Do You Need Volunteer Hours For College?

Young woman volunteering at a retirement home. She is holding an old woman's hand.

Volunteer hours are a concern for many people applying to colleges. Despite not being a compulsory requirement for many institutions, many applicants feel their volunteer hours will make or break their applications. But are they really that important?

Volunteer hours are typically not a requirement to apply to most colleges. However, having them on your application helps you stand out from other applicants, especially if they have similar or better academic achievements. You can volunteer at a long list of places, and most agree that 50-200 hours will strengthen your college application.

In this guide, you will discover what volunteer hours are and why they matter. But, more importantly, you’ll learn what benefits they provide you and how they strengthen your college applications.

Let’s get started.

What Are Volunteer Hours, And Why Do They Matter?

Volunteer hours are a way to measure how much time you spend doing community service. As the term suggests, your contribution is measured in the number of hours you spend helping at animal shelters and other organizations that rely on volunteer help.

Volunteer hours are an important matter when it comes to college admissions. 

Firstly, colleges want to recruit applicants who add value to their student communities. So, when an applicant has plenty of volunteer hours, it suggests they’re selfless and do their best to help others.

young woman spending volunteer hours in a community garden.

On top of that, college enrolments are incredibly competitive. Many applicants will have excellent grades and academic achievements, making them harder to differentiate.

An excellent way for students to stand out and be chosen by colleges is through their history of volunteer work. The people reviewing college applications will certainly consider the number of volunteer hours when making decisions.

What Are The Benefits Of Collecting Volunteer Hours?

As a student, there are plenty of benefits that come from collecting volunteer hours. That’s true regardless of age or how many years you have until you begin applying to colleges.

Here are some of those benefits:

1. Personal Development

First and foremost, volunteer work is an excellent way for you to develop and grow as an individual. Helping others in an unpaid role teaches you to be selfless and spend your resources on those who need it, even if your only resources are time and effort.

On top of that, volunteering also teaches you to appreciate the privileges you might have taken for granted before.

2. Give Back To The Community

Next, collecting volunteer hours gives you an opportunity to give back to your local community. Whether you live in a small town or a big city, the local community becomes stronger when its members volunteer their time and resources to make it better.

Here, it’s important to understand that you can serve many communities within your local area. For example, you can help the local homeless community by serving meals at a soup kitchen.

Alternatively, you could assist the local animal lover community by volunteering at a nearby shelter.

There is no shortage of options for volunteering and collecting your volunteer hours. Take your time to find a cause you care about, and offer to help them however they need.

3. Develop Transferable Skills

When you spend your time volunteering and helping others, you will develop a set of transferable skills. That means you’ll learn to do things that you can later apply to your college life and future career.

For instance, volunteering often involves organizing and fundraising. The more hours you spend volunteering, the better your skills will develop. Later, you can transfer those skills and apply them during your college years, perhaps when participating in clubs and societies on campus.

Further down the line, you might find those skills helpful in your career.

4. Make New Friends

One of the most significant benefits of collecting volunteer hours is networking or making new friends. You will meet plenty of other volunteers the more time you spend doing it, and you’ll also meet people who share your interests.

Some friendships you make during volunteer hours will undoubtedly stay with you for many years, especially when you enter the workforce. 

Later, the same people will become part of your professional network with whom you can share mutual benefits.

5. Strengthen College Applications

Last but certainly not least, collecting volunteer hours will strengthen your college applications.

As you read earlier, your grades and academic achievements aren’t the only factors colleges consider when reviewing your application. In reality, plenty of other students will have similar or better grades than you do.

Your volunteer hours will help you stand out among your peers. 

Firstly, having volunteer hours will suggest that you’ve enjoyed the benefits listed above from numbers 1 to 4. But better yet, having a good amount of volunteer hours will demonstrate to the college that you’ve committed to helping others over an extended period.

To recap, what was mentioned above, your volunteer hours show the college that you:

  • Have gone through periods of personal development and growth
  • Have consistently given back to the community
  • Have developed transferable skills
  • Have learned to network with other like-minded individuals

As you can see, volunteering benefits you personally and significantly helps when applying to a college.

Do You Need Volunteer Hours To Apply For College?

One important thing to remember is that colleges don’t typically require students to have volunteer hours. However, that doesn’t stop them from considering those hours when you mention them in your application.

If you decide to mention them in your application, be sure to include important information like:

  • The things you accomplished from volunteering
  • The skills you learned through your experience
  • Other administrative details like where you volunteered, for how long, and who they can contact if they want to find out more about your experience

How Many Volunteer Hours Should You Have For College?

Generally, volunteer hours between 50 and 200 will look good on your college application. However, 50 hours is a good minimum target because it will demonstrate that you’ve committed yourself to a cause through an extended period.

young man volunteering at an animal shelter. He has a grey and white kitten in his lap.

Unfortunately, doing too few volunteering hours might suggest that you did them only to make your application look better and not for any other genuine reason.

Remember: it’s never too early to begin volunteering. For example, you can spread your volunteer hours throughout your high school years in preparation for college. Doing so will demonstrate to college recruiters that you’ve had a long history of volunteering.

Where Can You Get Volunteer Hours?

At this point, it should be clear that collecting volunteer hours provides you with plenty of personal benefits. On top of that, doing 50-200 hours is ideal for strengthening your college applications.

So, where can you volunteer?

As you read earlier, there is no shortage of ways to volunteer and give back to your community.

Here are some common examples of places to volunteer:

  • Animal shelters: You can volunteer your time at a local animal shelter. Your tasks might include cleaning, feeding, and even walking some of the animals.
  • Community gardens: Some communities also have shared gardens that you can help with. You’ll likely spend your time growing and harvesting vegetables, among others.
  • Tutoring centers: Your academic knowledge can also benefit your juniors in school. You can volunteer to tutor them at local schools or tutoring centers.
  • Retirement homes: Some people prefer working with elders. If that sounds like you, volunteering at local retirement homes is an excellent option.

Remember: there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ places to volunteer. Your volunteer hours will demonstrate your positive qualities regardless of where you volunteered.

However, depending on the college you’re applying to and your chosen field of study, some volunteering environments could be more valuable to you.

For example, if you’re applying to law school, volunteering at a local legal aid center could benefit your college application.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that volunteer hours are not compulsory for college applications. Still, they’re an excellent way for you to stand out from countless other applicants with similar academic achievements.

Similarly, there is no set number of volunteer hours you need. However, it’s widely understood that 50-200 hours will achieve the intended outcome. Those hours will show that you committed to a cause for an extended period and developed skills.

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