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10 Community Service Opportunities for High Schoolers that Admissions Officers Love

As a high school student, you're likely aware of the importance of standing out in your college applications. One effective way to do this is through community service. But not just any service – admissions officers are particularly impressed by certain types of community engagement. In this blog, we will explore community service opportunities that are highly regarded by college admissions officers and explain precisely how they enhance your application. It's not just about ticking a box for volunteer hours; it's about demonstrating your commitment, leadership, and the positive impact you've made in your community. These experiences speak volumes about your character and values, traits that colleges seek in their prospective students.


Research and admissions trends suggest that community service can significantly bolster your college application. A recent survey of 264 admissions office leaders at private and public U.S. colleges found that: 

  1. 58% of respondents agreed that “a student’s community service experience has a positive impact on his or her acceptance to our higher education institution.” 

  2. 53%  of respondents said community service can be a deciding factor when the choices are equally qualified students. 

  3. 61% of respondents at private schools said community service can be the deciding factor.


But it's not just about quantity; the quality and relevance of your service play a crucial role. Programs that align with your academic interests or career goals, for instance, indicate a deeper level of engagement and commitment. For example, if you're interested in medicine, volunteering at a local hospital or organizing a public health campaign can be more impactful than generic volunteer work. These specific, targeted community service experiences tell a story about who you are and the values you will bring to the college community.


The opportunities we will discuss in this blog are chosen for their ability to provide meaningful engagement and tangible impact. These programs offer more than just volunteer hours; they provide experiences that develop skills such as leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving. Participating in these programs often involves working on real-world problems, collaborating with diverse groups, and sometimes even initiating your own service projects. They demonstrate your ability to take initiative, work collaboratively, and contribute positively to society. Moreover, these experiences often lead to compelling personal statements, where you can share stories of growth, challenge, and impact.


Below, we have compiled a list of 10 community service opportunities that will strengthen your applicant profile and provide an avenue for you to dive deeper into the societal issues that you care about!


Location: Washington DC

Program dates: 8 weeks (June - August)

Application Deadline: January

Eligibility: Current high school juniors and seniors 


The Bank of America Student Leaders Program offers you an incredible opportunity to make a tangible difference in your community. Each year, this program accepts hundreds of community-minded students like you, providing an enriching platform to gain real-world experience in serving communities. Imagine yourself being part of a paid eight-week internship with renowned nonprofits such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Habitat for Humanity. The program extends your learning beyond local community service. You will have the unique opportunity to participate in the national Student Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. This experience is a deep dive into the collaborative efforts of nonprofits, governments, and businesses in addressing local needs. You'll witness firsthand the intricate workings of these different sectors and understand how they come together to create positive change. This insight is not only eye-opening but also instrumental in shaping your perspective on community service and leadership. Many students who have been part of this program go on to use their newly acquired skills to create even more change and improve more lives. 


Location: Multiple locations

Program dates: Anytime

Application Deadline: Rolling

Eligibility: All high school students


As a high school student eager to contribute to community service, volunteering with the American Red Cross presents a profound opportunity to make a real difference in people's lives. The American Red Cross is renowned for its nationwide mobilization of workers and volunteers in a multitude of healthcare-related activities, ranging from blood donation drives and disease management to disaster response efforts. By choosing to volunteer with this esteemed organization, you are not just signing up to help; you are stepping into a role that can genuinely save lives. Whether you participate in organizing blood donation camps, assist in managing chronic diseases, or engage in providing aid during natural disasters, each activity offers a unique and impactful experience. Your involvement with the American Red Cross provides more than just the satisfaction of helping others. It offers you a first-hand look into the various healthcare-related challenges facing the country. This experience is invaluable, as it not only enhances your understanding of public health issues but also develops crucial skills such as leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving. These skills, coupled with the real-world experience gained in the field of healthcare and disaster management, are not only immensely fulfilling but also enrich your personal and academic profile


Location: Virtual

Program dates: Anytime

Application Deadline: Rolling

Eligibility: All high school students


Meaningful Teens is an exceptional virtual volunteer program tailored for high school students like you who are eager to engage in community service and make a substantial difference in the lives of others. This program offers a variety of projects, each providing unique opportunities to support and educate those in need, such as refugees, recent immigrants, and low-income youth. One such initiative is Project Omega, where you can teach a new 5th-grade math curriculum. If language tutoring is more your interest, Project Speak Together is an excellent choice. Here, you'll work one-on-one with 7-13 year old Ukrainian students, helping them practice conversational English through 45-minute weekly sessions. Your role is to create a fun and engaging learning experience, building their conversational skills and forging meaningful connections. For those who enjoy world culture and international connections, Project Kuunganisha is an ideal fit. This project aims to foster cross-cultural connections by partnering American students with teens in Kenya. It's a fantastic opportunity to share languages, cultures, and friendship, enriching your understanding of global perspectives while helping others. These projects not only enable you to contribute positively to the lives of others but also offer invaluable experiences in teaching, cultural exchange, and personal growth. 


Location: Virtual

Program dates: Anytime

Application Deadline: Rolling

Eligibility: All high school students


As a high school student looking to make a meaningful contribution through community service, the Special Olympics offers a rich and fulfilling opportunity. This global movement is dedicated to promoting the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities, not just in sports but also in health, education, and community building. By volunteering with the Special Olympics, you have the chance to play a pivotal role in creating a more inclusive world. Depending on your strengths and interests, there are a variety of roles you can take on. You could be a coach, helping athletes develop their skills and confidence in a particular sport. If you have a knack for organization and leadership, you might find your calling as an event organizer or a manager, ensuring that the events run smoothly and participants have a memorable experience. For those with a keen eye for detail and a love for sports, serving as an official or a trainer might be the perfect fit. In these roles, you'll ensure fair play and help athletes perform at their best. Fundraising and community building are also critical aspects of the Special Olympics, and your efforts here can help sustain and grow the movement, ensuring that more individuals with intellectual disabilities have the opportunity to participate. 


Location: Multiple locations

Program dates: Anytime

Application Deadline: Rolling

Eligibility: All high school students 


As a high school student with a desire to engage in community service, volunteering with Meals on Wheels presents a heartwarming and impactful opportunity to support a vital segment of our society – the elderly. Meals on Wheels is an organization deeply committed to senior care, providing essential services to more than 2.4 million seniors aged from 60 to over 100 years old each year across the United States. Your involvement can take various forms depending on your interests and availability. You might find yourself assisting in the kitchens, where meals are prepared with care and attention. Alternatively, you could be involved in delivering meals to seniors, a role that goes beyond mere delivery – it's about bringing warmth, companionship, and a sense of community to the recipients. Some volunteers also choose to spend time eating with meal recipients, providing valuable social interaction and a listening ear, which can be just as nourishing as the meals themselves. 


Location: Multiple locations

Program dates: Anytime

Application Deadline: Rolling

Eligibility: All high school students 


Volunteering at a Boys & Girls Club offers you an incredibly rewarding way to make a meaningful difference in the lives of youth while giving back to your community. As a volunteer, you'll have a wide array of opportunities to engage with and mentor these young individuals. Whether it's assisting with homework, coaching a sport, or leading an art project, each activity you participate in allows you to build healthy and supportive relationships with the children. More than just a volunteer, you become a role model and a mentor, someone who can inspire and encourage. But the benefits of volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club extend both ways. The experience of working with children and contributing to their growth and happiness is incredibly gratifying. It’s an opportunity for you to develop important life skills like leadership, empathy, and communication, which are invaluable as you move forward in your own life and career.


Location: Multiple locations

Program dates: Anytime

Application Deadline: Rolling

Eligibility: All high school students 


As a high school student looking to engage in meaningful community service, volunteering with ExpandED Schools offers a unique and impactful way to contribute to the educational and personal growth of students, families, and educators in your local community. ExpandED Schools recognizes the vital role that volunteers play in the local learning ecosystem and offers a variety of opportunities that allow you to directly interact and support the innovative work being done in afterschool programs. These opportunities are designed to be both virtual and skills-based, accommodating in-person interactions when public health conditions permit. Some of the example volunteer opportunities include assembling STEM materials kits, participating in Penpal Exchange and Amazon Wishlist Fulfillment, contributing to virtual career panels, and assisting in resume-building, mock interview, and “Online Profile Coaching” events. Additionally, there are opportunities to craft project consultancies for summer programs and create “Workplace Challenges” for Exploring Futures. These activities not only benefit the students but also provide you with a platform to develop and showcase your own skills in leadership, communication, and mentorship. 


Location: Brooklyn Botanical Garden, NY

Program dates: Yearlong

Application Deadline: December 8, 2024

Eligibility: All high school students 


The Garden Apprentice Program (GAP) at Brooklyn Botanic Garden offers a remarkable opportunity for you as a high school student passionate about the environment, urban agriculture, and community service. This program is not just an apprenticeship; it's a comprehensive journey that lets you immerse yourself in one of the world's most exciting public gardens. GAP is tailored for teens who love to get their hands dirty and work collaboratively with peers, providing a unique blend of practical horticulture, education, and environmental stewardship. As an apprentice in this four-tier program, you're expected to commit to GAP from March to November, which encompasses spring training, engaging summer programming, and a consistent weekly commitment during the spring and fall seasons. During this nine-month journey, you will gain hands-on experience in various aspects of botany and environmentalism. You'll get the chance to grow and harvest fruits, vegetables, and herbs in the Children’s Garden, a truly enriching experience that connects you directly with the cycles of nature. In addition to gardening, you'll also facilitate lessons and activities to teach younger children about plants and nature, fostering both their and your understanding of the natural world. You will earn a monetary reimbursement at the end of your apprenticeship


Location: New York

Program dates: Yearlong

Application Deadline: Rolling

Eligibility: All high school students 


As a high school student keen on community service and advocacy, volunteering with the ACS Youth Leadership Council (YLC) offers an empowering platform to make a significant difference in the lives of youth involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice system in NYC. The YLC is not just another volunteer opportunity; it's a chance for you to be part of a group that actively participates in planning, policy development, and decision-making processes that directly impact your peers and community. By joining the YLC, you're recognized as an expert in addressing the needs of young people and measuring the impact of child-serving systems. The YLC tackles a wide range of issues including permanency, housing, finances, employment, education, and social justice. As a member, you meet once a month, receiving ongoing support and coaching from ACS Youth Engagement Staff and regular check-ins from ACS leadership. Through team-building exercises, workshops, and on-the-job training, you gain access to tools that aid in your personal and professional development. The YLC is actively involved in policy reform, creating a dedicated webpage, and ensuring youth stay connected, especially during uncertain times. 


Location: Various

Program dates: Various

Application Deadline: Rolling

Eligibility: All high school students 


As a high school student with a passion for animals and a budding interest in veterinary medicine, volunteering with Vet Set Go offers you a unique pathway to explore this field while serving your community. This program provides the perfect opportunity for you to immerse yourself in a veterinary environment, where you can gain firsthand experience and insight into the day-to-day workings of a vet hospital or animal shelter. Imagine yourself assisting in a vet hospital, where you can observe and learn about various medical procedures, animal care practices, and the overall operation of a veterinary facility. Your role might involve helping with basic tasks, shadowing professionals, or even engaging with pet owners, providing you with invaluable exposure to the veterinary profession. Alternatively, volunteering at an animal shelter through Vet Set Go allows you to directly contribute to the welfare of animals. Here, you can be involved in a range of activities from feeding and grooming to exercising and socializing the animals. This experience not only helps in the immediate care of these animals but also provides them with a better chance of being adopted into loving homes. Moreover, your time at the shelter could include assisting with adoption events or educating the public on responsible pet ownership. Volunteering with Vet Set Go is more than just a community service; it’s an opportunity to develop skills in animal care, understand the responsibilities of veterinary professionals, and make a tangible difference in the lives of animals. 



One bonus opportunity - Lumiere Research Scholar Program

If you would like to further expand your academic portfolio, you should also consider applying to the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.


Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students.


Jessica attends Harvard University where she studies Neuroscience and Computer Science as a Coca-Cola, Elks, and Albert Shankar Scholar. She is passionate about educational equity and hopes to one day combine this with her academic interests via social entrepreneurship. Outside of academics, she enjoys taking walks, listening to music, and running her jewelry business! 


Image Source: American Red Cross logo


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