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Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Apply for a Volunteer Position in High School

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When you apply to colleges, admissions committees will review your applications from many different angles. Inevitably, your grades and accomplishments will be reviewed. The classes you’ve taken and your standardized test scores will also get a good look. In addition, your extracurriculars will be carefully combed over.


When admissions committees review your extracurriculars, it’s great for them to see clear evidence of your dedication to community and your willingness to contribute to causes outside of yourself. Volunteer work is a great way to demonstrate these qualities, and applying for a volunteer position in high school is easier than you think. In this post, we outline how you can do it.



Why Volunteer?

Volunteer or service work is meaningful in a number of different ways. It isn’t something that you should do just for your college applications; it’s something you should do because you care about a cause and because you recognize the worth of giving back.


Recently, Harvard University rolled out an initiative called Making Caring Common (MCC).  The goal of the program is to help “educators, parents, and communities raise children who are caring, responsible to their communities, and committed to justice.” One of the ways it aims to do this is by creating more emphasis on a college applicant’s character during the college application process.


MCC also gives some recommendations about the specific types of service work that students should strive to participate in. Specifically, it recommends projects that are personally relevant in some way and in which you can sustain your involvement over time. For more information, check out our post Community Service, Reimagined: MCC’s Recommendations for High School Service.


To learn how to get started, check out the steps below:


Step 1: Find a Meaningful Cause

The first step in securing a volunteer position is finding a cause that’s relevant or meaningful to you. This could be something that has affected you personally, something that has affected people close to you, something that has affected your community, or something that you care about for another reason.


Whatever it is, choose something that you care strongly about. You should be passionate about where you are expending your own time and energy, and you should be able to easily explain why you’ve chosen this particular position.



Step 2: Find a Connection

Once you’ve identified a few causes that you truly care about, try to find some connections to people who are already working with these causes. For example, if you want to work with  underprivileged kids, try to find a connection with a teacher at a nearby elementary school or a friend who knows a social worker. Ask around to see if anyone you know has an existing connection, then reach out through that contact directly.


If you can’t find a personal connection, try to reach out through an existing volunteer network. Websites like VolunteerMatch or JustServ have web search engines for local volunteer opportunities in a number of different fields. Alternatively, reach out directly to an organization or facility that works with the population or cause you’d like to become involved with.

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Step 3: Know What You Can Offer

Once you’ve connected with an organization you’d like to volunteer for, you’ll need to think about what you have to offer them. This should start with careful consideration about what that particular organization needs. Some examples might include basic tasks like cleaning, data entry, or canvassing. More involved tasks might include things like sharing a skill, providing companionship, or fundraising.


Find an intercept between your skills and what the organization needs. This is where you can be most helpful.



Step 4: Ask for a Volunteer Position

It can sometimes feel awkward to put yourself out there, but the easiest way to get something is simply to ask for it. Most of the time, you’ll find that people are grateful for your offer and want to facilitate a way for you to help. Sometimes, you’ll be offered a volunteer position simply by asking for one.


If the volunteer position happens to be a coveted or competitive one, you might need to apply for it formally. If this is the case, you’ll most likely be asked to compile an application complete with essay and recommendation letters. Don’t be discouraged by this. The most compelling candidates will naturally be those who are passionate about the cause and who devote appropriate time and energy to the application process.


Be upfront about what you can provide for the organization. Ask about their specific needs and consider carefully how you can help them with those. Treat the process like a job interview, taking it seriously and always putting your best foot forward.



Step 5: Start Your Volunteer Position

Once you secure a volunteer position, it’s a wise idea to ease into it slowly. It’s always better to start small and then take on more as you become comfortable, rather than overcommitting from the start. If you enjoy being involved, take on more responsibility or devote more time to it. College admissions committees love to see you grow your involvement over and extended period.


At the same time, though, if you don’t feel fulfilled, don’t feel stuck. Remember, this is supposed to be something that you’re passionate about. If it turns out that it isn’t, don’t be scared to find another opportunity. Sticking with something just because you think it will look good on your college application isn’t a good idea at this stage. Instead, try to find another opportunity that will be more fulfilling.


For more help finding volunteer opportunities or creating your own opportunity to give back, don’t miss these CollegeVine posts:


How to Help High School Freshmen Find a Volunteer Project

Best Places for High Schoolers to Do Community Service

32 Community Service Ideas for Teen Volunteers

Finding Volunteer Service Activities: Tips for Freshmen & Sophomores

Can I Volunteer If I’m Under Age 18?

Do I Need Community Service For My College Applications?


If you put your head to it, it’s possible to come up with a service angle for nearly any activity or interest, and it’s likely that you already have the right connections to get involved. Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our free guide for 9th graders and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academicschoosing coursesstandardized testsextracurricular activitiesand much more!


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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.