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Extracurricular Activities with Animals for High Schoolers

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As an animal lover, there is no question that getting to spend time around some of your favorite furry, feathered, or scaly creatures can brighten an otherwise dull day. Many people who love animals will choose to keep pets or visit their friends’ pets. While spending time with animals might be a great way to relax and enjoy yourself, if you’re a high schooler looking for more volunteer hours or another exciting extracurricular activity, then there is another option that you should consider.


If you’re someone who is passionate about spending time with animals, volunteering with animals in high school might be an excellent extracurricular activity for you! Not only do colleges love to see volunteering on your application (you can check out this CV Guide: Do I Need Community Service for my College Applications?) but you can also use this volunteering experience to fulfill any sort of community service requirement that your high school might have.


In general, as you grow older and begin to focus more and more on your future, it is a good idea to pursue work and volunteer opportunities that are in an area of work that you are interested in and care about. Not only can these experiences give you ideas for the future, but they can also make it easier for you to reflect upon whether your interest is strong enough to become a possible career. Choosing to work in areas that interest you will most likely encourage personal growth in ways that you might have otherwise resisted! In this spirit, keep reading to learn more about various volunteer opportunities for high schoolers that involve animals.


Volunteering at animal shelters

One helpful way to get involved with activities that involve animals is to volunteer at your local animal shelter. Start by looking for an animal shelter near you. Decide ahead of time what kind of animals you are comfortable with. Do you feel that you work best with dogs and cats? What about reptiles and birds? It’s perfectly acceptable and understandable if the idea of helping out with snakes and lizards creeps you out or makes you uncomfortable, just be sure to know your limits beforehand and communicate them clearly to the animal shelter at which you plan on volunteering.


If you have any allergies, be sure to account for this as well—even if you think you can avoid spending time with cats just by volunteering with dogs, for example, you will probably still be close enough to them that your allergies may bother you.


Sometimes animal shelters will have age requirements—for more information about volunteering if you are under age 18, you can check out this CV guide: Can I Volunteer If I’m Under Age 18?. That being said, with the signature of a parent or guardian, animal shelters will usually be welcoming to younger students who want to help out. Lastly, be sure to also determine if you need any type of training to volunteer, and if you’re getting school credit, check with your school to see if the training will count towards your volunteer credit.


Working with service animals

If you would prefer to work more closely with one animal as opposed to many, working with service animals might be a rewarding experience for you. This is also a good opportunity if you were hoping to interact with people as well—you’ll have a chance to improve upon your personal and communication skills, and you’ll also get to talk to other animal-lovers!


For one example of a volunteer activity with service animals, you might consider joining a program that brings dogs into hospitals to visit sick patients. Keep in mind that with service animal activities, since you will often be working in areas that are more secure, the program that you apply to might require more clearance or training than an animal shelter. Be sure to read the guidelines carefully and confirm that you meet all of the qualifications for a given program before you submit your application!


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Job at a grooming/pet care salon

If you hope to work in pet care as an adult or have an interest in this particular area, then working with a groomer is a great idea!


Working at a grooming salon is a good way to see behind the scenes of pet shops and learn practical skills in this profession. Not only will you be able to better understand how to groom and take care of animals, but you also may pick up knowledge about business management and come to better understand what it takes to run a pet salon.

There are fewer official programs to do this type of work, so you will most likely need to contact a local business to inquire about possible open positions.


Help out at a veterinarian’s office

If you plan on working in veterinary medicine, either as a veterinarian or otherwise, this is great way to get acquainted to the nuances of the profession! While you are volunteering, you might get the opportunity to ask the vets and nurses what led them to this career path. You could also ask them about the different schooling and requirements they might have had to complete.


Helping sick animals can be very rewarding. You will certainly get to learn a lot about animal health, even as a high school student, by helping to heal these sick animals and by talking to their owners.


This will be the sort of volunteer position that you have to directly contact a local vet office about, so keep this in mind as you are considering whether or not this is something you would be interesting in pursuing. There are also a lot of summer programs at places like Cornell, Tufts, and UPenn for precollege students who are considering a future career as a veterinarian.


If you live in a rural area or you can drive and you like the idea of helping out horses, cows, pigs, and other larger animals that might need care, check out volunteering at a farm near you. This is a great way to learn about large-animal care as well as any grooming and medicine they may need. In addition, at a farm, you will probably get the opportunity to work with a broader range of animals. In order to get one of these volunteer positions, you should contact individual farms directly, or if you live in a rural area, contact friends and family to see if anyone knows of any openings.


With an animal advocacy group

Perhaps you love animals, but you are not as interested in interacting directly with them. Alternatively, maybe you are an animal lover with future government-related aspirations. If this is the case, you may want to consider working with an animal-rights advocacy group!


Working with an animal advocacy group is another way of working in support of animals, just in a completely different setting. Having this type of experience will help you think about different facets of animal care as well as the role of animals in society. Depending on where you are located, there may be specific volunteer programs for this, or you might have to contact the individual organizations about arranging a volunteer position—it really depends on the organization. To get started, you can check out the Animal Humane Society, the ASPCA, and the Animal Welfare Association.


In conclusion

Whether you are volunteering at an animal shelter, working with service animals, shadowing veterinarians or pet groomers, or even working to support animal-rights with an advocacy group, there are tons of ways to get experience with animals and determine whether or not this is an area you want to consider pursuing in the future.


For more information about extracurriculars in high school, check out these blog posts:


Extracurricular Ideas for the Aspiring Journalist

Extracurricular Activities for Student Athletes

A Guide to Extracurriculars for Homeschooled Students

Controversial Extracurriculars and Your College Applications


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Devin Barricklow
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Devin Barricklow is a Political Science and Creative Writing double major at Columbia University. She’s really excited to be able to share her expertise about the college process with students who need advice. When she isn’t writing for CollegeVine, she enjoys reading the poems of Mary Oliver, going to concerts in the city, or cooking (preferably something with lots of bok choy and ginger).