How Important Are Volunteer Hours for College Applications?

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    High school student volunteer opportunities are an important part of your college applications. They are one of the many factors that college admissions officers look for in an applicant and are often cited as a deciding factor between two equally qualified candidates. This is why it is especially important to include volunteer activities on your college applications if you are applying to highly-selective schools, such as Ivy League colleges.

    Typically, your volunteer hours for college will be included in the extracurricular activities portion of your college applications. There may be opportunities to write about your volunteer experiences as well, either in your college essay or in supplemental essays. You may also choose to speak about your volunteer experiences during a college interview.

    Whether you are interested in studying ​​medicine, law, education, or art, there are countless volunteer opportunities for high school students. Each high school volunteer opportunity has the potential to be impactful and influence the way you see and interact with your community. So choose something meaningful to you.

    Do colleges care about volunteer hours?

    So do colleges care about volunteer hours? The answer is both yes and no. 

    College admissions officers are great at spotting students who aren’t passionate about their volunteer work. Therefore, you shouldn’t complete volunteer work for the sole purpose of bolstering your college applications. Rather, your high school volunteer hours should have personal meaning and connect to your larger interests or career goals. 

    If you’d rather spend your time pursuing other extracurricular activities, feel free to do so. Colleges would rather you pursue something you care about than doing something simply because you think it looks good. If you are genuinely interested, however, in pursuing volunteer work, choose a project or organization that is meaningful to you and connects to your interests and passions.

    It is also important to realize that sometimes volunteer hours are required to graduate high school. If this is the case, it is best to avoid writing or talking about your volunteer work as a requirement. Do your best to write and speak about your volunteer experiences in a way that conveys genuine care and interest.

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    What colleges look for in volunteer work​

    Colleges often favor students who complete volunteer work as an extracurricular activity because it demonstrates passion, commitment, and a sense of civic duty. It is also often an indicator that a student will be engaged and involved on campus.

    Additionally, students who complete volunteer work often have increased levels of maturity and compassion, as well as have strong organizational and leadership skills. These are all qualities that colleges value and seek out in college applicants.

    When colleges review volunteer work, they want to see evidence of passion and leadership. This is why it is important to devote yourself to a volunteer opportunity fully. 

    It is also important to realize that college admissions officers favor students who commit to a cause all four years of high school, rather than a student who has spread out their efforts by volunteering a few hours at several places to accumulate Common App volunteer hours.

    How many volunteer hours are enough?

    At this point, you may be wondering: How many volunteer hours are good for college?

    You should aim to complete between 50 and 200 volunteer hours. If you complete more than 200 hours, you may very well be overworking yourself. If you complete fewer than 50 volunteer hours, college admissions officers may wonder if you are truly committed to the work and cause. 

    That said, it is also important to realize that designing, implementing, and completing volunteer projects is even more impressive than having an extensive list of volunteer hours. This is because a project shows passion, initiative, action, organization, and leadership abilities. 

    If you are interested in pursuing your own volunteer project, you may want to research how to start a nonprofit in high school and how to use your summers in high school.

    List of places to volunteer

    Are you asking yourself: Where can high school students volunteer? 

    If you are interested in volunteering ideas for high school students, volunteer jobs for high school students, or other volunteer hours opportunities, consider some of the following places to volunteer:

    It’s also important to note that while high school volunteer abroad programs can be culturally enriching, they aren’t more impressive or valuable than local volunteer opportunities. You might consider high school volunteer tutoring, internships for high school students, or organizing and participating in fundraisers.

    Volunteer opportunities for high school students interested in medicine

    It’s no secret that attending medical school is a lofty goal — one that requires intelligence, ambition, and volunteer hours. Anyone considering a medical career should complete volunteer work to gain a better understanding of the field and what their prospective career entails. 

    If you are interested in pursuing a medical career — whether as a nurse, doctor, physician’s assistant, EMT, or as another medical profession — consider volunteering at one of these places:

    It is also important to realize that many college students interested in pursuing medical careers (and even some high school students) will earn their EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) or LNA (Licensed Nursing Assistant) licenses to gain practical medical experience. 

    Volunteer opportunities for high school students interested in law

    If you are interested in studying law, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the legal field as much as you are able. This is why internships and volunteer work are so valuable. Law schools are highly-selective and you will need significant experience and volunteer hours to be considered a competitive applicant.

    Prospective law students should explore volunteer opportunities at:

    Key takeaways and moving forward

    Completing community service and volunteer work is an important learning opportunity for high school and college students. Many students who complete volunteer work show increased levels of maturity, responsibility, and empathy. Volunteering can also help you feel like you have a sense of purpose and are a part of something larger than yourself. 

    From gaining practical career-related experience to performing charitable works, there are countless reasons to volunteer. And even more places to volunteer! If you feel like you could benefit from professional one-on-one guidance this college application season, don’t hesitate to reach out to learn more about our services.

    Contact a Prepory college admissions coach and start your college admissions journey.

    Our college admissions experts are here to guide you from where you are to where you should be. Through our comprehensive curriculum, individualized coaching, and online workshops, you are set for success as soon as you connect with us.

    During our initial consultation, we will: 

    • Assess your student’s applicant profile and higher education goals 
    • Provide detailed information about our services and programming
    • Share tips on how to navigate the U.S. college admissions process 

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