Civic Engagement vs. Community Service


Putting together a strong application for college involves more than just strong grades and SAT scores. It is dependent on a well-rounded application that paints a picture of who the applicant is. In addition to good grades, it is important to show that the applicant is more than just the numbers on the page. Sports, music, and community service are all great ways to augment strong academics; however, some people have questions about civic engagement and community service. What’s the difference? Can one activity be considered the same?

Civic engagement can be defined as working hard to meet the needs of the community. This overarching statement can leave many people looking for examples of what “civic engagement” actually is.

Some of the examples include:

Political Action: Working with government organizations to fight for something the individual is passionate about is a great place to start. While certain political issues might be polarizing, the passion is what’s important for a college application.

Current Events: Gearing civic engagement to meet current events is a great idea. For example, organizing blood drives or food drives for relief efforts can demonstrate civic engagement.

Serving the Underserved: This can be done in many ways. Habitat for Humanity, helping the homeless, and focusing on environmental service are strong examples of helping those less fortunate.

These are only a few examples of civic engagement and there are many ways to meet this broad category. Is this different than community service?

Hopefully, parents and kids are starting to realize that community service can be viewed as a subset of civic engagement. There are many different types of community service and many of these involve working with non-profit organizations to help out the underserved. Parents who are looking for ways to get their children involved with community service should start by looking at the non-profit organizations in the area. It is relatively easy to go online and see what volunteer organizations are nearby. These are companies that are used to having children volunteer with their non-profit and welcome the opportunity to have some help free of charge. Examples of organizations that might work in the area include the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and the CVAN Battered Women’s Shelter.

Ultimately, civic engagement and community service go hand in hand. Community service can be viewed as a subset of civic engagement and there are different ways that an applicant can demonstrate both of these. Sometimes, children become inspired and want to start their own volunteer organization. This would show leadership and initiative at the same time. Why not see what volunteer organizations are in your local area?