Genius Expert: Tips for Getting Service Hours this Summer and Paving the Way to College

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Michele Pitman is the founder and CEO of intelliVOL, developers of x2VOL which students, youth and adults use to manage and log community service hours and volunteer efforts. x2VOL started as a family commitment to giving 100 volunteer hours in one year. In the frustration of keeping track of those hours, Pitman created x2VOL and soon launched the product into schools. In 2018, Pitman’s company released x2VOL+, an individual membership plan so that anyone can keep track of their volunteerism.

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Michele Pitman
SignUpGenius: What are some benefits of community service for youth?

Pitman: First of all, community service is impactful! One of my fondest memories of my volunteer work is teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). It was a one-year commitment so I enjoyed seeing the students’ progress over time, and it also instilled an appreciation for their desire to learn something that I took for granted. From a more practical standpoint, young people who give time in community service develop empathy and a broader worldview. Through volunteerism, many students find their passion and discover things about themselves that drive them in a particular career direction and build character.

We surveyed college admissions counselors last year and they told us that seeing what kind of service a student completed helps them determine “fit” for their campus. If a student tends to gravitate toward construction projects like Habitat for Humanity, they could be primed for an engineering degree or a job in the trades. Students who like to volunteer in hospitals or care homes might be looking at medical careers. Community service is invaluable not only to the group being helped; it is a rich opportunity to discover what motivates and inspires an individual.

SUG: Why do volunteer efforts matter on college applications?

Pitman: Through our survey, which was recently featured in Forbes, we found that admissions officers said, “Yes, service does matter on college applications.” In fact, 58 percent said community service has a positive impact on acceptance at their college or university. We know this is true for many scholarships, but we were pleasantly surprised to have a statistically valid number coming from admissions officers at colleges. These officers told us that service indicates a student will more likely be active in student social life outside of the classroom and they would more likely share the school’s values, which means they will fit well on the campus.

SUG: What are your tips for volunteerism during the summer?

Pitman: First, I recommend that students try out new kinds of service so they can experience new things. If you’ve always helped at an animal shelter, try a building project or if you have a children’s hospital nearby, see if they allow student volunteers to visit. Some hospitals even allow video game play volunteering.

Second, make notes about what you did immediately after the work. Reflect on the impact that you made. How were you personally impacted by what you did? If you don’t have x2VOL, keep track of those thoughts in a spreadsheet and log all the details like time, date, location, service group contact name and phone number. You’ll need a signature or email from someone so the service can be verified.

Third, take your service seriously. Set a goal for how many hours you want to give this summer. Schedule those days in advance even if you haven’t picked the group(s) yet. (I recommend a recurring schedule so that a pattern is established.) As an example, if you have nine weeks off from school, decide to dedicate each Tuesday and Thursday to service. If you give four hours on each of those days, you’ll produce 72 hours of service this summer! Any number is helpful, but 50 or more hours is an amazing opportunity for growth and could be a deciding factor to get you into the college you want to attend.

Thanks Michele for sharing your volunteer knowledge! Need some inspiration for community service ideas? Try these 50 community service ideas or service ideas for teen volunteers.