How Many Volunteer Hours For College?

By Amanda HoyleDecember 9, 2021
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Amanda Hoyle
Amanda is a proficient and widely published educational leader, with Master's degrees in both Education and Psychology.
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Are you looking for something that will help you gain a competitive edge in your college applications?

Community service is a great way to spruce things up. Research shows that 58% of 264 admission officers in the US think that community services positively affect the success of a college application.

So, how much community service do you have to put in to make sure that your application stands out? Keep reading to learn more.

While there's no official guideline, anything between 50 to 200 hours will show your zest for volunteering. But, once you get over 200 hours, you should reevaluate how much of your free time is going towards community service. Remember that it is a gesture of good faith, and it doesn't guarantee you a spot at your favorite college; your test results are a priority.

Community service displays your personality and showcases how much of a good leader and citizen you are. The best way to approach it is if you treat volunteer work as an extracurricular activity.

How Should You Allocate Your Volunteer Hours?

Let's say you're aiming for 50-200 hours; how should you spread out your time? It's easier to take fewer hours if you plan on working with one project instead of taking several different projects. It's advisable to find something that you can spend 50 hours doing. Anything less than 50 won't be convincing to the admissions office. 

What Do Admissions Officers Look For in Volunteer Work?

Most admission officers agree that the most important characteristics they're looking for in community service are commitment, passion, and leadership. 


You display commitment by the time you spend working on a project. Studies show that 70% of admission officers prefer it if students spend a prolonged period of time doing something challenging instead of something short-term glamorous like attending a program abroad. 

Also, some admission officers enjoy seeing one project throughout their high school career. It proves an unwavering commitment and dedication. However, all that matters is you've taken time to give back to society. 


You display passion through doing something that aligns with your interests and that you enjoy. For example, if you have a love for animals, you could volunteer at an animal shelter. If you care about a certain cause, you're more likely to commit to it for the long term. 


Are you able to take the lead in your community? Try taking charge of an event or local project to show off your leadership skills. Schools want to know if you're a good leader; they're interested in change makers. 

How Will Colleges Evaluate Community Service? 

Whatever it is that you choose, colleges are most concerned about the authenticity of the volunteer experience. They want to see gratitude, responsibility, and appreciation of diversity. 

  •  Again, choose something that aligns with your interests. 
  •  The best-case scenario is if you spend a minimum of a year on community service. This could include working on environmental projects or social issues. Admission offers are interested in problem-solving skills, group awareness, and an understanding of how you can develop society. 
  • Students should also strive to develop their understanding of diversity. There's an emphasis on collaboration with people from diverse backgrounds and community issues.
  • There should also be an awareness of ethics around the skills taken from community outreach experiences. 

How Do You Write About Community Service on College Applications? 

List the community service alongside the extracurricular activities. Your essay and personal statement gives you another opportunity to share your experiences in a captivating way. Remember that community service essays are popular, so you have to find a unique angle to express yourself. 

It's advisable to share an interesting experience, and avoid writing about everything. It's also helpful to write about gaining a new insightful perspective or what you appreciate most about the volunteering experience. If you bump into some shorter questions about your community service, try to do the following:

Be Reflective 

Tell them about what you learned and how it has impacted your growth as a person. 

Be Honest 

Try not to be generic with your answers. You don't want to sound cliché, so give them specific examples and think deeply about how you've developed yourself. 

Focus On One Experience 

It's easier to be unique when you talk about something specific. That way, you don't have to try too hard. 

Be Genuine 

Just a reminder that admission officers want to see passion, ethics, diversity, and commitment. If you have meaningful stories that relate to one of these, it's wise that you reflect on them. 

Important Information To Include In Your Volunteer Documents 

The organization you did community service work with. It should be clear where you volunteered. 

Activity descriptions. Talk about your leadership experience, who you worked with, what activities you participated in etc. 

How much time did you spend working with the organization? Describe the hours, weeks per year, or months. Try to give your best estimation. 

What Not To Do 

Some students set out to volunteer services for the wrong reasons, and it's easy to spot. Admission officers are on the lookout for anything that seems disingenuous. If you talk about your hours more than what you accomplished, it is suspect. 

Also, avoid using words such as "required" and "mandatory." If community service is required for your high school, try not to write about it as though you were forced. It may make admission officers think you had a negative experience since you were forced. 

When Should You Start Documenting Your Experience? 

It's best to start documenting your community service in 9th grade. You don't want to look back at your volunteer work and realize that everything is a blur. By keeping a diary of everything, you can recall all that you've learned later. If you're reading this now and you're in higher grades. 

What Type Of Community Service Should You Participate In? 

Before you pick your type of community service, keep the following in mind: 

Is there a specific group of people or type of project that you would like to participate in? 

What impact would you like to have on your community? Are you looking to contribute to a specific number of kids or raise a certain amount of funds for charity? Those are the types of considerations you should make. 

What skills are you looking to develop? Some community services help you gain certain skills. If there's something particular you want to learn or you're looking for personal interest, you may want to look into a specific area. 


  • Raise money for the Red Cross. 
  • Organize a blood drive. 
  • Create cards for soldiers abroad. 
  • Have bake sales for your favorite charity organization. 
  • Read books for the visually impaired. 
  • Help register people to vote. 
  • Deliver gifts and food to patients at local hospitals. 
  • Tutor young children. 
  • Donate your time to kids at local hospitals. 
  • Coach a youth sports team in your free time. 
  • Free music lessons. 
  • Create a summer reading program. 
  • Donate your time to local elderly homes. 

Community Service And Scholarships

We know that community service matters to admission officers, but it also matters to the people involved. It can boost your chances of getting that scholarship. High school counselors and teachers can put you in touch with community service scholarships and organizations.

Examples of community services scholarships include leadership, financial needs, excellent academics, fields of study, environmental issues, special circumstances, special affiliation, specific location or college, minority, and social activism.

How To Find The Right Community Service Initiative

Ask your counselors and teachers to help you out. You can also find groups that will help you match your interests with community service initiatives.

If you have a specific passion or skill that you want to look into, use it to find the right initiative. For example, if you live in Florida and love the ocean and marine biology, get in touch with local aquariums.

What If You Can't Get Out Of The House?

Try donating food and clothes to a local charity, school, hospital, or home. You could also do online tutoring for free by creating a YouTube channel to help students with mathematics or coding.

The Importance Of Community Services

It's not only important for the community you live in, but it's also great for your personal development. But, college admissions officers often use it as a tiebreaker. Getting into college can be competitive, so volunteer work helps you stand out.

How Can You Make The Most Out Of Your Experience?

  • Choose something that inspires you.
  • Commit to a long-term program.
  • Focus on community service that emphasizes community engagement and collaboration with a diverse group.


Community service requires that you do it for your gain and your personal development. The experience serves no use if it doesn't fulfill a part of you and develop your character. 50-200 hours won't feel like much if you do something you're truly passionate about. So, remember to put that first and enjoy yourself!

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Amanda Hoyle
Amanda is a proficient and widely published educational leader, with Master's degrees in both Education and Psychology.
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