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Community Service Makes Candidates Well-Rounded

When reviewing applications for boarding school, admission officers look for evidence of a child's character, as well as his or her leadership in academics, arts, and athletics. Community service is a wonderful way to demonstrate a student's integrity and interest in the world beyond themselves.

Many middle school students are already active in church youth groups, school service clubs, and family-based volunteerism. They read to elementary age students at school and help coach younger students at sports camp. They stock food pantry shelves, brighten the days of senior citizens, promote awareness of cancer research, and organize significant mitzvah projects. Being engaged in one's own community on a regular basis speaks volumes about a teen's ability to work with others, accomplish goals, and see himself or herself as a contributor to a larger society.

Admission officers value such experiences in candidates because boarding schools are tight-knit communities. Each school hopes the students joining its community will become integrated into campus life, including playing sports, joining clubs, and participating in the school's community service initiatives. In addition, the success of residential life in dorms requires students who demonstrate the maturity to respect and appreciate others and who are willing to pitch in when a helping hand is needed.

Although not all school applications ask directly about a student's record of community service, I encourage my candidates to consider how they can make a meaningful difference in their local communities. Relationships developed through these activities can become the source of supplemental letters of recommendation. Most importantly, however, volunteering helps children grow into kind, compassionate adults. Including such activities on an application and discussing them in an interview lets a child's empathy shine through.

Audrey Noyes Ludemann helps families seek independent school education, ranging from day schools to boarding schools and from elementary to secondary grades. She also is an invaluable resource for planning across different learning styles—serving families whose students are gifted and/or have moderate learning differences. She can be reached at