How Many Community Service Hours for College Do You Need?

How many volunteer hours are needed for college?
April 26, 2024
5 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Need some guidance on how to garner your community service hours? Not sure exactly what colleges are looking for? This article will help you make the most out of your community hours. 

When applying to colleges, you are usually excited about the classes you can take, the clubs you can join, the first step in your career, and much more. Colleges are impressed not only by exceptional grades and high test scores but they are also curious about your free time. To be more specific, how you spend it.

As a prospective student, colleges want you to talk about your high school volunteering experience in your applications. It shows how you made a difference during your time in high school. 

Colleges believe that it is very important for students to help the community and people in need. That's why this guide talks about how to make your community hours look meaningful and impressive on your college application. From the types of volunteering to how many hours are needed, you will have a good idea of utilizing your free time to make a difference.

The Link Between Community Service and College Admissions

Why do colleges care about your community service? Volunteering tells a lot about prospective students for their campus. Some main ideas are that it shows that you:

  • They are likely to be active members on their campus
  • Likely to contribute to the college's mission and diversity 
  • Shares the college's values and ideas 

In essence, community volunteering shows you have a level of civil responsibility and empathy for others and gives insight into your passions. Volunteering helps paint a picture of you as an individual rather than a student. Volunteering is the kind of thing that top-ranking schools, like the Ivy League, look for in applications. 

Community service does more than make you look good on college applications. Volunteering can be rewarding and help you have more confidence in completing your career goals in the long run. 

When volunteering, you have the opportunity to display leadership, creativity, growth, depth, and compassion. This is why volunteering matters. It helps admissions officers decide who would be the best fit not just for the student but for their campus as a whole. 

What Types of Community Service Should You Do for College?

Colleges can tell when students are just picking any organization to volunteer in to fill in the needed hours. This does not work in your favor. The admission officers will view you as someone just volunteering to check off a box on a list of requirements, and officers do not appreciate that.

Instead, you should seek community service in an area that you are passionate about and see yourself enjoying. Volunteering should adhere to your interests, so it further helps your need to make a difference. Even if it might be a small, local organization in your community or abroad opportunities, they still count.  

If you need a general idea of the volunteer opportunities you should seek out, here is a list of the top volunteering activities most high school students aim for. These are some of the best places to get your college volunteer hours!

Volunteer Teen Crisis Counselor

Mental health is important to survive in everyday life. Teens face various difficulties, including social acceptance, familial problems, and school anxiety. Volunteering as a crisis counselor helps you provide a forum for troubled teens to express their emotions, concerns, and stress to receive relief and support, along with solutions for approaching their issues with a clearer mind. 

Organizations like TeenLink and Samaritans Hope have branches all over the country that look for teen volunteers. 

Volunteer With An Animal Rescue

If you are an animal lover, you can always volunteer at your local rescue. Animal shelters need dog walkers, cage cleaners, and those willing to organize and host adoption events. Animal shelters usually offer flexible schedules so that you can volunteer at any break time, including spring break or summer vacation.

There are also national organizations such as PETA and The Humane Society where you can apply to volunteer; just look for any branches near you. 

Host a Charity Event

If you have the means, organizing and hosting a charity event of your choice can significantly demonstrate your leadership skills. Pick an organization that handles a cause you care about, like cancer research or feeding people experiencing homelessness, and plan an event piece by piece to help collect money for it. 

Your event can be anything from a bake sale, a charity run, or a gala, just as long as you work with local news sources to spread the word. Finding sponsors can also ensure your success. Companies such as Krispy Kreme and Google offer their products and services for fundraisers. 

Help Environmental and Biological Research

Are you interested in a career as an environmentalist? Or care about nature conservation? Many organizations rely on people who research data about the environment from their backyard. 

From positions such as a storm spotter or doing projects on the Amazon Rainforest, you can help organizations seek information to better focus on environmental strategies. Places such as the North American Wildlife and Volunteer FDIP offer high school students and youth positions. 

Build With Habitat For Humanity

Habitat for Humanity is an organization that builds homes for those in need. This unique opportunity allows you to build something tangible that will help a family while they get back on their feet. Habitat for Humanity hosts projects all across North America, so be sure to check out their website to see where you can apply and join to learn building skills.

Support Your Troops

Soldiers overseas face many hardships, and preparing and shipping wellness packages can benefit them and help raise their hopes and morale. By purchasing and mailing a care package or creating your supply drive, you can show support for your soldiers by sending essential items to them. 

Suppose you feel you wish to volunteer in other ways to help them. In that case, the American Association of Retired Persons offers several volunteer opportunities for youth seeking to support the US troops.

Organize or Volunteer for Blood Drives

Hospitals and medical clinics are in constant need of blood, and a great way to help them would be to volunteer for the Red Cross to help organize a blood drive at your school. The Red Cross will provide a phlebotomist. 

You will have to work with your school administration to pick a location and help notify the community about the upcoming event for a successful turnout that will save money and impact lives. Likewise, there are other volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross that you can check out as well. 

Source: Red Cross

Start Your Own Nonprofit

If you want to utilize your leadership for something, you can consider starting your own nonprofit about something you're passionate about. If you recognize an ongoing issue in your community, you can be the one to ignite the first step in change and create a positive impact. 

In 1980, 22-year-old Canadian athlete and cancer patient Terry Fox created his fundraiser for cancer research by running across Canada. He had lost his right leg to cancer and had done the run with a prosthetic one. 

To this day, Terry Fox has a national foundation dedicated to cancer research known as the Terry Fox Foundation. Creating a small nonprofit like Fox could snowball into a nationally recognized organization that can still help others for many years to come. 

Identify a Strong Skill and Utilize It 

When it comes to volunteering, sometimes all you need is a special skill to put it to use. If you are talented with computers, you can volunteer for your school's computer club or a computer summer camp to help teach students about computers. 

If you have a talent in sports, you can help participate in marathons or the Special Olympics in the summer. If you feel your skills are appropriate for a certain volunteer position, go for it.

Help the Homeless

There is no group in greater need of help than people without housing. Aside from financial assistance, there are other ways you can help people experiencing homelessness in your area and create a difference that involves your peers, friends, and family. 

From offering care packages to volunteering at your local homeless shelter, you can help people without homes recognize their Humanity and positively impact your area. There are many volunteer organizations you can check out that deal with homelessness. 

Get Involved With Your Church

If you are a part of a religious organization, most churches have a list of volunteer opportunities during the summer for youth to check out and participate in. From working with children to helping the elderly, this type of community service opportunity works for you. You can find out about any positions at your local church, whether it's for church camp or other church events. 

Volunteer at a Food Bank, Food Pantry, or Soup Kitchen

Your community most likely has services to help the less fortunate, be it the homeless, the unemployed, or those struggling financially or economically. You can spend your summer vacation volunteering at your local food bank, a church food pantry, or a soup kitchen to help the less fortunate. You will feel a sense of accomplishment by giving to those in need. 

Clean the Environment

Interested in green activities and saving the environment? You can volunteer to participate in or host an event that helps the environment, such as a beach cleanup, a recycling drive, or a litter pick up at a local park or community area. 

If you plan on starting a career in environmentalism, this would be an amazing first step in gaining experience. EarthEasy also offers a list of charities and organizations to volunteer for more insight.

Volunteering for a cause you are passionate about shows admissions officers how willing you are to invest your free time in a project that you are passionate about. You should always be committed to working. If possible, make sure you are the student who invested their time in one type of project rather than multiple services with no direct aim. 

How Many Volunteer Hours for College Should You Get?

There is no set answer to the question of how many volunteer hours you need for college, as colleges don’t specify a number to be eligible for college admission. A rough range you must follow should be anything between 50 and 200 hours. Anything in that range shows an impressive commitment to your volunteering.

However, no amount of volunteer hours will ensure your acceptance into your dream college - your grades and test scores are the top priority when looking at your application. That's why your volunteer work should be treated as an extracurricular activity; use it recreationally to show what a good citizen and community member you are.  

When it comes to volunteering, hours-based requirements are favored over cause-commitment. College admissions are more impressed that you stayed dedicated to something and got it done. They love to see how you care for your community as well as how you give back. This matters more than the amount of service hours for college. 

Commitment is what makes the drive; if you have done work, paid or unpaid, for something you care about, like coaching a sports team or working in an animal shelter, it is much more impressive than volunteering for a famous organization that offers summer positions to fill out your community service requirement. Long-term diligence shows commitment and leadership.

How Do Colleges Verify Volunteer Hours? 

You may be wondering if you need proof of your college volunteer hours and how to provide it. 

There are several ways that colleges may choose to verify your service hours. Some colleges ask you to submit a signed letter from your site supervisor that includes the number of hours spent volunteering. 

You may also choose to submit a letter from your volunteer supervisor as one of your recommendations, which would verify your experience. Colleges may also contact volunteer organizations on their own to verify that you worked with them. 

FAQs: How Many Community Service Hours Do You Need for College?

Still have questions regarding community service hours? Here are some general questions that give you a proper overview of volunteering. 

1. Should I Complete My Hours at One Position, or Can I Do Multiple?

Either one is okay, as long as you are passionate about these causes and not doing it to sound like a busybody on your application. Colleges can pick up who is volunteering for an organization because it lines up with their interest and who wants to get it over with. Make sure you manage your time volunteering at multiple places properly to avoid burnout. 

2. Could I Perform Community Service at My Dream College?

It would depend on the college, their administration, and what your school says. Some colleges offer special programs for high school students to volunteer, or they can be a third party for a volunteer organization you can apply to. 

3. How Can I Keep Track of the Hours I Am Doing?

You can make a chart or spreadsheet to keep track of your hours. Your high school may also offer documents to fill out your volunteering information and turn it in when it is completed. 

4. Can I Perform My Hours at a Nonprofit Organization?

Of course. Nonprofit organizations are always looking for volunteers, and high school students usually take up most of their positions. Check your high school guidance office for any volunteer positions being advertised. 

5. Can I Have Too Many Hours?

Yes, you can, believe it or not. You can do anywhere from 50 to 200 hours of community service, as stated above. Anything 200+ seems overkill and can be better spent working on your academic grades instead.

6. Can I Do My Community Service Hours Abroad?

Yes, if you are passionate about global affairs and becoming culturally knowledgeable. Volunteering abroad is a unique opportunity for students to impact overseas and gain new insight into a whole new world. International Volunteer HQ has many programs for students seeking volunteering opportunities abroad.

7. What if I Want to Volunteer at 'Controversial' Organizations?

A lot of the time, high school students can have strong opinions on controversial topics and do everything they can to make a difference for that cause. Suppose you feel strongly about volunteering somewhere that could be risky, for instance, a women's clinic that performs abortions or a domestic violence resource center. 

In that case, you should first check to see if they would allow high school students to volunteer, then check with your school if you are allowed to. 

Final Thoughts

Volunteering in your community can help provide a context in your college application, as it shows more of who you are as a person rather than a student. It demonstrates why you would be a great fit for your dream college. While there is no set demand for how many hours you must do, community service hours are still a great addition to your application as long as you show passion for what you are doing. 

Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Thanks ! You're now subscribed!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get A Free Consultation

Speak to a college admissions expert about how we can help you get into your dream school
Schedule a Call

You May Also Like

Before you go, here are a few facts about us!
The Quad Factor: Working with us can increase your chances of admission by 11x!

The Best of the Best: Our team comprises of only 99th percentile tutors and admissions counselors from top-ranking universities, meaning you work with only the most experienced, talented experts.

The Free Consultation: Our experts would love to get to know you, your background, goals, and needs. From there, they match you with a best-fit consultant who will create a detailed project plan and application strategy focused on your success.