Volunteering, Community Service and College Admissions

Learn how volunteer work and community service can add to your college admissions profile.

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Donating your time to volunteering for a cause takes a lot of idealism, devotion and energy. It’s not always easy, but it can definitely be rewarding.

The best volunteers are the ones who do it because they feel a passion for their chosen charities.

An artificial philanthropist, who is only participating for credit, is not likely to make the sort of impact that a real humanitarian will.


If you’re already supporting a cause, why not use it to your best advantage on your college applications?

What Counts As High School Volunteer Work?

Among schoolwork and extracurricular activities, you may want to join a community service program.

There are many different types of volunteer programs for high school students, each with their own purpose and focus. Some types include fundraising, advocacy, and hands on work.

Your local church community can serve as a great source for volunteer opportunities in fundraisers for natural disasters, community cleanups and even international relations.

Volunteer vacations are a great way to combine your civic mindedness with a cultural experience.

Finding Interesting Volunteer Work

If your interest lies in politics, look into local political offices for volunteer opportunities. Political campaigns often recruit high school students to make cold calls, do canvassing and promote the political causes they believe in. It’s a great way to prove your involvement in current events.

Neighborhood clean-ups, recycling and other “going green” activities are some ways to do environmental community service. Many local organizations pledge to convert schools and businesses into environmentally friendly establishments. Check with your town board to find out how you can get involved.

Volunteer Vacations: Adventure with a Purpose

Volunteer vacations are a great way to combine your civic mindedness with a cultural experience. There are programs committed to taking teenagers abroad to help people all over the world.

One such program is called Global Works. High school students can enroll for the summer and go to countries like Australia, China, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico.

After enrolling in a program like Global Works, students can work on local projects such as environmental conservation, working with endangered animals, renovating schools, building water wells and irrigation systems, and even teaching English. Students are also able to expose themselves to a new culture, learn a new language and visit new countries.

However, some of these programs can be costly – so be sure to check with each agency regarding cost, airfare and housing.

Volunteering in High School—Do Admissions Boards Really Care?

College admissions boards care about your grades, so no matter what, be sure to keep up with your schoolwork. However, they also want to see that each prospective student is well-rounded. They will look at more than just your academic record. Your extracurricular activities and community service will also play a role in your college admissions.

Boards also want students that will bring something to the college campus. A dedicated volunteer who wants to continue working for their cause in college is definitely a desirable candidate.

Some private schools may even require community service from their students. With a history of faithfulness to volunteering, you’ll prove yourself able. Not to mention, volunteers are likely to develop their organizing, leadership and teamwork skills – all of which you’ll need to do well in college.

Volunteering, Community Service, and College Admissions: Tips and Tactics

  • Start early. Don't wait until senior year to get involved. The more time you dedicate to community service, the better you'll look on college applications.
  • Volunteering shows college admissions boards that you have organizational, leadership, and teamwork skills. Find community service opportunities that build on these skills.
  • Ask around for excellent volunteering opportunities. Talk to counselors, family members, and community leaders to see what you can do for your neighborhood.

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