spaces for experimentation.

Sub-themes

  • Human-Centered design
  • Disability-friendly design and structures
  • Sustainable urban development
  • Building design for disaster risk reduction
  • Circular design 

2. Intersectional Feminism

This program empowers students to challenge gender inequalities and the consequences of political, social, and economic gendered power imbalances. It emphasizes intersectionality in relation to gender inequality, gender lens investing, bodily autonomy, institutional violence against women, lack of representation for women and girls in policy, leadership development, and young men as partners of gender equality.

The program also works on awareness-raising, coalition building, and advocacy for poverty reduction and human development. The approach used throughout the program to recognize the overlapping discrimination caused due to different social and political identities

Sub-themes

  • Gender Lens Investing: Approach to investing which is aware of gender-based factors across the investment process and helps make better-informed investment decisions.
  • Bodily Autonomy: Focuses on consent, reproductive rights, and freedom of clothing and expression
  • Political Representation: To address the lack of representation for women and girls at the policy level
  • Leadership Development: ‘Engender’ the youth movement and ‘enyouth’ the women’s movement, through leadership-building activities for young individuals.
  • Men and Gender Justice: While keeping in mind that women still bear the brunt of disadvantages, it recognizes how men are also the victims of gender injustice, focusing on men’s mental health, emotions, and healthy coping mechanisms.

3. Inclusive Fintech

The program aims to provide extensive insight into economic literacy and financial inclusion through topics like blended finance, Inclusive Fintech & Financial Services, improved access to finance for last-mile consumers, and micro-investing, savings, and insurance for women from low-income backgrounds

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Sub-themes

  • Blended Finance
  • Inclusive Financial Services
  • Improving access to finance for last-mile consumers
  • Product Affordability
  • Examining micro-investing, savings, and insurance for low-income women

4. Health & Diseases

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the world witnessed how the same disease can impact various populations in distinctive ways, based on multiple social factors. This program focuses on various intersections in health due to social inequalities and oppressive identities like gender, sexuality, and poverty.

It emphasizes social determinants of health and the need for health equity. Obstacles like discrimination, lack of access to healthcare services, quality education and awareness, income gaps, and unsafe environments will be examined.

Sub-themes

  • Health Equity
  • Tuberculosis
  • Cancer

5. Educational Inequity and Economic Mobility

Education and skill development has a very large influence on attaining economic mobility. There is an absence of market-oriented curricula in educational institutes and a lack of quality vocational training which makes it difficult for students to be equipped with relevant skills demanded by the market.

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Most times, bright, motivated young people have to resort to low-paying, unskilled and semi-skilled labor in order to earn money. This prevents them from breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

The program focuses on preparing college students equipped for success by imparting necessary 21st-century skills It also aims to develop competencies and skills regarding social innovation at all levels of the education system. 

Sub-themes

  • Improving school outcomes
  • Bridging the gap between rural and urban India
  • Career awareness 
  • Imparting digital skills
  • Improving soft skills

How to Finalize a Community Service Theme

The most important factor to be kept in mind while picking the theme is to choose one that you are genuinely interested in and enjoy doing. Within these themes, you can then pick an activity that aligns with your passion, hobbies, or interests.  

If you love working with technology, you might consider educating high schoolers about technology, and basic digital skills to improve their employability.  You can also look into opportunities that are relevant to your degree and try to blend your professional goals with your passion for the community.

This could even help you get a better understanding of what you might want to pursue as your career.  Another detail that can be of much use is to choose a topic that helps you work with grassroots organizations and have one-on-one interactions with the population. This can drastically improve the quality of your community engagement.

Finally, look for a project or program that gives you around 40 to 100 hours of total community service. The Reimagining Global Challenges program by TribesforGOOD provides an intensive, 6-week project where you can build a personal dream community service program into reality. The longer you participate in a project, the more detailed your dedication and results can show. You can get the help of your high school counselor, college admission counselor, or community service supervisor to help you finalize the area, and the project.

Need More Information or Want to Apply?

How Can You Showcase the Impact?

social impact of community service themes by TribesforGOOD

One great way to detail your community service is by putting your experiences in your resume. It’s a great way to fill up the page, especially if you do not have any other experiences to list.

It can also be a great response to essay prompts or personal statements.

If you choose to do the second route, try to find a unique way to approach your essays. Rather than detailing your tasks and responsibilities, really hone in on what that experience meant to you. 

Feedback by TribesforGOOD Alumni on Various Community Service Themes

Zehn Kashyap [Grade 10 student at Vasant Valley School, Delhi]

volunteering and community service for college applications

Vivacious, smart, and resolute are just a few words to describe ChangeWarrior Zehn Kashyap who worked with TribesforGOOD on Project 25 which dealt with cyberbullying & mental health.

Zehn along with her team was determined to make the world notice the impacts of cyberbullying on the mental health of young adolescents from economically weaker sections and foster measures to prevent them.

Zehn’s Reflections

Our primary goal through the workshops was to educate young students about prevalent problems like mental health and cyberbullying. Though we were off to a rocky start in the first workshop, we learned from our mistakes. By the second workshop, we knew we had reached our goal when we received enthusiastic and insightful responses from the students.

Yash Kamble [Grade 10 Student at R. N. Podar Schhol, Mumbai]

community work for high school students

ChangeWarrior Yash Kamble symbolizes the rise of a young brigade that is conscious we live in a greedy world, and that those with privileges must acknowledge them in meaningful ways.

Yash didn’t exert his privilege through internet activism but rather took it further – finding a tribe he could join forces with to bring about change. At TribesforGOOD, he put the spotlight on the mental health struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community due to
cyberbullying.

Yash’s Reflections

My goal, to make a difference, was achieved through the program as I made a difference in budding children’s lives by educating them about crucial subjects such as Mental Health & Cyberbullying. I learned a lot not only about the issues but also about numerous life lessons like teamwork, persistence, team coordination, etc.

Pari Mehrotra [Grade 10 Student at The Millennium School, Lucknow]

volunteering for college applications

An inspiring example of a person who knows their calling and finds every opportunity to work for it, it’s sometimes hard to believe that ChangeWarrior Pari Mehrotra is just a grade 10 student.

An aspiring Psychologist, Pari chose the road not taken with her TribesforGOOD project: the impacts of cyberbullying on the mental health of members of gender & sexual minorities i.e., the LGBTQIA+ community. Yet her choice validates her persona as an empath who’s constantly learning about things that affect the human mind.

Pari’s Reflections

The project helped me engage with people of my age and examine the problem deeply. It also served as a platform to learn how to help others deal with cyberbullying. I’m glad to be able to share my perspective.

Krish Patwari [Grade 12 Student at La Martiniere for Boys, Kolkata]

Community Service, Leadership and STEM Volunteering with Social Impact

Change starts at home and it couldn’t be further from the truth for ChangeWarrior Krish Patwari whose interest in STEM led to him teaching his sister first and then a group of underserved students through TribesforGOOD.

Krish’s experience with his first social impact project inspired him to continue the good work through other projects – helping grade 10 students revise STEM subjects for board exams, building language skills, and even imparting 21st-century digital skills like Canva.

Krish’s Reflections

I simply hoped to be of more use to someone else, especially because NCERT books for STEM aren’t affordable for all. Although I didn’t get to write my board exams I knew children who were appearing for it would be afraid and so I wanted to help them prepare & revise their topics.

Sunidhi Patil [Grade 11 Student at DHB Soni College, Solapur]

TribesforGOOD Review and Feedback

When the grassroots warrior Sunidhi Patil joined TribesforGOOD, social activism and citizen leadership were not new to her.

Her work began in her hometown Solapur, where she worked with the girls at the Children’s Observation Home & Shelter Home.

Sunidhi taught them English and Communication through interactive, fun activities. At TribesforGOOD, she imparted financial literacy skills to women survivors of exploitation.

Sunidhi’s Reflections

It’s important to listen to and respect every person, and every story. With every girl and woman I teach, I get to know a bit more about myself and discover a new passion and a new insight into life. Their will to make a change in their life makes me hopeful about the future.

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Mandeep Jhajj
Mandeep is the Founder & Managing Director of "Tribes For Good", one of the Strategic Partners of Stoodnt, Inc. She believes in 'social inclusion'. With 10+ years of work experience in the social impact space, she leads capacity building for non-profits and social enterprises in India.
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