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Exotic Service Trips Aren’t So Impressive After All

The author of this article went on a service trip to Guatemala in the summer of 2012.

The author of this article went on a service trip to Guatemala in the summer of 2012

Costa Rica, Fiji, Dominican Republic. These are all beautiful destination spots, but with summer quickly approaching, you may be hearing these dream destinations pop up in daily student conversation. More and more students are going away on “community service programs” to foreign countries. What was once unheard of, is now much more common among high school students. With the college process dawning upon many, more students want to highlight what they hope will be seen as a unique accomplishment for the benefit of their college applications. But colleges aren’t so impressed by these exotic locations. In fact they see it more as a cliché.

In today’s competitive admissions game, colleges aren’t as interested as where you go over the summer as they are in what you consistently do. “What colleges are looking for is continued interest and effort,” said a former admissions officer at the American International University in London. “There are students who make things seem more authentic. For example, students may be involved with supporting a community through fundraising … over a period of several years and going there and having an experience and continuing with their support of that community.” (The Washington Post) So if you can’t afford that $5,000 trip to Costa Rica, don’t sweat it! Participating in local community service on a regular basis may look better on your college app than a ridiculously expensive “service trip”. Although going on a vacation-like trip to participate in some community service on the side may seem ideal, it’s looked at less favorably on applications. In fact many colleges see these trips as ones only students with wealthy parents can afford. This may not be true for all students, however it’s colleges’ perceptions.

In a heartbeat anyone would probably jump at the chance to go to Puerto Rico, Fiji or the Dominican Republic. But if you can’t afford these trips or you just don’t have time this summer, don’t stress! Getting a summer job, volunteering at an animal shelter, Toni’s Soup Kitchen or a hospital is viewed as favorably if not more favorably as going to a foreign country on a service trip. In the end it shouldn’t really be about doing what “looks good” on college apps, it should be about doing what you love and having fun with it.


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