Tech Makes it easier for schools and students to track and report community service for college applications

When college application due dates press closer, high school students typically stress about recommendation letters, essays that defines their personality in 650 words or less, and some way of not only rounding up all the community service they’ve completed in the past four years, but showing how that work reflects on what type of student they hope to be at college.

But for thousands of high school seniors, this annual rite of trying to detail four years of community service is being replaced by the online program x2VOL. The program, a tracking and reporting platform for student service hours, not only keeps their information in one place but also allows schools to approve their hours and companies to verify their work.

This online platform allows students to create an Official Service Transcript summarizing the hours and reflections of a student’s service. It is also the only verifiable transcript service recognized by colleges. Students order their transcript through Parchment, the same company that delivers academic credentials to colleges and universities. Parchment delivers the Official Service Transcript into the same folder as the academic transcripts.

The program, which can be accessed on mobile devices, easily allows students to add a quick reflection about what they learned during volunteering. x2VOL can be purchased by schools with a site license or individual students can buy access for $12 a year.

The program also offers students a dashboard of their work, broken down by hours and the types of companies. Students can set goals for themselves and receive reminder messages from their school or service group.

The Problem of Tracking Service Time

To have students keep track of their service hours, sometimes over four years, can be a thankless task that leads to a little desperation when college applications are due, advisors say.

“I would get service hours written on scraps of paper and napkins,” says Keri Shields, an academic counselor at the private Crossings Christian School in Oklahoma City. “I would just have this pile of papers.”

Dustin Tamplen, a counselor at Allen High School in Texas, knows the drill. At the end of the year, students end up “trying to go through a shoebox of Post-it Notes and index cards trying to track down paper they’ve logged since ninth grade.”

“We had service hours tracked in five different ways before x2VOL,” says Jill Stafford, a principal at the Lowery Freshman Center in Allen (Texas) Independent School District. This program allows students to give a complete picture of their volunteer time, she adds, which is especially important as colleges look beyond GPA and test scores to seek well-rounded students.

“Believe it or not, some schools have all this information on paper and spreadsheets,” says Michele Pitman, the CEO and founder of intelliVOL. “In a lot of cases, the hours end up being summarized as just one number. Technology and tools can unravel all that information and add usable insight as to what makes that student unique. It captures so much more than hours.”

“Service is not just what you do, it’s what you learn from it,” says Stafford.

How Service Time Can Help Tilt Admissions

In a survey completed by Interactive Educational Systems Design, Inc., more than two-thirds of college admission officers agreed that service experience indicated that a student was likely to have an active social life outside the classroom, contribute to the school’s mission, and share the school’s values. A majority of the officers also agreed that this work showed that a student was both self-motivated and able to collaborate easily with others.

Many admission officers agreed that service time could be a tiebreaker in deciding to accept a student if academic factors are equal, according to the survey results.

“A clear majority of admissions staff think that student community service has a positive impact on admission and they especially value a record that includes student reflections about their community service experience,” states IESD’s report.

“I believe the community service I did in high school helped me get into the University of North Texas,” says David Chavez, a first-generation college student who graduated in 2014. “My SAT and ACT scores were below the school standards. The college admissions officer advised I was accepted due to my extra-curricular activities like the service I did while I was a teen.”

Program Simplifies Administrative Tasks and Can Spur Volunteerism

Stafford says she got a perfect before-and-after picture of why this program is so important from a story one of her school clerks told her. The worker’s older kids applied to college before the school adopted x2VOL, but the younger siblings were able to use the program for their applications. “She told me it was so much easier to fill out applications and celebrate the work they had done. It even allowed them to kick off essays by going back to their experiences” from volunteering.

Because the program handles so many of the needed administrative tasks, it can also free up school personnel to talk more with students about what they are doing and what it means to them, says Shields from Oklahoma City. She can help a student connect a project to his or her intended major or point out a lesson learned that might be a perfect topic for that troublesome college application essay.

So next time students start stressing about their college applications and the deadlines start closing in, counselors should know that help is available. x2VOL is a program that can not only eliminate the scraps of paper and Post-it Notes while tallying a student’s service time, but it can also add meaning to the experiences and help point the way for students to calmly, and accurately, complete their applications to show their best side.

About the Author

Wayne D’Orio is an award-winning journalist with a deep background in education.

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