A Guide To Community Service For Busy High School Students

High school students are extremely busy; between academics, extracurriculars, and social activities, there are few hours left for volunteering. But with a little creativity, any student can fit community service into an overloaded (or “into his or her”) schedule their schedule.

Community service is a civic duty, but there are many benefits to volunteering. Student volunteers feel good about themselves for helping others, can learn more about themselves through their volunteer assignments, and can even be led to possible career paths. Whether building houses for the homeless or assisting with local politics, students gain hands-on experience with “real world” tasks, and have the opportunity to explore their major interests. On top of all that, community service looks great on a college application. So how do busy students find the time?

Add volunteering to your schedule

In short, we make time for what is important. If a student feels that community service is important, and it should be, then he or she should make time for it. High schoolers should find an hour or two a week that they can devote to one activity, and add it to their weekly schedules. They should avoid spreading their time between multiple projects. Colleges look favorably on consistency and commitment.

Pair community service with academics

If a student is well-versed in particular subjects and enjoys helping others, he or she might consider tutoring. Many communities offer tutoring for English as a second language and GED completion. While tutoring, student volunteers have the opportunity to brush up on the subjects as well; this can help improve grades and can increase scores on standardized tests. It’s a win-win.

Combine school activities with community service projects

Many school clubs and organizations participate in community service projects. For instance, JROTC units require community service of all cadets. If a student is interested in a specific club at his or her high school, they might inquire about a community service project for the club’s members.

Service learning projects

Some high schools offer academic credit for volunteer work through service learning — a program that offers hands-on learning through service to the community. To find out if his or her school offers service learning, a student should talk to the school counselor.

Take advantage of school breaks

Instead of lying around on the couch playing video games or hanging out at the mall during winter, spring, and summer breaks, students can use that free time to perform community service. Short term activities, like working abroad, are an excellent use of school breaks. Projects Abroad even offers special programs for high schoolers. Each volunteer project follows a schedule of informational sessions, hands-on and observational service work, evening activities, and weekend excursions. Lasting two to four weeks, these programs are designed to make the most of a student’s short time volunteering.

Community service should be more than a line item on a high schooler’s college applications. It’s should be a fulfilling opportunity for a student to learn new skills and to give something back to his or her community. As challenging as it may seem for students to juggle one more thing, it’s important for them to make time. Not only will they be helping others, they will be permanently enriching their own lives.

Need help finding a volunteer opportunity that lines up with your student’s interests? TeenLife connects young volunteers with thousands of nonprofit organizations in all 50 states.

Marie is the CEO & Founder of TeenLife.com, the first and largest online directory of enrichment and academic programs specifically for students in grades 7-12. She is passionate about experiential learning and helping teens to discover their strengths before they head to college. She started "TeenLife Boston" when she could not easily find summer programs for her two sons who were 12 and 14 at the time. Today, TeenLife.com lists nearly 15,000 opportunities consisting of summer programs, schools, gap year programs, colleges, college admission resources, and community service. TeenLife also publishes a series of digital guides.