Do Colleges Look at Volunteer Work for Admissions?

volunteer work

The amount of volunteer work on one’s college resume can often be a cause for stress. When I was a senior in high school, it was a contest as to who had done the most. Those of us with only one or two volunteer work experiences felt like we had no chance. We blew things out of proportion—but having little volunteer experience will not disqualify you from a certain school. But that being said, volunteer experience can be a huge asset and set you apart from the rest. Here we will discuss the importance of volunteer work, as well as how to find it.

Quality not quantity

The quality of your volunteer work is more important than the number of organizations you’ve volunteered for. If you’ve only volunteered for one organization, great! Or maybe you’ve volunteered for 10, which is also great! Either way, there’s a way to craft your resume to highlight these experiences well. If you have too many organizations to fit on the application, list only the most important ones. If you have only one organization you’ve volunteered for, write a detailed description about the work you’ve done. This can be in bullet points, in order to catch admissions officers’ attention.

Doing volunteer work is not simply about ticking boxes that will help make you look like a good person on paper. Rather, it’s about doing good for those in need. If an applicant has a big smattering of volunteer work, it could come across as being less intentional. Whereas if you’re devoted to one or two organizations, that could show a greater investment. The importance of volunteer work will also depend on the college you’re applying to, and how competitive the applicant pool is. If you’re applying to an ivy, volunteer work could be a crucial part of your resume. But for other schools, this isn’t necessarily the case.

The big picture 

If you haven’t done any volunteer work, don’t panic! College admissions officers will be trying to piece together an image of an entire person when they look at your application, and you should think this way too. One weak area will not be enough to counteract your amazing grades and sports skills. It’s all about balance.

As an applicant, you want to be trying to find the thing about you that makes you stand out. For many, this can be volunteer work, as the kind of volunteer work one does can communicate a lot about that person. But it doesn’t have to be volunteer work. Maybe your leadership abilities make you stand out, or your writing skills, or maybe your backstory. Make yourself shine on that application in a way that’s most true to you, and you’ll surely be rewarded.

Aside from college applications, if you haven’t volunteered, you should! When I was in high school I had the completely wrong idea about volunteering—I thought of it as a way to tick boxes and look good on a resume. But now that I’m an adult I see how much value volunteering has in the real world, and how much our society revolves on volunteers to continue. Especially if you consider yourself fortunate, whether in health, time, or money, I encourage anyone reading this to find an organization they’re passionate about. There are really so many ways to volunteer. We often hear about volunteer drives like beach cleanups and soup kitchens—which are fabulous ways to help your planet and your community—but there is also so much more! These just skim the surface. So get out there and uplift your community.

About the Author

Cassidy A.

Cassidy A.

Cassidy A. is an experienced English tutor at Gooroo, a tutoring membership that matches students to tutors perfect for them based on their unique learning needs. Gooroo offers math, English, ESL, Spanish tutoring, and more.