26 Volunteer Opportunities for High Schoolers: In-Person + Virtual
- In-Person Volunteer Opportunities
- Virtual Volunteer Opportunities
- Self-Driven Volunteer Opportunities
- Where Can You Find More Volunteer Opportunities?
- How Important is Community Service for College Applications?
While community service isn’t required for your college applications, showing that you care about others and can take the initiative is nothing but positive during the college admissions process. Having a strong volunteer record proves that you are mature, empathetic, and able to see how your actions affect the world. Additionally, if you can find a volunteer opportunity that complements your passions and interests, you can show admissions officers the extent of your commitment to your career aspirations.
As you think about volunteering, think about the problems you want to solve and the skills you want to practice, not only now, but as you continue down your chosen career path.
Need more specifics about where to volunteer? Read on for our suggestions.
In-Person Volunteer Opportunities
1. Hospitals and Nursing Homes
Hospitals and nursing homes are ideal volunteer opportunities for aspiring doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. You probably can’t work directly with patients, but some hospitals might let you be a candy striper or another type of volunteer. You might deliver meals, do data entry, change sheets, or help out around the office.
This type of volunteering is perfect for high schoolers planning to declare a pre-med track, a natural science major, or anything related to care—including therapy, social work, or education.
Aspiring educators might enjoy volunteering at their school or others in the area. You can tutor younger students or help with activities in after-school programs. A good place to start when looking for education-related volunteer opportunities is talking to people in your community. This means reaching out to some of your elementary school teachers and asking your friends about which after-school programs and educational summer camps they attended when they were younger.
While this type of volunteer work is great for aspiring educators, it doesn’t stop there! Depending on what you teach, volunteering in education can apply to a variety of career goals. For example, lately, there has been a trend to introduce children to computer science at a young age.
3. Animal Shelters
Students who love animals may be interested in volunteering at an animal shelter. Work may involve any number of activities. You might play with the animals, walk dogs, or bottle-feed kittens. That said, don’t expect it to be all glamorous; you will likely be expected to help with cleaning, too.
Keep in mind that there are often age restrictions, so check with a prospective shelter first if you’re under 18. Check out Extracurricular Activities with Animals for High Schoolers if you’re an animal lover.
4. Food Banks and Soup Kitchens
Food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters are often looking for volunteers to help prepare and serve food. Some may have age restrictions, such as a rule that no one under 18 can work directly with residents or visitors, but you can probably do behind-the-scenes preparation, run a canned goods drive, or prepare food. Just check with the volunteer coordinator.
These are great opportunities for students who have an interest in cooking. They are also great for students interested in care-related and humanitarian-related career paths.
5. Places of Worship
Get involved with your place of worship. This opportunity might appeal to religious students especially. You might organize a group of volunteers who are members, run a food drive, or help out with events. You could also be a teacher’s aide at Sunday school, which can give you teaching experience.
Faith-related volunteer work is great for students interested in studying religion, history, literature, and most other humanities-focused majors. It shows a capacity for deep thought.
Volunteering at a library should appeal to literary types, writers, and avid readers. This way, you get to be around books frequently. Tasks might include shelving books, assisting librarians with miscellaneous tasks, doing paperwork, or working with patrons.
Assist curators, help out with workshops and tours, or work in the office. Some museums even offer high school internships, which is another option to explore if you want to learn about museums and what it’s like to work at one.
Depending on the type of museum, this activity might appeal to artists, art historians, historians, and others interested in the museum’s content. Museums come in all shapes and sizes—art museums, archaeology museums, science museums, history museums, and cultural museums. Find the one that’s right for you!
8. Parks and Beaches
Helping out at a local park or beach could appeal to outdoorsy types, people who care about the environment, or students who plan to pursue majors or careers in environmental science or engineering, biology, and other related fields. Some parks and beaches might have established programs in which you could participate, or you might initiate a beach or park cleanup.
Even if working at a park or beach doesn’t relate to your career aspirations, remember that it could tie into your essay or interview. If being outdoors is important to you, this could be the place to show it. If the environment is an issue close to your heart, this could be the place to show it.
Get work experience at a local nonprofit dedicated to a cause you admire. Examples include a sustainability project, a women’s organization, or a housing project. This type of volunteering not only allows you to help out in your community but also enables you to gain work experience. Working at a nonprofit should appeal to any student, assuming the organization represents a cause that’s important to you.
Virtual Volunteer Opportunities
10. Provide Virtual Healthcare
While healthcare, at first glance, seems like a physically grounded field, there are many branches of healthcare (mental health, sight and hearing, physical therapy) that do not always require in-person help. Additionally, there are many roles within the healthcare industry that operate virtually (administrative management, organization, data entry).
Virtual opportunities in healthcare include programs like Be My Eyes, where you can help blind and visually-impaired individuals do things like reading expiration dates, and Love For Our Elders, which connects you to elderly people who need company and encouragement.
Find more health-related virtual volunteer opportunities.
11. Translate and Transcribe
Many volunteer opportunities involve language, especially for students who speak multiple languages. These include programs like Translators Without Borders and Tarjimly, which connect translation to humanitarian causes. These are great opportunities that will also highlight your bilingualism for admissions officers.
That said, even if you only speak English, you can put your language skills to use through proofreading and transcribing with programs like Bookshare.
12. Get Involved With Virtual Tutoring
Tutoring is a great virtual volunteer opportunity. As you know, in the last few years, the world has made great strides with regard to the effectiveness of virtual teaching/learning. Put what you learned to practice by educating others virtually.
13. Flaunt Your Tech Skills
Technology opportunities can come in many different shapes and sizes. There are opportunities involving cybersecurity, like the Teenangels program. Teenangels volunteers run programs in schools that teach teachers, parents, and kids about using the internet responsibly.
On the other hand, there are opportunities for students with coding skills, like Democracy Lab, which connects students with coding abilities to organizations with good causes. Find more technology volunteer opportunities on our list of virtual community service ideas.
14. Record History
Interested in learning while you volunteer? Consider getting involved with transcription and archiving. These are simultaneously important and interesting jobs. Through programs like Citizen Archivist students can transcribe, tag, and add comments to our nation’s most important documents to make them more accessible and searchable for people using the internet.
There are many similar volunteer opportunities offered through both government and private organizations.
15. Show Your Humanitarian Side
Humanitarian efforts come in many different forms—one of which is research and data collection. Through programs like Amnesty Decoders and Humanitarian Data Exchange, students can get involved with researching the world’s current humanitarian injustices and exposing flaws in the system.
Find more humanitarian opportunities on CollegeVine’s comprehensive list of online community service opportunities.
16. Advocate for Social Issues
Volunteering for social change can be very meaningful work. Most students have a social issue that falls close to their hearts, and this can be your way to express that to admissions officers. Additionally, depending on the social issue you volunteer with, you might be able to connect your essay or interview to your volunteer work and tell admissions officers something interesting about your own identity.
Volunteering for social change includes things like emailing with individuals suffering from intellectual or developmental disabilities, fighting for environmental justice, and writing letters of gratitude to people serving in the military.
These are only some of the virtual volunteer opportunities out there. Check out our list of 40 Online Community Service Ideas for Highschoolers for more ideas.
Self-Driven Volunteer Opportunities
17. Organize a Clothing Exchange
Clothing waste has become a growing issue in recent years. People buy new clothes often, keep clothes for short amounts of time, and the story unfortunately often ends with lots of fabric in the landfill. One way to combat this is through a clothing exchange. Next time you are thinking of buying new clothes, instead bring all of your friends together and exchange items. In time, your clothing exchange could grow to become a community-wide or city-wide event where you bring thousands of people together to fight clothing waste.
18. Fundraise for an Important Cause
This can encompass a myriad of things, but the important steps are 1) pick a cause you care about, 2) identify an organization that you can donate to that relates to that cause, 3) pick a fundraising strategy, and 4) fundraise your little heart out. This could look like a bake sale to support a local LGBTQ+ center, a ticketed game night to support an organization that researches diabetes, or an online campaign to raise money for a BLM group.
19. Start a Community Garden
Community gardens are a great way to keep your community happy, healthy, and connected. Many individuals suffer from food insecurity, and even more than that, many people have access to food but don’t have access to healthy food. A community garden is a great way to remedy this on a local scale. Additionally, a community garden fosters a sense of togetherness and camaraderie in a community that is invaluable.
20. Spread Literacy
To spread literacy to your community, you can start a community library. This typically looks like a shelf in a central location, where members of your community can take a book if they leave a book. Organizing the library would include cleaning and managing the area regularly. If this doesn’t sound sustainable for your community, you can organize a book drive and then donate all of the books to a local shelter, center, or free library.
21. Send Care Packages
Post fliers, make calls, and spread the word that on a specific day, you will be bringing the community together to make care packages for those in need. These could be veterans, unhoused individuals, or hospitalized community members. The dollar store is a great place to start for this self-driven project, as you can buy lots of personal hygiene and food supplies in bulk at a decent price.
22. Organize a Letter-Writing Campaign
As you know, an important avenue toward political and social change is through our elected representatives. That said, one way that citizens express their political desires and opinions to elected representatives is through letters and emails. If there is an issue currently going through Congress that you feel passionate about, organize a letter-writing campaign. You can provide templates and supplies for individuals in your community and help them to have their voices heard.
23. Make Dreams Come True
Toys are an important part of being a child and an important part of the holidays, but many children do not have access to toys. This includes children in orphanages, hospitals, foster systems, and more. Try starting a toy drive in your community. Some people will donate old toys that their children have grown out of, others will buy new toys for your drive as they buy toys for their children. You can partner with local schools and centers and leave collection bins in safe central locations.
24. Start a Community Fridge
Food waste is a very large issue in most communities. Caterers, grocery stores, and even individual families accrue lots of food waste over time. Because of this, creating a community fridge and maintaining the fridge’s upkeep can be a great way to contribute to your community. As your fridge grows, feeding more and more people, you may be able to get support from local businesses and might need to get other students involved in organizing donations, checking expiration dates, and properly disposing of true waste.
25. Create a Bulletin
While you may know a lot about current social issues, others (particularly older and younger individuals) in your community may not. All you need is a computer and a printer to help get them educated and involved. You can pick the format and focus for your bulletin but find a way to communicate an important issue, why it is important, and what members of your community can do about it. This will also be a fun creative outlet and, if you choose to write your essay about this experience, you can show admissions officers how you are both organized and creative.
26. Host a Holiday Meal
Holidays can be a time of loneliness for many people—those without families, with unsupportive families, or with working families. Additionally, due to the emphasis on food during the holidays, they can remind those less fortunate of their food insecurity. Consider hosting a holiday meal, maybe at a community center, a park, or another central location. You could make someone’s year!
Where Can You Find More Volunteer Opportunities?
While these are some of the in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities available to highschoolers, there are many more.
A good place to start when looking for opportunities is your school, specifically student clubs. Many student clubs are philanthropy-based, or at the very least, have a philanthropy or outreach branch. Check in to see if any existing clubs appeal to you!
Also, if you have a community service project that you feel passionately about, you can start your own club. In our article 30 High School Clubs You Can Start Now, we explore some valuable community service clubs students might be interested in bringing to their school.
Community centers are another place that might have postings about volunteer opportunities. This includes local organizations, after-school centers, JCCs, and cultural centers. Visit a place where you might like to volunteer, such as a nursing home, daycare, or animal shelter to ask if they take youth volunteers. At the very least, you might see a flier for another volunteer opportunity.
Finally, internet searches and online databases are a quick and easy way to find volunteer opportunities, though these opportunities are less likely to be locally centered. For example, there is a site called DoSomething.org that helps young people find opportunities according to their city and interests.
For more places to identify community service projects, read 32 Community Service Ideas for Teen Volunteers.
How Important is Community Service for College Applications?
Many people think colleges want to see hundreds of hours of volunteering, but they just want to see students who care about their communities and contribute to them in a unique way. It’s less about quantity and more about quality.
At CollegeVine, we break extracurriculars down into four tiers depending on how exceptional they will appear to admissions officers. Tier 1 activities demonstrate exceptional achievement and leadership, while Tier 4 activities are those that are commonly seen by admissions officers.
Volunteering is generally a Tier 4 extracurricular, but it can be higher-tier if you take on greater responsibilities and leadership roles, organize your own events/initiatives, or expand to other communities and schools. For example, becoming a volunteer coordinator for a local organization would be a Tier 3 extracurricular, while founding a community fridge that becomes so successful that your operation expands to surrounding communities would be a Tier 2 extracurricular.
As you select your volunteer opportunities, think about what will stand out to admissions officers. Additionally, put your volunteer record into CollegeVine’s free chancing engine, which will tell you how your extracurriculars are affecting your admissions chances at specific colleges and universities.