Yet another article is making the rounds aimed at amping up the pressure on students and their families. Headlined "Community Service Work Increasingly Important for College Applicants," it appeared in the US News and World Report Money section. Promoting the results of a "scientific report," it states that "admission officers place a high value on a student's long-term commitment to a cause or organization." Of course, that's true at face value. But the article goes on to imply that that "cause or organization" must be community service.
As these articles usually are, it's confusing and provocative, offering advice such as this: "Applicants need to take care in how they position their volunteer activities." The implicit message: You had better have community service on your list of extracurricular activities or you will suffer consequences.
Deans do place a high value on consistent commitment to a cause or organization -- or activity, pursuit or involvement -- but that does not translate to community service specifically being necessary to add to the list of everything else students are doing. It is one of the many ways students' lists of activities can reflect their commitments and passions and is not, for most colleges, a stand-alone by itself.