Give back to your community while improving your college application and resume with community service. Community service is about helping those around you live in healthier, happier, safer, or more meaningful ways. Discover how you can stand out during your next admissions application or job interview by giving back through one or more of these community service ideas.
Why Community Service Is Important
Volunteering and performing community service help power nonprofit organizations and empower communities. Community service is unpaid work performed for the benefit of a particular people group. Volunteering, while performed for similar reasons, is voluntary community service.
Regardless of whether your service is voluntary or required, it’s important to find ways to give back. Whether you’re looking for ways to give back to those around you or to a community in need far away from your own, there are many benefits to volunteering.
Join a Community
You don’t have to worry about volunteering alone. Approximately 25% of adults in the United States volunteer, according to VolunteerHub. As an industry, volunteerism is valued at an estimated $184 billion. Volunteering for a few hours or days is a great way to meet friends and like-minded people in your area.
You’ll also likely feel like you’re building toward something greater than yourself. Building up your community can give you a sense of accomplishment and make you proud to live in your state, city, and neighborhood.
If you’re looking for community service ideas and don’t know where to start, then consider your current skills or skills you wish to learn. Whether it’s painting local park benches, lifeguarding, or planting trees, many volunteer opportunities help you learn new skills or continue to practice skills you hope to use in your career.
Use community service as an opportunity to highlight skills that aren’t represented on your college application or resume. You may not have a lot of work experience as you apply to college but you can show off your abilities through volunteer positions.
Community service can be a highly rewarding activity. The feeling of helping others and working toward a better future is well worth the time it takes to volunteer. Simple volunteer ideas help you realize that you don’t need a college degree, specialized skills, or money to help your neighbors.
You don’t need to wait until you’re wealthy, have a stable job, or are a pillar of the community before you think about giving back. Cleaning up a park or spending a day at a senior center may not earn you an honorary degree or your name on a monument but it can make a difference in the lives of those around you.
Improve Mental Health
Joining a project and volunteering your time can also have positive effects on your mental health. Volunteering can actually combat depression, according to Western Connecticut State University. Even a few hours may help you feel better about your personal situation.
Many volunteer opportunities can also improve the mental health of those around you. Tutor a child, sit and talk to an individual experiencing homelessness or organize an activity at a senior center to help others enjoy the positive effects of social contact.
How Community Service Can Help Resumes and College Applications
Find ways to serve your community to improve your next application or interview process. Community service can be valuable for the following tasks:
- Applying to jobs
- Submitting your college admissions application
- Writing scholarship applications
- Joining student organizations
- Preparing for leadership roles
Why does your volunteer experience look good on a resume or application? Here are the key traits that you display and can talk about after volunteering your time and skills.
Personal Responsibility and Character
Any community service, particularly performed voluntarily, is an opportunity to show that you care about something greater than yourself and your immediate concerns. It’s an excellent experience to add to a resume if you’re in the nonprofit sector but many employees and college admissions representatives value this display of responsibility.
The specific community service ideas you choose also reflect your character. If you’re passionate about the environment, education, or another important cause, then community service helps you highlight this opportunity by getting involved.
Some students struggle to earn good grades. Others can effectively balance grades, sports, social life, and community service. Show you know how to effectively manage your time by becoming involved without over-committing yourself.
Volunteering shows that you gave back to your community without being required to. It’s exactly the kind of self-starter motivation that colleges want in their students and managers want in their employees.
Popular Community Service Ideas
The sheer amount of community service ideas can seem overwhelming. Explore these popular ideas as you brainstorm ways to get involved:
- Clean up a local park
- Organize a blood drive
- Run or volunteer in a charity race
- Tutor children
- Rake leaves or perform other yard work for a senior citizen
- Request permission to paint a mural in a public space
- Serve at a soup kitchen
There are countless ideas on how to provide community service. One common way is to connect with organizations in your area. Work with organizations like VolunteerMatch, AmeriCorps, or United Way to play your part in a statewide, national, or even global movement.
For more grassroots volunteer opportunities, consider finding informal ways to help. Mowing your neighbor’s yard, cleaning up a local park, or grocery shopping for a senior citizen are all community service opportunities that don’t require an official organization.
Supporting Environmental Causes and Community Service Ideas
These are some of the most far-reaching opportunities to give back. Whether you’re planting trees and recycling to improve the planet or beautifying public spaces to improve your entire city, explore ways to volunteer a little time for a big cause.
Environmental Volunteering Opportunities
You don’t need to wait for Earth Day or Arbor Day to help the planet. Check out one of these opportunities for your community service:
- Plant a tree
- Build bird feeders for your community
- Volunteer with the Youth Conservation Corps
- Clean up rivers, lakes, or other natural areas
- Create carpool opportunities in your area
Ways to Help Your Community
Community-wide events offer opportunities to help your neighbors, while other events focus on a specific group with needs in your area. Either way, these community service ideas are great places to start:
- Organize a cleanup day
- Create a free little library
- Ask to create a mural or plant flowers in a public space
- Offer to manage social media channels for local nonprofit organizations
- Repair or improve local nature trails
- Start a community garden
- Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity
- Mow your neighbors’ lawns
Volunteering at Schools and Support Groups for Kids
You don’t have to be a certified teacher to help inspire and educate children. Explore these community service ideas if you enjoy working with kids or wish to work as a teacher after college:
- Tutor local children
- Coach a sports team
- Provide free music lessons
- Talk to teenagers about the importance of registering to vote
- Make blankets, cards, or other items for children in hospitals
- Volunteer as a crossing guard
- Babysit for free
Helping Animal Shelters
Love your furry community members? Work with local animal shelters, zoos, and rehabilitation centers to see how you can protect local wildlife and help give animals in shelters new opportunities:
- Help a wildlife rehabilitation center
- Sponsor a zoo animal
- Foster an animal from a shelter
- Encourage others to adopt shelter animals
- Organize a spay and neuter program
- Create a butterfly garden
- Volunteer to train service dogs
- Learn how to train therapy animals
Working for Food Banks and Homeless Shelters
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there were approximately 580,466 people experiencing homelessness in the United States in January 2020. In the same year, there were also 38.3 million people in food-insecure households. Help reduce these statistics by volunteering your time with either a food bank or a homeless shelter.
Ways to Help Your Local Food Banks
You don’t have to physically work at a food bank to help out. Explore these community service ideas to combat food insecurity in the United States:
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food pantry
- Unpack items at a food bank
- Donate non-perishable food
- Raise awareness about a local food bank to help food-insecure families
- Donate coupons
- Encourage others to volunteer
- Raise awareness about food insecurity
Support Homeless Shelters
Homeless shelters provide a safe, warm place to stay. Help keep people off the streets and connected to vital resources by supporting a shelter near you in one of these ways:
- Give old clothes, eyeglasses, and/or blankets to a homeless shelter
- Organize an activity at a shelter
- Make first-aid kits
- Donate art supplies
- Help with administrative work
- Volunteer to join a homeless shelter repair and cleanup workday
Helping Senior Citizens
Elderly individuals in your area may be struggling with basic tasks. You can informally help local senior citizens or volunteer at senior centers in these ways:
- Volunteer to give IT help or home repair assistance to elderly community members
- Meet a pen pal at a senior center
- Wash cars
- Offer to do grocery shopping for senior citizens
- Help seniors clean their homes
- Encourage senior citizens to create memoirs
- Read aloud at a senior center