Best Volunteer Opportunities for High School Students

high school student volunteering for college

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If you’re looking for ways to give something back to your community, volunteering is a great place to start. Not only is volunteering itself a worthwhile use of your time, picking the right volunteering opportunity can greatly enhance your college applications.

We’ve extolled the virtues of volunteering before, but now we’re going to break down the various ways you can get involved, and how to pick the one which will best work for you. First, however, we’ll explain why volunteering is so beneficial for college applications.

Why Colleges Like Volunteer Work

Colleges are more than ivy-covered buildings and over-caffeinated students; they are communities. Admissions officers are actively seeking to build these communities when making admissions decisions. To do this, they look for students who will positively contribute to the campus community as a whole.

The best sign that someone will do something is if they’ve already shown evidence of themselves doing that thing. Thus, students who have shown an interest in contributing to their communities in high school are seen as more likely to continue doing so when they get to college.

This doesn’t mean volunteering should be a cynical exercise. While it does make your application more robust, helping others is an end unto itself. 

Finally, volunteering can also reinforce the rest of what your activities say about you. Colleges like to see specialization in activities, and where you volunteer can contribute to this specialization. Are you a dedicated athlete? Consider volunteering to teach your sport to kids. Do you enjoy programming? Consider offering your coding skills to a nonprofit. There are many ways to get involved that will also reinforce your other extracurriculars.

Group of high school students volunteering by planting in a park

How You Can Get Involved

Volunteering can be categorized by type. You can find the best volunteering option for you by determining what type of volunteering you want to participate in and then finding volunteering opportunities of that type that support the story of your application.

The types of volunteering are:

  • Mentoring, teaching, and childcare
  • Social work
  • Conservation
  • Community service

Now we’ll explain each type in more depth, and give you some places to start looking for volunteering opportunities.

Mentoring, Teaching, and Childcare

This is a broad category, which involves interacting with children generally, and frequently teaching them new things. High school students can work as camp counselors, teach courses, or generally provide mentorship to younger students. 

There are as many ways to get involved with this as there are subjects and activities. Children have a lack of experience, thus any extracurricular activities you do you can pass along to a younger generation, from biology to baseball.

If you want to pursue a more general mentoring experience, we recommend Big Brothers, Big Sisters, an organization dedicated to pairing older mentors with younger students. For more specialized activities, look for summer camps, youth leagues, and nonprofits. Organizations exist everywhere to get young children involved in activities, and most of them are always eager for help.

Social Work

Rather than focusing on children, social work focuses on helping various underserved populations. This includes activities like voter registration, helping out in homeless shelters and soup kitchens, and working with organizations like RAINN

Students who are interested in social justice, politics, equality, or any number of social issues can find myriad opportunities to both help people and explore their interests through social work. 

As a caution, students should make sure they have the needed maturity to do this kind of work. While it is often rewarding, and even fun, it can also raise heavier topics than some other forms of volunteering, simply due to the nature of the work. This is not to warn you against participation, but to encourage you to go in aware of what you’re signing up for.


The natural world takes constant care, and many organizations rely on armies of volunteers to provide this. This work can be anything from picking up litter, to tracking wildlife, to helping maintain trails in parks. Any students interested in the natural world, or protecting it, will find a plethora of opportunities.

Many opportunities exist, from the Fish and Wildlife Service, to your local parks department, or NGOs like the Audubon Society. It can take some effort to find the right opportunity, but there’s no shortage of options.

You should be aware that many conservation opportunities will include strenuous physical activity. While this can be quite fun, it often isn’t easy. We do not want to discourage you, merely encourage you to know what you’re signing up for.

Community Service

This is a catchall term for volunteer opportunities that do not neatly fit into other categories. Helping out at a nursing home, volunteering in a hospital, participating in neighborhood clean-up programs, or simply offering to help an elderly neighbor all count as community service.

This category is all about thinking locally and helping the people who live near you in ways both big and small. While this often feels less glamorous, that does not make it any less impactful. You can find these opportunities throughout your town, but local parks, libraries, and other organizations are a good place to start looking.

Final Thoughts

Getting involved through volunteering is a great idea for high school students. Not only do you get to give back to your community, but you also learn new skills, meet interesting new people, and get new activities to add to your resume. 
We hope this guide will help you in selecting volunteering activities that best suit your needs and interests. Ivy Scholars has a lot of experience helping students explore their interests through our Candidacy Building program. If you want to learn more about this program, or want our help in finding the perfect opportunities for you, schedule a free consultation today. We’re always eager to hear from you.

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