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Your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars, do community colleges require essays for admissions.

Hi everyone, I'm considering applying to a community college and I'm curious if they typically require essays as part of their admissions process. Do they have the same requirements as four-year colleges or is it different? Thanks for any information!

Hi there! It's great that you're considering community college as an option. In general, community colleges have a much simpler admissions process compared to four-year colleges. Most of them operate on an open admissions policy, meaning that as long as you have a high school diploma or GED, you're likely to be accepted.

While some community colleges might require an essay or personal statement, it's not as common as with four-year colleges. It's always a good idea to check the specific requirements of the community college you're interested in attending to make sure you have everything in order.

Additionally, community colleges often have placement tests for English and math classes, which can help determine the right level for you to start. So, even if there's no essay requirement for admissions, you might need to brush up on your writing skills for these tests. Good luck with your applications, and I hope you find the right fit for your educational journey!

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CollegeVine’s Q&A seeks to offer informed perspectives on commonly asked admissions questions. Every answer is refined and validated by our team of admissions experts to ensure it resonates with trusted knowledge in the field.

How to Write the Community Essay – Guide with Examples (2023-24)

September 6, 2023

community essay examples

Students applying to college this year will inevitably confront the community essay. In fact, most students will end up responding to several community essay prompts for different schools. For this reason, you should know more than simply how to approach the community essay as a genre. Rather, you will want to learn how to decipher the nuances of each particular prompt, in order to adapt your response appropriately. In this article, we’ll show you how to do just that, through several community essay examples. These examples will also demonstrate how to avoid cliché and make the community essay authentically and convincingly your own.

Emphasis on Community

Do keep in mind that inherent in the word “community” is the idea of multiple people. The personal statement already provides you with a chance to tell the college admissions committee about yourself as an individual. The community essay, however, suggests that you depict yourself among others. You can use this opportunity to your advantage by showing off interpersonal skills, for example. Or, perhaps you wish to relate a moment that forged important relationships. This in turn will indicate what kind of connections you’ll make in the classroom with college peers and professors.

Apart from comprising numerous people, a community can appear in many shapes and sizes. It could be as small as a volleyball team, or as large as a diaspora. It could fill a town soup kitchen, or spread across five boroughs. In fact, due to the internet, certain communities today don’t even require a physical place to congregate. Communities can form around a shared identity, shared place, shared hobby, shared ideology, or shared call to action. They can even arise due to a shared yet unforeseen circumstance.

What is the Community Essay All About?             

In a nutshell, the community essay should exhibit three things:

  • An aspect of yourself, 2. in the context of a community you belonged to, and 3. how this experience may shape your contribution to the community you’ll join in college.

It may look like a fairly simple equation: 1 + 2 = 3. However, each college will word their community essay prompt differently, so it’s important to look out for additional variables. One college may use the community essay as a way to glimpse your core values. Another may use the essay to understand how you would add to diversity on campus. Some may let you decide in which direction to take it—and there are many ways to go!

To get a better idea of how the prompts differ, let’s take a look at some real community essay prompts from the current admission cycle.

Sample 2023-2024 Community Essay Prompts

1) brown university.

“Students entering Brown often find that making their home on College Hill naturally invites reflection on where they came from. Share how an aspect of your growing up has inspired or challenged you, and what unique contributions this might allow you to make to the Brown community. (200-250 words)”

A close reading of this prompt shows that Brown puts particular emphasis on place. They do this by using the words “home,” “College Hill,” and “where they came from.” Thus, Brown invites writers to think about community through the prism of place. They also emphasize the idea of personal growth or change, through the words “inspired or challenged you.” Therefore, Brown wishes to see how the place you grew up in has affected you. And, they want to know how you in turn will affect their college community.

“NYU was founded on the belief that a student’s identity should not dictate the ability for them to access higher education. That sense of opportunity for all students, of all backgrounds, remains a part of who we are today and a critical part of what makes us a world-class university. Our community embraces diversity, in all its forms, as a cornerstone of the NYU experience.

We would like to better understand how your experiences would help us to shape and grow our diverse community. Please respond in 250 words or less.”

Here, NYU places an emphasis on students’ “identity,” “backgrounds,” and “diversity,” rather than any physical place. (For some students, place may be tied up in those ideas.) Furthermore, while NYU doesn’t ask specifically how identity has changed the essay writer, they do ask about your “experience.” Take this to mean that you can still recount a specific moment, or several moments, that work to portray your particular background. You should also try to link your story with NYU’s values of inclusivity and opportunity.

3) University of Washington

“Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW. (300 words max) Tip: Keep in mind that the UW strives to create a community of students richly diverse in cultural backgrounds, experiences, values and viewpoints.”

UW ’s community essay prompt may look the most approachable, for they help define the idea of community. You’ll notice that most of their examples (“families,” “cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood”…) place an emphasis on people. This may clue you in on their desire to see the relationships you’ve made. At the same time, UW uses the words “individual” and “richly diverse.” They, like NYU, wish to see how you fit in and stand out, in order to boost campus diversity.

Writing Your First Community Essay

Begin by picking which community essay you’ll write first. (For practical reasons, you’ll probably want to go with whichever one is due earliest.) Spend time doing a close reading of the prompt, as we’ve done above. Underline key words. Try to interpret exactly what the prompt is asking through these keywords.

Next, brainstorm. I recommend doing this on a blank piece of paper with a pencil. Across the top, make a row of headings. These might be the communities you’re a part of, or the components that make up your identity. Then, jot down descriptive words underneath in each column—whatever comes to you. These words may invoke people and experiences you had with them, feelings, moments of growth, lessons learned, values developed, etc. Now, narrow in on the idea that offers the richest material and that corresponds fully with the prompt.

Lastly, write! You’ll definitely want to describe real moments, in vivid detail. This will keep your essay original, and help you avoid cliché. However, you’ll need to summarize the experience and answer the prompt succinctly, so don’t stray too far into storytelling mode.

How To Adapt Your Community Essay

Once your first essay is complete, you’ll need to adapt it to the other colleges involving community essays on your list. Again, you’ll want to turn to the prompt for a close reading, and recognize what makes this prompt different from the last. For example, let’s say you’ve written your essay for UW about belonging to your swim team, and how the sports dynamics shaped you. Adapting that essay to Brown’s prompt could involve more of a focus on place. You may ask yourself, how was my swim team in Alaska different than the swim teams we competed against in other states?

Once you’ve adapted the content, you’ll also want to adapt the wording to mimic the prompt. For example, let’s say your UW essay states, “Thinking back to my years in the pool…” As you adapt this essay to Brown’s prompt, you may notice that Brown uses the word “reflection.” Therefore, you might change this sentence to “Reflecting back on my years in the pool…” While this change is minute, it cleverly signals to the reader that you’ve paid attention to the prompt, and are giving that school your full attention.

What to Avoid When Writing the Community Essay  

  • Avoid cliché. Some students worry that their idea is cliché, or worse, that their background or identity is cliché. However, what makes an essay cliché is not the content, but the way the content is conveyed. This is where your voice and your descriptions become essential.
  • Avoid giving too many examples. Stick to one community, and one or two anecdotes arising from that community that allow you to answer the prompt fully.
  • Don’t exaggerate or twist facts. Sometimes students feel they must make themselves sound more “diverse” than they feel they are. Luckily, diversity is not a feeling. Likewise, diversity does not simply refer to one’s heritage. If the prompt is asking about your identity or background, you can show the originality of your experiences through your actions and your thinking.

Community Essay Examples and Analysis

Brown university community essay example.

I used to hate the NYC subway. I’ve taken it since I was six, going up and down Manhattan, to and from school. By high school, it was a daily nightmare. Spending so much time underground, underneath fluorescent lighting, squashed inside a rickety, rocking train car among strangers, some of whom wanted to talk about conspiracy theories, others who had bedbugs or B.O., or who manspread across two seats, or bickered—it wore me out. The challenge of going anywhere seemed absurd. I dreaded the claustrophobia and disgruntlement.

Yet the subway also inspired my understanding of community. I will never forget the morning I saw a man, several seats away, slide out of his seat and hit the floor. The thump shocked everyone to attention. What we noticed: he appeared drunk, possibly homeless. I was digesting this when a second man got up and, through a sort of awkward embrace, heaved the first man back into his seat. The rest of us had stuck to subway social codes: don’t step out of line. Yet this second man’s silent actions spoke loudly. They said, “I care.”

That day I realized I belong to a group of strangers. What holds us together is our transience, our vulnerabilities, and a willingness to assist. This community is not perfect but one in motion, a perpetual work-in-progress. Now I make it my aim to hold others up. I plan to contribute to the Brown community by helping fellow students and strangers in moments of precariousness.    

Brown University Community Essay Example Analysis

Here the student finds an original way to write about where they come from. The subway is not their home, yet it remains integral to ideas of belonging. The student shows how a community can be built between strangers, in their responsibility toward each other. The student succeeds at incorporating key words from the prompt (“challenge,” “inspired” “Brown community,” “contribute”) into their community essay.

UW Community Essay Example

I grew up in Hawaii, a world bound by water and rich in diversity. In school we learned that this sacred land was invaded, first by Captain Cook, then by missionaries, whalers, traders, plantation owners, and the U.S. government. My parents became part of this problematic takeover when they moved here in the 90s. The first community we knew was our church congregation. At the beginning of mass, we shook hands with our neighbors. We held hands again when we sang the Lord’s Prayer. I didn’t realize our church wasn’t “normal” until our diocese was informed that we had to stop dancing hula and singing Hawaiian hymns. The order came from the Pope himself.

Eventually, I lost faith in God and organized institutions. I thought the banning of hula—an ancient and pure form of expression—seemed medieval, ignorant, and unfair, given that the Hawaiian religion had already been stamped out. I felt a lack of community and a distrust for any place in which I might find one. As a postcolonial inhabitant, I could never belong to the Hawaiian culture, no matter how much I valued it. Then, I was shocked to learn that Queen Ka’ahumanu herself had eliminated the Kapu system, a strict code of conduct in which women were inferior to men. Next went the Hawaiian religion. Queen Ka’ahumanu burned all the temples before turning to Christianity, hoping this religion would offer better opportunities for her people.

Community Essay (Continued)

I’m not sure what to make of this history. Should I view Queen Ka’ahumanu as a feminist hero, or another failure in her islands’ tragedy? Nothing is black and white about her story, but she did what she thought was beneficial to her people, regardless of tradition. From her story, I’ve learned to accept complexity. I can disagree with institutionalized religion while still believing in my neighbors. I am a product of this place and their presence. At UW, I plan to add to campus diversity through my experience, knowing that diversity comes with contradictions and complications, all of which should be approached with an open and informed mind.

UW Community Essay Example Analysis

This student also manages to weave in words from the prompt (“family,” “community,” “world,” “product of it,” “add to the diversity,” etc.). Moreover, the student picks one of the examples of community mentioned in the prompt, (namely, a religious group,) and deepens their answer by addressing the complexity inherent in the community they’ve been involved in. While the student displays an inner turmoil about their identity and participation, they find a way to show how they’d contribute to an open-minded campus through their values and intellectual rigor.

What’s Next

For more on supplemental essays and essay writing guides, check out the following articles:

  • How to Write the Why This Major Essay + Example
  • How to Write the Overcoming Challenges Essay + Example
  • How to Start a College Essay – 12 Techniques and Tips
  • College Essay

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Kaylen Baker

With a BA in Literary Studies from Middlebury College, an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University, and a Master’s in Translation from Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, Kaylen has been working with students on their writing for over five years. Previously, Kaylen taught a fiction course for high school students as part of Columbia Artists/Teachers, and served as an English Language Assistant for the French National Department of Education. Kaylen is an experienced writer/translator whose work has been featured in Los Angeles Review, Hybrid, San Francisco Bay Guardian, France Today, and Honolulu Weekly, among others.

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How to Write the “Community” Essay

A step-by-step guide to this popular supplemental prompt.

do you have to write an essay for community college

When college admissions officers admit a new group of freshmen, they aren’t just filling up classrooms — they’re also crafting (you guessed it) a campus community. College students don’t just sit quietly in class, retreat to their rooms to crank out homework, go to sleep, rinse, and repeat. They socialize! They join clubs! They organize student protests! They hold cultural events! They become RAs and audition for a cappella groups and get on-campus jobs! Colleges want to cultivate a thriving, vibrant, uplifting campus community that enriches students’ learning — and for that reason, they’re understandably curious about what kind of community member they’ll be getting when they invite you to campus as part of their incoming class.

Enter the “community” essay — an increasingly popular supplemental essay prompt that asks students to talk about a community to which they belong and how they have contributed to or benefited from that community. Community essays often sound something like this:

University of Michigan: Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it. (250 words)

Pomona College: Reflecting on a community that you are part of, what values or perspectives from that community would you bring to Pomona?  (250 words)

University of Rochester: Spiders are essential to the ecosystem. How are you essential to your community or will you be essential in your university community? (350-650 words)

Swarthmore: Swarthmore students’ worldviews are often forged by their prior experiences and exposure to ideas and values. Our students are often mentored, supported, and developed by their immediate context—in their neighborhoods, communities of faith, families, and classrooms. Reflect on what elements of your home, school, or community have shaped you or positively impacted you. How have you grown or changed because of the influence of your community? (250 words)

Yale: Reflect on a time when you have worked to enhance a community to which you feel connected. Why have these efforts been meaningful to you? You may define community however you like. (400 words)

Step 1: Pick a community to write about

Breathe. You belong to LOTS of communities. And if none immediately come to mind, it’s only because you need to bust open your idea of what constitutes a “community”!

Among other things, communities can be joined by…

  • West Coasters
  • NYC’s Koreatown
  • Everyone in my cabin at summer camp
  • ACLU volunteers
  • Cast of a school musical
  • Puzzle-lovers
  • Powerlifters
  • Army brats who live together on a military base
  • Iranian-American
  • Queer-identifying
  • Children of pastors

Take 15 minutes to write down a list of ALL the communities you belong to that you can think of. While you’re writing, don’t worry about judging which ones will be useful for an essay. Just write down every community that comes to mind — even if some of them feel like a stretch.

When you’re done, survey your list of communities. Do one, two, or three communities jump out as options that could enable you to write about yourself and your community engagement? Carry your top choices of community into Step 2.

Step 2: Generate content.

For each of your top communities, answer any of the following questions that apply:

  • Is there a memorable story I can tell about my engagement with this community?
  • What concrete impacts have I had on this community?
  • What problems have I solved (or attempted to solve) in this community?
  • What have I learned from this community?
  • How has this community supported me or enriched my life up to this point?
  • How have I applied the lessons or values I gleaned from this community more broadly?

Different questions will be relevant for different community prompts. For example, if you’re working on answering Yale’s prompt, you’ll want to focus on a community on which you’ve had a concrete impact. But if you’re trying to crack Swarthmore’s community essay, you can prioritize communities that have impacted YOU. Keep in mind though — even for a prompt like Yale’s, which focuses on tangible impact, it’s important that your community essay doesn’t read like a rattled-off list of achievements in your community. Your goal here is to show that you are a generous, thoughtful, grateful, and active community member who uplifts the people around you — not to detail a list of the competitions that Math club has won under your leadership.

BONUS: Connect your past community life to your future on-campus community life.

Some community essay prompts ask you — or give you the option — to talk about how you plan on engaging with community on a particular college campus. If you’re tackling one of those prompts (like Pomona’s), then you guessed it: it’s research time!

Often, for these kinds of community prompts, it will serve you to first write about a community that you’ve engaged with in the past and then write about how you plan to continue engaging with that same kind of community at college. For example, if you wrote about throwing a Lunar New Year party with international students at your high school, you might write about how excited you are to join the International Students Alliance at your new college or contribute to the cross-cultural student magazine. Or, if you wrote about playing in your high school band, you might write about how you can’t wait to audition for your new college’s chamber orchestra or accompany the improv team for their improvised musicals. The point is to give your admissions officer an idea of what on-campus communities you might be interested in joining if you were to attend their particular school.

Check out our full College Essay Hub for tons of resources and guidance on writing your college essays. Need more personalized guidance on brainstorming or crafting your supplemental essays? Contact our college admissions team.

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do you have to write an essay for community college

Tips for Writing a Standout Community Service Essay

←6 Diversity College Essay Examples

How to Write the “Why This Major” College Essay→

Through your college applications process, you’re likely to come across the term “community service” many times. In fact, you may be asked to write an essay about it. This post will cover the specifics of a community service essay and how to go about writing one, including what to cover and common mistakes to avoid. 

What is a Community Service Essay?

You may encounter the community service essay as you’re writing your supplemental essays for college. These are school-specific prompts that only go to the college that requests them, unlike the personal statement , which goes to every school you apply to. Not all schools require community service essays, but several do. It’s also a common requirement for scholarship applications, especially if it’s a school-specific merit scholarship. 

The community service essay is an essay that describes the initiatives you have taken outside of the classroom to benefit your community. In a 2018 survey of 264 admissions leaders across the US, 58% said that community service is a tie-breaker between students who are otherwise equally qualified. The community service essay offers you the opportunity to shine light on the work you have done to make an impact on the world and people around you, and is an additional way to help you stand out among other applicants. 

Approaching the Community Service Essay 

Understand the essay requirements  .

As with any essay, it’s important to first understand what is expected of your essay. For a start, elements to pay attention to include: 

  • Length requirements
  • Focus or subject of the essay prompt 
  • Organization of the essay 

Although all community service essays ultimately have the same purpose of having you describe your local service activities, they can come with different types of prompts. Below are three sample prompts. Note the differences in topic specificity, length requirements, and breadth of the prompt. 

From the CGCS – Bernard Harris Scholarship Program: 

Please describe a meaningful volunteer or community service experience, including what you learned from participating.

From the University of California Application :

What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? (350 words).

From the Equitable Excellence Scholarship:

Describe your outstanding achievement in depth and provide the specific planning, training, goals, and steps taken to make the accomplishment successful. Include details about your role and highlight leadership you provided. Your essay must be a minimum of 350 words but not more than 600 words.

Brainstorming for your community service essay 

Once you have an understanding of what is required of the specific you are to write, the next step is to brainstorm ideas for a specific topic. If you have various community-engaged service experiences under your belt, consider the following before you finalize your decision. 

The best topics:

Are substantial in length and scope. It’s better to cover a long-term commitment than a one-off afternoon at the food pantry or animal shelter. 

Are transformative or inspiring. Although community service is “others”-oriented, colleges are looking to learn more about you. The ideal community service essay topic should be an experience that changed or challenged your perspective, and was ultimately fulfilling. 

Illustrate personal qualities or passions that you want to highlight. Given the specific prompt, and taking the rest of your application into consideration, which personal interests do you want to highlight? Which activity illuminates the personal quality that you want to bring attention to? 

These are all elements to consider before you begin writing your essay. 

do you have to write an essay for community college

Tips for Writing Your Community Service Essay 

1. include anecdotes.

Anecdotes are a great way to begin your essay, not only as a way to grab your reader’s attention, but by launching right into the experience of your service activity. You can start with a line about a particularly busy afternoon at the orphanage, or a morning cleaning up the streets after a storm, or the sense of accomplishment you felt when you watched a dog under your care at the animal shelter get adopted. 

2. Show, don’t tell 

We’re sure you’ve heard this axiom of general writing before, but it applies to college essays just as much as with any other piece of writing. Opt for evocative examples over plain explaining whenever possible. Take this sentence: “There was a lot of food waste at our school cafeteria.” It’s not nearly as powerful as this description: “I peered into the tall, gray trash cans to inspect the mountain of Styrofoam trays and discarded food. There were countless pizza crusts, globs of green beans, and unopened cartons of milk.” 

Anyone could write the first sentence, and it’s not a unique experience. In the second description, we’re shown the scene of the writer’s lunchroom. We get a peek into their perspective and life, which makes the writing more vivid and relatable. Aim to bring your reader into your world as much as possible.

3. Share your responsibilities and accomplishments.

The more tangible your community service activities feel to the reader, the more powerful your essay will be. Concretize your work by stating the basic details of what kind of work you did and what your duties involved, where it was based, when you began working, and the amount of time you spent working. 

Be sure to quantify your work and accomplishments when possible; it’s better to say your fundraiser yielded 125 books than “a large number” of books. It’s important to also elaborate on why the work you did matters. Why was it important? Did the books you collected or purchased after the fundraiser expand the library of the local orphanage that they already had, or did it offer the children easy access to books that wasn’t available previously? Be specific and detailed.  

4. Highlight what you learned and how you’ll use those lessons moving forward. 

Towards the end of your essay, you’ll want to share how you benefited from the community service work you did. This is an important part of the essay, because it shows how you are able to distill your experiences to applicable lessons in your own life. 

Think of this section in two potential parts: skills you learned, and personal development. Did you gain any hard skills, such as public speaking, poster design, or funds management? Then think about how you developed as an individual. Are you more empathetic or patient now? 

Things to Avoid in Your Community Service Essay 

1. don’t list out everything that happened..

You want to keep your essay well-structured and concise. This isn’t a résumé, or a play-by-play of the entire experience. Stick to the most telling details and anecdotes from your experience. 

2. Avoid using a pretentious or privileged tone.

Humility goes a long way, and entitlement can be smelled from afar. The purpose of this essay is not to paint yourself as a savior of any kind, but rather to show what’s important to you in your non-academic life, and how you approach solving real-world and interpersonal problems. 

3. Avoid clichés.

It may be tempting to quote famous people, but doing so can easily seem like a shortcut, plus it shows little of who you are. Try also to steer clear of trite and vague life lesson lines such as “I learned that people can be happy with so little,” or “I learned the importance of giving back.” Not only do they carry a tone of privilege, they are also sweeping general conclusions and don’t convey anything specific of what you learned. 

Community service is only a part of the college application process, which can be daunting and confusing. CollegeVine will help you navigate each step of the process, from building a college list, to calculating your chances at each school using our chancing engine. Create your free account and get started now !

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  1. Do community colleges require essays for admissions?

    Additionally, community colleges often have placement tests for English and math classes, which can help determine the right level for you to start. So, even if there's no essay requirement for admissions, you might need to brush up on your writing skills for these tests. Good luck with your applications, and I hope you find the right fit for ...

  2. How to Write the Community Essay: Complete Guide + Examples

    Step 1: Decide What Community to Write About. Step 2: The BEABIES Exercise. Step 3: Pick a Structure (Narrative or Montage) Community Essay Example: East Meets West. Community Essay Example: Storytellers. The Uncommon Connections Exercise.

  3. How to Write the Community Essay + Examples 2023-24

    What is the Community Essay All About? In a nutshell, the community essay should exhibit three things: An aspect of yourself, 2. in the context of a community you belonged to, and 3. how this experience may shape your contribution to the community you’ll join in college. It may look like a fairly simple equation: 1 + 2 = 3.

  4. Community College Essay - 10+ Examples, Format, How to Write, Pdf

    2. Tell Them Who You Are and the Name of the Program. Introducing yourself in your essay is one of the main things that goes on with the community college essay. Tell them your name, and the program you plan on taking up and why. This gives them a chance to get to know you in a level that makes them curious.

  5. How to Write the "Community" Essay - Private Prep

    Take 15 minutes to write down a list of ALL the communities you belong to that you can think of. While you’re writing, don’t worry about judging which ones will be useful for an essay. Just write down every community that comes to mind — even if some of them feel like a stretch. When you’re done, survey your list of communities.

  6. How to Write a Great Community Service Essay - PrepScholar

    Step 6: Discuss What You Learned. One of the final things to include in your essay should be the impact that your community service had on you. You can discuss skills you learned, such as carpentry, public speaking, animal care, or another skill. You can also talk about how you changed personally.

  7. Essay Guide: What is a Community Essay? - College Raptor ...

    A community essay refers to a college application essay that answers a question similar to “Tell us about a community you’re a part of.”. Length can vary but may be dictated by the college you’re applying to. The topic of your piece, however, should be about a community you’re a part of, how you’re a part of it, and/or how it has ...

  8. Tips for Writing a Standout Community Service Essay - CollegeVine

    Tips for Writing Your Community Service Essay 1. Include anecdotes Anecdotes are a great way to begin your essay, not only as a way to grab your reader’s attention, but by launching right into the experience of your service activity. You can start with a line about a particularly busy afternoon at the orphanage, or a morning cleaning up the streets after a storm, or the sense of ...