Performing community service for college applications? Check out our College Planning Boot Camp. Position yourself for admissions success!
As you fill out college applications, you’ll notice a recurring question: What community service work have you done?
How you answer that question could sway the committee’s decision.
But there are many other reasons to volunteer your time and effort, notably the measurable impact you can have on others’ lives.
- It may feel like you have no time to commit to community service with your academic, social, and extracurricular responsibilities. The good news is that there’s a community service project that’s right for everyone’s schedule – and personality.
Here, we’ll unveil 75 of the best community service project ideas for high school students. But first, let’s take inventory of your goals, talents, and vision for the future.
Preparing to Volunteer
Before you choose your project, take an introspective journey. Ask yourself these vital questions:
- What are my career goals?
- What do I enjoy doing in my free time?
- What opportunities are available in my community?
Let’s look at how you can design your community service around the answers to those three key questions.
If you’re pursuing a career in medicine, you might want to volunteer at a hospital or doctor’s office.
Such a choice would give you direct experience with patients and make you a more competitive candidate for selective colleges and medical schools.
What I Enjoy
If writing is one of your hobbies, you might enjoy tutoring your peers in English. Tutoring experience can serve as a springboard for a number of careers, such as teaching, coaching, and counseling.
If you belong to a local religious or cultural institution, you might like to share some of your time and energy there where you’re already a part of the community.
How Much Time Do I Have to Volunteer?
Another factor to consider is time. Be honest with yourself before you commit to a project.
It would be much better to choose a short-term project and follow through with it than make an unrealistic commitment and need to quit.
Before you choose your project, do a few basic calculations and be honest with yourself:
- How many hours per week do I spend in school?
- How many hours per week do I participate in extracurricular activities?
- How many hours per week do I work (if you have a part-time job)?
- How many hours per week do I need to study to achieve my academic goals?
Add in how many hours you sleep and socialize each week to get your total number.
Then, subtract that number from 168, the number of hours in any given week. What is your result?
This exercise might leave you with less than 5 hours of free time, which is all you need to be an effective volunteer.
You can make a difference by just giving an hour of your time and energy each week, so let’s move forward and help you pinpoint your perfect volunteer match.
Performing community service for college applications? Check out our College Planning Boot Camp. Position yourself for admissions success!
Finding the Perfect Community Service Match
The ideal community service project is a blend of altruism and personal experience.
In other words, your project should help others first and foremost while also providing you with real skills.
These questions will help you find your perfect match in a community organization:
- What skills do I already have that I would like to polish?
- What new skills would I like to acquire or develop?
- Which causes do I believe in that complements these skills?
Therefore, if you would like to develop cross-cultural skills, you might like to volunteer your time as a tutor of English as a foreign language.
Such an experience would bring you into contact with individuals from diverse backgrounds and serve as a cross-cultural exchange.
On another front, if you are someone who excels at sports, you might opt to serve in a physically rigorous volunteer role.
Organizations like Habitat for Humanity offer the perfect opportunity for you to get your hands dirty while building homes for people in dire financial need.
Keep in mind that some community service projects may have a learning curve and require a set amount of training.
- For example, if you’d like to serve as an EMT, you’ll need to pass intense training including CPR and First Aid certification.
- Think of this training time as an unpaid internship that is equipping you with skills you might never have learned had you not volunteered your time.
The possibilities for community service are limitless, so let’s narrow the playing field now and dig into those 75 community service project ideas.
Community Service Project Ideas
The 75 ideas presented here range from short-term projects of a few hours to long-term commitments of several months.
Check off the ones that realistically align with your schedule, goals, and talents.
Each of the 75 volunteer ideas falls into one of the following categories:
- Humanitarian Causes
- Animal Welfare
- Environmental Advocacy
Let’s explore the possibilities and get you started on your path to meaningful community service!
From children to the elderly, everyone could use a helping hand sometimes.
If helping people is your passion, then consider one of these ideas.
- Serve Thanksgiving dinner to homeless people at a soup kitchen.
- Participate in a blood drive, especially after a destructive event like a hurricane
- Organize a toy drive for children with cancer.
- Share an arts and crafts project at a senior home.
- Perform a singing or dancing routine at a senior home.
- Become a Big Brother or Big Sister.
- Organize an event for the special needs students in your school.
- Join a race or walk-a-thon that benefits Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s research.
- Donate your freshly laundered, unwanted clothes to Good Will.
- Donate books you’ve read to the local library.
- Volunteer to take calls for a crisis or abuse hotline.
- Do free yard work for the senior citizens in your community.
- Create a care package to send to soldiers stationed overseas.
- Shop for canned fruits, vegetables, and soups to donate to a food drive.
- Adopt a child or family for the holidays and provide some gifts for them
- Volunteer to coach a youth sports team that you are passionate about
- Volunteer to give water to runners at a local marathon or other running race
- Assist with voter registration at a community event
- Organize donated food at a food pantry
- Assist with a concession stand at a sporting event
- Pack healthy meals for children to take home for the weekend
- Donate your old backpack to a child who needs one
- Help a neighbor with their homework
- Volunteer to place flags at a national cemetery on Veterans Day
- Build a bench in the shade at a park
- Work with an organization like Habitat for Humanity to build homes
- Act as a historical figure at a festival
- Support a local politician on their campaign
- Gather friends to volunteer to hold newborns at the hospital
- Read books or watch movies with patients getting treatments like dialysis
- Check out additional opportunities for Global Youth Service Day in April.
Do you coo at the sight of a cuddly kitten? Cry happy tears when a puppy gives you a sloppy kiss on the foot?
If so, then this category is the one for you.
- Foster a rescue dog or cat.
- Walk dogs at a local shelter.
- Clean cages and litter boxes at a shelter or at your local Humane Society.
- Write a letter to your congressman about the horrors of factory farming.
- Visit an animal sanctuary and interact with the rescues.
- Socialize the pets up for adoption at your local Animal Control.
- Volunteer to pet-sit for friends and family.
- Donate money to organizations like ASPCA.
- Use your social media account to advocate for the humane treatment of animals.
- Start a new social media page dedicated to saving animals.
- Sponsor a shelter pet that needs surgery or expensive medication.
- Investigate a zoo and write a report on your findings.
- Start a blog and post articles about animal welfare.
- Research hunting laws and make recommendations for change.
- Sign online petitions that help animals by appealing for stricter abuse penalties.
- Start a food drive to collect dog and cat food for an animal shelter
- Start a doggy play date on weekends for neighborhood dogs
- Volunteer at the zoo to learn about care for wild animals
- Create an online community group for pet owners to share information
- Have a blanket making party then donate them to an animal shelter
- Train a service animal for someone in need
- Join an organization that takes therapy animals to hospitals
- Lead a hike that discusses the native wildlife in the area
- Sign your pet up to be a therapy animal
- Start a petition to protect a threatened species in your area
- Host a class for people to learn how to be good pet sitters
- Volunteer at a local vet to care for pets after surgery
- Ask an animal non-profit if you can create an organization system for them
- Launch a YouTube channel that features basic proper pet care
- Search for missing animals after a natural disaster to reunite them with their owners
If climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are more than just catchphrases to you, then you’re an environmental advocate.
These ideas will enable you to contribute to making the planet a greener place.
- Clean up your community and get outside on Earth Day.
- Plant a tree (or several trees!) and combat air pollution.
- Grow vegetables in your backyard or in a patch of a community garden.
- Gather a “bike group” to ride to school instead of driving.
- Set a goal to walk 3 miles a day and track how much less you drive.
- Go vegan for 30 days and photo-blog about the outcome, including veg recipes.
- Participate in a Green Peace informational event and hand out flyers.
- Research alternative energy options (solar power, wind power, etc.) and write a comparative analysis of your findings.
- Join the clean-up effort after a natural disaster or storm.
- Launch a vegan bake sale and donate the proceeds to an environmental organization.
- In lieu of birthday gifts, ask family and friends to donate to your charity of choice.
- Clean up litter from a beach or park.
- Go organic! Ditch the pesticide-ridden produce and start eating organic; then, share your experiences with an environmental science or biology class at school.
- Suggest a camping excursion if your senior class is planning an overnight trip.
- Volunteer at a green conference that’s coming to your town. Help set up tables, sell tickets, or greet people.
- Clean up weeds at a cemetery to honor who remains there
- Check campfires at a camp site to make sure they were doused properly to prevent fires
- Volunteer to lead tours around Botanical Gardens in your city
- Fill a bag of trash each time you go to the beach
- Work with a produce grower to switch to a hydroponic system
- Collect money to donate water-filtration bottles for areas with bad water
- Volunteer to harvest a crop in your community
- Offer to collect neighbors’ recyclables and sort them correctly
- Preserve hiking and nature trails near you
- Commit to living a zero-waste life for one week and document it
- Help wrap bushes before freezing temperatures to protect them
Going Against the Grain: Starting Your Own Project
Do you have a self-starting, innovative personality? Then you could go beyond this list and create your own community service project.
Maybe there’s a social justice or political issue that motivates you. Here are a few ways you can strike out on your own:
- Start a new community service club at school and choose projects that matter to you.
- Approach local leaders and ask how you can participate in your community.
- Post and offer your services on a community bulletin board.
- Start your own website or YouTube channel and spread the word about your cause.
- Partner with peers who share your interests and form a group of activists.
Creating your own community service opportunities is a way to shine as a leader while honing valuable project management skills.
This is certainly the more challenging path to travel with community service, but it may also be the most rewarding.
The Benefits of Volunteering
At its best, volunteering is much more than an opportunity to pad your resume.
In fact, personal goals become secondary when you work with an organization you whole-heartedly support.
On that note, Henry Ford said, “Wealth, like happiness, is never attained when sought after directly.
It comes as a by-product of providing a useful service.”
- Ford’s words could be rearranged by replacing “wealth” with “success.” This notion means that the academic success you seek will naturally follow your earnest effort to help others.
College admissions committees are interested in applicants who demonstrate a sincere commitment to community involvement, and they can tell the difference when students are “faking it.”
So, do what you love and believe in, and success may come knocking at your door.
Furthermore, community service isn’t just useful for your future endeavors. Your volunteerism also comes with an array of tangible benefits for right now:
- Meeting new people who may become lifelong friends
- Networking with people who share similar professional interests
- Real-life experience that boosts your chances of finding employment
- Leadership and management skill-building
- Impacting a local, national, or even international cause
- Sense of personal accomplishment
What do the experts think?
We asked a few experts about the benefits of volunteering.
These experts come from a variety of industries, and they bring years of experience. We hope you like what they have to say.
According to Nate Masterson, the HR Manager of Maple Holistics:
Community service should be an automatic part of every person’s life. It’s important to help others who are less fortunate than you, as you never know the difference that helping one person can make.. But doing community service is not just for others, it can help you too.
Volunteering will open your eyes to new experiences and ideas to really make you think. It can also introduce you to new people who might fill a void in your life that you didn’t even know existed. Surrounding yourself with others who also want to help will motivate you to put more effort into the mission but can also mobilize you in other areas of your life.
When it comes to students doing community service, they should pick whatever cause is near and dear to them. Whether it be cleaning up a littered beach, visiting the elderly or packaging food for the needy, having these experiences will keep kids more grounded and make them grateful for the things they have.
From Sandi Schwartz, editor and manager of Happy Science Mom:
Community service is a win-win for both the giver and receiver. Our brain chemistry actually changes when we do something nice for another person. Studies show that thinking about, watching, or practicing kindness stimulates the vagus nerve, which is linked to the production of oxytocin in our brain.
Oxytocin is a hormone that soothes us, making us feel calmer and happier. Kindness also triggers the production of dopamine, the hormone responsible for positive emotions and that natural high feeling we get.
As a result, we experience positive health changes including: Increased life expectancy, feeling less lonely, stronger immune system, fewer aches and pains, decrease in stress and anxiety, and less depression.
From Kim David, the founder of Project Stella Resources:
There are so many great reasons why community service is important – especially for students. Volunteering, while it is a great way to do something good and helpful for the community, can benefit students.
Community service helps you develop skills that employers want to see, without you having to have lots of work experience. Community service also helps you make connections. These connections can help you get a job or position later on or provide you recommendations and references.
Conclusion: The Best Community Service Project Examples
Clearly, community service projects are a win-win situation. Giving up your Saturday afternoon is a small sacrifice for all the benefits you’ll gain – and give – through your volunteer work.
In the wise words of Gandhi: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”