Is it bad if I have to pay to do my summer community service?

By Maxine Seya

Is it bad if I have to pay to do my summer community service?

– Darren

These also existed back when I applied to colleges! Paying to do an internship instead of getting paid. Paying to volunteer somewhere instead of getting volunteer hours. Getting charged for serving others gave me a sour taste in my mouth, so I never did that myself.

Some community service opportunities abroad (for example, shadowing a doctor and volunteering at a health clinic in Guatemala) charge for their services because they lodge, transport, and feed their volunteers — in addition to overhead, utilities, and organizational costs. In those cases, these companies have to pay their employees somehow so it’s more reasonable to pay them.

However, there are 3 reasons why paying for community service is not a good idea.

  1. You can find community service opportunities you like for free. Paying for the volunteer gig can streamline the process, but if it’s a well-known program that wealthy students participate in, colleges will know that you didn’t put very much work into researching programs and pitching yourself to them. You could learn a lot from the process of weeding out service opportunities like how to vet programs, how to figure out what you truly like, how to talk to the managers of those programs, how to position yourself in a desirable manner.

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Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.