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  • Writer's picturePirie McIndoe

Volunteer Options for High School Students

Updated: Apr 22, 2022

High School Volunteer
Opportunities to Volunteer in High School

I am constantly asked about the importance of volunteering for high school students, as if it is simply a box to check off to make a college application look complete. While volunteering does look great on an application, if you want it to look important, your effort should reflect that.

Colleges want students who care about something more than themselves. It’s about character, and students who are involved citizens in high school, will usually be involved citizen’s at college, which makes the campus community stronger.

Volunteerism is the voice of the people put into action. These actions shape and mold the present into a future of which we can all be proud.” – Helen Dyer
Habitat for Humanity Volunteer

There are many volunteer opportunities. The key is finding something you are passionate about, not just something to fill space on a college resume. You want to show you are involved in something that benefits others.

For those who want to consider volunteering, here are some ideas. Keep in mind, some organizations have minimum age requirements. Some of the suggestions below are specific to my neck of the woods here in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina. However, there are likely similar opportunities at organizations in your area.

Where to Start

Think about volunteer opportunities where you have an interest. A great place to start is your own high school. There may be existing organizations that you can join, such as Key Club, which provides opportunities to volunteer both at school and within your community.

Another great place to start is your church or temple. Some students help teach Sunday School, others help with a choir, prepare meals for those in need, you name it. Ask what you can help with at your place of worship.

Look at opportunities through Activate Good, a highly regarded service organization that recruits teens as volunteers. I know many teens who have found wonderful opportunities through this organization.

The Miracle League of the Triangle helps special needs youth participate in baseball games on a field designed for their safety. It’s not a big time commitment and they normally have several seasons a year. If you enjoy working with children, you can’t go wrong here.

Volunteer with Special Olympics

The Special Olympics is also a wonderful organization. I volunteered with the Bronx Special Olympics when I was in college, and both of my daughters have done the same in different capacities in North Carolina. Being a “hugger” at the end of an event is so much fun. The spirit from these extraordinary athletes is infectious.

Look for opportunities through the Town of Cary. This could be through Cary Teen Council, being a docent for the Cary Arts Center, or through one of the other opportunities at various events during the year.

Your local YMCA may offer a plethora of options, such as helping with after school programs, tutoring, or helping with administrative tasks.

Food pantries and food banks often need help and there are many you can reach out to in our area.

Teen volunteer Opportunities

A favorite option for students who like to work with their hands is Habitat for Humanity. There are age requirements for each location, so you should check in advance. Minimum age is normally 14 and responsibilities increase at 16 and again at 18. Parental approval is required if under 18. This can be a great option for students who want to put in more hours in a single day.

There are many options. This list is a starting point:

  • Libraries

  • Soup Kitchens

  • Meals on Wheels (license needed)

  • The Red Cross

  • Animal shelters

  • Local hospitals

  • Senior centers and retirement communities

  • Local elementary or middle schools

  • Environmental cleanup

  • Or, simply search: Volunteer options for teens near me

Create your own opportunity

During the pandemic, there were limited opportunities to volunteer in face-to-face settings. With a lot of extra time on their hands, I worked with a couple of students on unique options to give back to people living in senior centers, who could not see their families.

One girl organized a group of her friends to write letters and cards to those in a local retirement community, to let them know they were not forgotten. They became surrogate grandchildren, brightening the spirits of many isolated seniors.

Music Volunteering

A young man, who is a talented saxophone player, drove his car to a local senior center and played in the parking lot for an hour each Saturday when the weather was nice. He played a mix of old standards, and a few new songs as well. Residents would come to their balconies or venture outside with their masks and a chair to listen. At his last visit in August, before he went to college, a resident made him a cake to wish him well. This is a great example of finding a way to have an impact.

What if I have other commitments

That’s fine! Students often have other commitments. Some students are serious athletes, others have to work significant hours to earn money for college, or to help with family expenses. There are many students who have family responsibilities, particularly with working parents, and help with younger siblings. All of these are legitimate, important, and valued during the college admissions process.

How many activities should I have

When applying to college, schools like to see a level of consistency in your efforts. It shows them what you care about. Remember, volunteering is not about you, it is about what you do for others. A lot of effort at two or three organizations is more impressive than a half-day at 10 places. In college applications, always focus on quality over quantity!

Is Covid still a concern

Yes, but thankfully, as of this writing, it appears to be easing up and restrictions are being lifted. Some organizations will likely require masks (hospitals, high density locations, etc.) while others may not. Be sure to follow whatever requirements are in place.

Is there anything else I should do

Yes. Keep track of your experiences and what you learned. These often become wonderful topics for future essays in your college application. Good essays include stories about your experiences. Write down some of the details, including people you met and collaborated with. The results of your efforts are also important. It is possible that a supervisor may be able to provide an optional recommendation for your college application.

Recognition for your efforts

The primary goal of volunteering is helping others! Serving your community and those in need should be rewarding, in and of itself. However, there are other forms of recognition.

Virtually all high schools require students to complete some level of volunteering to be eligible to join the National Honor Society (NHS). This is a nationally recognized distinction, which looks great on a college application.

For those who go above and beyond in their efforts, students may be eligible for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. This is administered through AmeriCorp and requires students to track their volunteer efforts through approved organizations. I have worked with many students who received this prestigious award, and it certainly shows a high level of commitment to their volunteer efforts and looks great on a college application.

Find your passion and jump in

Many of us support various charitable organizations in a variety of ways. We make donations, either monetarily or with goods, such as food drives. These are all very important; however, there is no greater gift than giving yourself to a cause you believe in. So, if you have the time, find something in your community that stokes your passion and give back.

Fun Fact

Need a hug? You might take a stroll through the Northwestern University campus. Students there have created an interesting student group - the Happiness Club. Members of the club strive to 'increase the happiness of members of the Northwestern community by providing students with free hugs, hot chocolate, lemonade, and smiley face stickers.

Happiness Club

Come on, after three quizzes, two tests, daily homework checks, and an SAT in the same week, wouldn’t you want a hug?

Still unsure of where to start? Contact me and we can come up with a plan.

About An Advisor for College

My name is Pirie McIndoe, and I am the founder of An Advisor for College. Having worked with over 350 colleges and universities during my 35 years in the higher education market, I bring a unique perspective to the college admissions process. I know what college admissions officers are looking for as they seek to develop a diverse student body. I am fully invested in each student’s success; helping them present the best version of themselves for college consideration. Contact me to learn how I can help you navigate this complex and competitive process.


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