For those of you who are planning to go to college, it’s a good idea to participate in a mission trip. Why? Because one of the things that college admission counselors look for aside from grades and scores is a community experience. The admissions process is a very human one where what you do outside of classes and books is significant. One of the most important factors that colleges want to know is the following: Did the students challenge themselves?

There is a challenge in participating in a mission trip. How so? To decide to join a mission trip is a weighty and important decision. Most importantly, it’s a selfless one. It demonstrates your desire to help others outside your close circle of friends and family, showcasing your humanity. To choose to be part of a mission trip shows your empathy bandwidth.

Mission Discovery has partnered up with Gary Morris, Director of Career Services at a college in New York State, to help students with their college essays.


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Your participation in a mission trip is a pivotal asset to add in your college essay because it will set you apart from your peers. Not everyone joins mission trip opportunities because it takes a unique person with a specific personality and character to pursue such a selfless experience. And this matters because colleges not only focus on admitting students with qualifying grades and scores but also they look to accept people that desire to make an impact in the world. Remember that college admissions are interested in knowing what makes you different, and as a participant of a mission trip, it differentiates you from the pack.

Admissions reps. Also, look for a few more things in the essays.

  • How does the student’s story parallel the mission of the institution? Tailoring the “story” to also show the best match with the college is something to consider, as is not sending the same essay to every school. It is like a cover letter – it can mostly be the same, but you need to show that you are interested in THEM.
  • A catchy beginning is essential. Reps read thousands of these essays, and candidates need to wake them up quickly.
  • A good story that answers the question being asked is better than a great story that misses the mark. Don’t forget to answer the question.
  • College will be one of the biggest challenges a student faces to that point. It will require hard work / grit, internal motivation, sticktoitiveness, patience, humor, planning… show the rep. That this experience not only proves you have it but have it at a higher level than the next candidate.  

Remember to stay Christ-Centered

Mission trips expose the youth to a life that is poles apart from what they know. As we all know it, the seasons linked to adolescence and young adulthood are seasons where humanity is at its primal peak of selfishness. And the fact that we are living in the selfie generation adds to the self-centered aspect of who we are. Therefore, when a young person is exposed to a mission trip experience, it changes their perspective on life and influences their ability to possess gratitude.

Mostly it produces a need to serve a higher purpose more significant than yourself. To witness struggles and battles that people endure does something to our hearts. And when you meet the needs of others, you become God-centered and less self-centered. You walk with kingdom purpose and not only in pursuit of what benefits you.

Be a Problem Solver

When you announce that you’ve been part of a mission trip, it tells others that you speak from a stance of experience, not just from knowledge. One thing is to know something because you read it, and another thing is to experience it for yourself. To experience and live out the life that others live under conditions of scarcity, it leaves a mark in your heart. When your college entrance vitae includes a mission trip experience, it’s like an announcement that you not only possess a desire to help others, but you are an active problem solver. It shows that you talk the talk and walk the walk, you’re a doer. You not only recognize the needs of others, but you go the extra mile and become part of the solution to meet their needs. What does this mean? On paper, you’re a valuable asset to the community.


An Example College Admissions Essay

 “Can I have your shoes?” Five simple words strung together, mixed with humility, desperation, and hope. I had worked alongside the foreman for two weeks. He was in charge of 25 laborers as well as an army of volunteers building houses in Ecuador. A skilled craftsman, but also kind, generous, and patient as he squeezed every ounce of productivity from those in his charge. He had a housing complex to build, and he couldn’t do it himself. At the end of the last day, exhausted as we both sat in the dirt, the front runner for this entire group, arguably the wealthiest and most talented in the area, asked a question that sent shock waves through my world view. I left the worksite, went to the airport, and flew home… without shoes.

Amarillo College, under the leadership of President Lowery-Hart, humbled himself by relying on soup kitchens to experience poverty for a weekend, saying, “Just having a food pantry like we do isn’t enough.” I couldn’t agree more. The wealthiest and most influential leader of this institution is willing to lower himself to see what life is like without shoes. According to the article in The Atlantic, I think that weekend sent shock waves through his world view. He and I have something in common – and I want more of it.