Is Volunteering an Extracurricular Activity?
College admissions officers look for leaders. A way for high school students to have leadership skills is by engaging in volunteer or community work.
It’s because of this why you may think that a great way to increase your chances of getting accepted into the school of your liking is by picking volunteering as your extracurricular activity.
There are hundreds of extracurricular activities high school students may partake in, and volunteering is one of them. However, choosing it for college admissions purposes is not a good idea. College-bound high schoolers should do volunteer work only if it’s their passion or for personal growth.
It’s not uncommon for high schoolers to volunteer for the sake of boosting their admissions chances. Unfortunately, they ruin it for those who are into volunteering because they want to make the planet a happier place for all.
Read on if you are thinking about volunteering at the nearest soup kitchen, animal shelter or recycling plant near you.
Below, you will come across some of the things you need to know about this deed as an extracurricular activity. By the end of this article, you will realize if you should push through with your plan to volunteer.
What Activities Count as Volunteer Work?
Any unpaid activity carried out to give time to help individuals or a non-profit organization can be considered volunteer work. Among high schoolers, volunteering is done during their free time. Some examples are after school hours, during school breaks, on weekends, and while on a semester break.
What’s really nice about volunteering is that there are many options available for high school students looking for an extracurricular activity that is impactful to others as well as themselves.
Some examples of volunteer work that makes for a great extracurricular activity are:
- Collecting used clothes for homeless teens.
- Building homes for homeless people.
- Gathering old books and donating them to a library.
- Holding fun activities for kids in hospitals.
- Organizing a sports fest for special children and teenagers.
- Coaching a youth sports team.
- Reading to senior citizens at a nursing home.
- Delivering grocery items to the elderly.
- Feeding cats and dogs at an animal shelter.
- Holding a homeless animal adoption drive.
- Planting trees.
- Building and distributing flower boxes.
- Painting park benches and community fences.
- Sponsoring a recycling drive.
- Starting a cleanup drive.
- Volunteering at a firehouse or police station.
- Agreeing to become a crossing guard for an elementary school.
Volunteering abroad is a wonderful option, too. It’s a great way to take your drive and passion for helping others to the next level.
Traveling to do volunteer work in another country also allows you to prove to college admissions officers that community service is something you do because it’s your calling, not to boost your admissions chances.
Some of the best destinations for high school students who wish to do volunteer work abroad are:
- Costa Rica
But just because you really want to lend a hand outside the US doesn’t mean that you will be able to do so.
There are certain requirements to meet. For instance, you have to be at least 17 years old — you can volunteer abroad with a guardian or supervisor if you are 16 years of age. A criminal background check report is also a must.
Worry not if you fail to meet the requirements for providing community service overseas. That’s because you can always volunteer in your area or neighboring cities or states.
These days, you can also volunteer online. It’s a great way to offer assistance to those who need them without being physically there. Just make sure that you are doing it because you want to help, not just because it’s an easy way to volunteer since everything is carried out before a desktop or laptop.
Here are some online volunteering ideas for high school students that count as extracurricular activities:
- Offering virtual support for women with breast cancer, lupus, etc.
- Translating texts for international organizations into English.
- Proofreading books translated into digital versions.
- Tutoring kids living in shelters or foster homes virtually.
- Providing assistance to a non-profit organization operating online.
- Volunteering for an online hotline (usually with training beforehand).
Related Article: What is Considered an Extracurricular Activity? Easy Guide
Does Volunteering Increase Admissions Chances?
Because doing volunteer or community work demonstrates leadership and passion, it’s an extracurricular activity that can impress admissions officers. However, it does not increase one’s admissions chances if it’s done to make the application look better instead of bettering lives and the community.
Earlier, we mentioned the fact that colleges and universities are on the hunt for leaders.
It’s exactly because of this why many college-bound high school students do volunteer work and count them as one of their extracurricular activities. Unfortunately, volunteering is not a ticket to receiving an acceptance letter.
Are you planning to apply to an institution with a holistic admissions policy?
Then it’s a good idea to partake in a number of extracurricular activities that allow you to follow your passion or explore your potentials. While you’re at it, making a difference in the lives of others is always nice.
Besides your GPA and standardized test score, a college or university with a holistic admissions policy will consider other parts of your application during the admissions decision process.
They include the recommendation letter from your high school counselor or teacher (or both), admissions essay, and your list of extracurricular activities.
While volunteering is a noble extracurricular activity, it can become meaningless if high school students do it for the sake of making themselves look better in the eyes of college admissions officers.
Here’s the deal: Colleges and universities want to get their hands on unique students.
Related Article: Can You Get Into College Without Extracurriculars?
There is nothing unique about doing volunteer or community work if just about every senior student at your high school puts it on the application as an extracurricular activity.
College admissions officers know this, which is why they don’t care about volunteering — it’s not an application requirement, anyway.
However, it doesn’t mean that you should turn your back on volunteering.
If it’s really your passion to help others and desire to attain personal growth in the process, then the fact that it will not make your application more desirable should not keep you from doing what makes you feel alive, happy, and productive.
Fret not that the admissions officers will think that you volunteered in order to increase your chances of getting their nod. That’s because there are certain things that you can do to demonstrate your sincerity, such as:
- Using your admissions essay as a vehicle to elaborate on your chosen extracurricular activity.
- Establishing or spearheading a community work instead of simply joining an already existing one.
- Traveling to a country that could benefit from high school volunteers.
- Devoting quality time to your chosen extracurricular activity instead of having lots of different ones.
- Choosing a degree that has something to do with your volunteer or community work.
Related Article: Is Reading an Extracurricular Activity? Why and Why Not?
Just Before You Volunteer and Apply to College
There is nothing wrong with doing volunteer or community work. This is especially true if it’s something that you are passionate about because you want to help improve lives or attain personal growth or both.
However, it’s a different story if you are doing it for the sake of getting accepted into a college or university.
Above, we established a couple of facts.
First, volunteering is a great extracurricular activity.
Second, volunteering is not an admissions guarantee. You can partake in any other extracurricular activity and still get accepted into a college or university if it’s something that you are doing because you love it (and if you are deserving of an acceptance letter).
What is a good amount of extracurricular activities?
The ideal amount of extracurricular activities to participate in and include in the application is five to six. However, it doesn’t mean that it’s bad to have fewer. One can have much fewer extracurricular activities and still have an impressive application if there’s dedication and passion involved.
Many colleges look for the impact you made in the community. If you have one activity and you devote all your time, passion, and energy, it may look better than 12 activities that other students partake without a strong commitment to any of them.
Is the junior year too late to get involved in extracurricular activities?
It’s not too late to get involved in extracurricular activities during the junior year of high school. As a matter of fact, it’s the best time to have one or more if the student hasn’t participated in extracurriculars yet. However, one must have excellent time-management skills.
Read Also: How Many Volunteer Hours Look Good for College?
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.