Less is More – Depth Over Breadth in Volunteering

Hi everyone and welcome back to GoBlog. Today is going to mark another entry in our fight against high school stress. We are going into depth for one of the most common questions we get from our parents and students. 

How many volunteer hours should I have?

Some people say 20 other people can’t believe you would have lower than 200. So, which one is it? The short answer: it’s closer to 20. The long answer: you’re not even asking the right question. Read on to see what we mean. 

It’s Service. Not Service “Hours”

Less Is more

One of the most misunderstood admissions criteria is volunteering. Some call it “service hours”, but it really just comes down to service — authentic service. Helping others for the sake of helping.

The “Less is More” principle can be interpreted in two ways to improve one’s volunteer work towards college admissions. 

High Impact Work

The first one is that it’s better to do less hours of high-impact work than more hours of low-impact work. What makes service meaningful is the impact of your work, not the number of hours you worked. After all, when applying for college, students must write essays explaining the Why they served rather than the How many hours they served. Similarly, it’s not about the title of a volunteer experience; one could have had more impact as a general volunteer versus that of an officer of a club. 

Remember, impact occurs in two ways: impact on others and impact on oneself.

First, impact on others can be measured by answering the following question: “How much will my contribution last beyond the day of my contribution?” For example, serving food to the homeless is certainly an act of service; however, its impact will likely not last beyond the day of service. Therefore, yielding relatively low-impact. 

Impact on oneself can be measured by answering the following question: “How much will/has this experience changed the way I live and perceive the world?” Impactful service experiences are often incredibly transformative for both those who serve and those who are being served.

Have Less Engagements

The second one is that it’s better to do high-impact work for a lower number of volunteer service engagements, rather than low-impact work for a large number of engagements. Engaging in fewer volunteer opportunities means one can give greater attention to each of their experiences. Again, if the priority is to make a positive, lasting impact on another’s life, this often requires a substantial amount of time within any given volunteer experience. 

Too often, students serve one year and don’t continue the next in the same organization. That’s okay if the organization didn’t provide impactful work, but if it did, you should absolutely continue that work. Likewise, one should stop serving if the work is not impactful. If the work you’re engaging in is generic and low-impact, it’s time to move on to a better service experience, not just another generic one. Continuity within a service organization past the first year often leads to potential leadership roles. Inquire about leadership opportunities before committing to a service opportunity so that you can compare and contrast different opportunities.

Serving In The Summer

Too many parents emphasize summer educational programs without ever emphasizing the need to serve, when in fact, summer is one of the best times to serve. Serving allows me to gain exposure to different communities and facets of the world, while contributing to make things better – critical learning for college admissions.

Service During Covid

Don’t let Covid stop you from serving. There are many opportunities available, even new ones that weren’t available before due to the digitized/virtual service opportunities now available. Contact us to learn more.


We hope that this provides some valuable insight into how to release some of the stress you may have while making your college application profile even stronger.

We specialize in youth mentorship and college counseling. From 8th grade to 12th, we have you covered for any stage in your high school career. Schedule a free consultation with us here.

We are always posting more helpful tips and tricks to help reduce the stress of college application season. Follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and LinkedIn

See you soon!

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