Youth and teens who volunteer in their communities experience personal growth in “soft” skills such as communication, team work, and leadership, along with technical skills ranging from animal care to agriculture, building to babysitting, and cooking to coding. Youth and teens who volunteer connect with community members from other walks of life, create lifelong connections, forge friendships, and meet mentors. Most importantly, volunteer work exposes kids to issues and needs in the community and helps them feel part of the solution. Colleges value and specifically consider a teen’s contributions outside of academic life.

What Organizations Say:

The United Way, the largest non-profit in the US, published an article, “Five Benefits of Teen Volunteering”, which identifies the following benefits of community service:

  • Self esteem
  • Empathy
  • Become a stronger college applicant
  • Build long-term generosity
  • Earn better grades

United Way’s 2013 article “Five Great Reasons for High School Students to Volunteer” similarly boasts that teens who volunteer benefit through:

  • Learning new skills
  • Showing commitment and work ethic
  • Showcasing outstanding character to give time when already busy with schoolwork
  • Demonstrating responsibility by showing up and having someone counting on you

United Way says, “in addition to boosting social skills and awareness of local organizations and social issues, high school students who volunteer often may have an advantage over their peers when headed off the college.”

A study cited by in Child Trends Magazine boasts the positive outcomes during the teen years and into adulthood among adolescents who volunteer. That article cites:

  • Less likely to get in trouble
  • Positive sense of wellbeing
  • More likely to have strong work ethic as adults
  • More likely to continue to volunteer and to vote
  • Volunteerism is associated with development of respect for others, leadership skills, sense of citizenship

A 2018 Fortune Magazine article discussed volunteerism in the workplace having benefits such as boosting employee engagement, retention, collaboration, and allowing workers to put skills to use. It says that young adults “want to utilize their skills, team with their colleagues,and work globally to make a difference.”

What Colleges Say:

Colleges are eager to understand an applicant’s community service and extracurricular activities. They view an applicant’s involvement “outside the classroom” as a measure of potential engagement and contribution to their campus and its surrounding community. Consistent, ongoing community service throughout high school demonstrates a commitment to the broader community and involvement in your future college campus.  

  • Harvard admissions advice says they, “consider many other criteria, such as community involvement.”   
  • Princeton University explains, “We look for students who make a difference in their schools and communities.” 
  • Columbia University reviews applications “ in order to understand what each candidate might contribute to our undergraduate community.”
  • Duke University looks for “well-rounded and well-lopsided students that will make impact on our campus and in our community.” 
  • Vanderbilt University seeks students who, “make a difference in your community” because “at Vanderbilt, 59 percent of students participate in volunteer service to engage, to question and to create change locally and globally.” 
  • University of Virginia invites applicants “who will thrive at UVA, strengthen our community, and change the world for the better.”