Do I Have to Volunteer to Graduate High School?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Some schools require students to volunteer; other students may volunteer to increase their chances of getting into college.
Some schools require students to volunteer; other students may volunteer to increase their chances of getting into college.

Requirements to graduate from a US high school vary in each state. Many states recommend minimum standards but also allow school districts to add additional graduation requirements to the standard minimums. One of these additions can be that students must volunteer to graduate high school. This means students may have to spend some time acquiring “service” hours with reputable nonprofit agencies in order to earn their diplomas.

Graduation requirements vary from state to state.
Graduation requirements vary from state to state.

Every student should know whether they need to volunteer to graduate high school, and if so, exactly how much volunteering they will need to do. Schools are generally required to fully disclose all graduation standards to students. This way, students aren’t accidentally surprised by having to fulfill a huge number of service hours in the last few weeks of their senior year.

Volunteer requirements, if any, are generally made clear to all students attending a particular high school.
Volunteer requirements, if any, are generally made clear to all students attending a particular high school.

When schools do require students to volunteer, they often make available various lists of volunteer opportunities. The best programs make it an easy thing for students, and offer them little hardship in fulfilling these tasks. For instance, schools often have many places on the school campus where students can fulfill service hours. Some schools even allow students to volunteer for individuals or private for-profit businesses rather than for non-profit organizations.

Volunteer experience often helps students stand out when applying to colleges as well as jobs.
Volunteer experience often helps students stand out when applying to colleges as well as jobs.

Even if a school does not require you to volunteer to graduate, there’s a strong argument to be made for doing it anyway. Some schools offer a certain amount of credits/units toward graduation if you volunteer. Another benefit to becoming a volunteer, even when it isn’t required, is that it looks fantastic on college applications. Colleges seek students that are not only good at school, but also are invested in their communities. When you’ve helped run a camp, worked answering phones, or visited seniors, colleges see that there is more to you than simply good grades.

Volunteers may work with people who are disenfranchised.
Volunteers may work with people who are disenfranchised.

Of course, another strong benefit to working outside of class is that you can explore different career paths. If you don’t have to volunteer to graduate high school, you still have to plan for your future after you graduate. Opportunities to work in a number of different fields can give you more options and help you decide what most interests you, and what you definitely don’t want to do.

Volunteers may choose to assist the elderly.
Volunteers may choose to assist the elderly.

If your school doesn’t require you to volunteer, and doesn’t have any programs set up for students, consider volunteering to set one up. Alternately, contact your local volunteer center or charitable organizations like the United Way® to get information about ways you can help out your community and opportunities to participate as a volunteer in professions you’re considering as possible career choices.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

Georgesplane

@ PelesTears- There is a big difference between internships and volunteer work. The idea of volunteer work is to give your time or expertise for a cause with no expectation for anything besides a good feeling in return. An internship on the other hand is supposed to be work performed under a specific framework with the goals of applying learned skills and learning new ones. The purpose of an internship is to further career development and prepare for jobs in a field, and possibly the firm that the internship was completed with.

When you are deciding on whether to put your experience on your resume as work experience or volunteerism you should first decide which category the work you have completed falls under, and whether the work is related to your field. If the work helped you to advance your knowledge and understanding of a particular field that you are planning to work in or have experience in you should include it as work history. If your experience was unrelated to your career path, and you are completed the work simply as a charitable act, then you should include it under volunteer work. I hope this helps.

PelesTears

What is the difference between interning and volunteering? Would I put a summer internship on an application as volunteer work or as job experience?

Fiorite

I would like to add that many organizations may keep a volunteer on as a paid position if they go above and beyond their duties. Volunteering is also a good way to network. Professionals who volunteer their time at the same organizations as you do may be particularly compassionate to a student who willingly gives their time. This can open doors for other meaningful opportunities like internships or even employment. Volunteering is a good way to add to your resume, and it will help you become more competitive when you are looking for a job. Volunteering speaks to your integrity and your willingness to be active in things that you are passionate about. Volunteer experience is a good sign for both schools and employees.

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    • Some schools require students to volunteer; other students may volunteer to increase their chances of getting into college.
      Some schools require students to volunteer; other students may volunteer to increase their chances of getting into college.
    • Graduation requirements vary from state to state.
      Graduation requirements vary from state to state.
    • Volunteer requirements, if any, are generally made clear to all students attending a particular high school.
      Volunteer requirements, if any, are generally made clear to all students attending a particular high school.
    • Volunteer experience often helps students stand out when applying to colleges as well as jobs.
      Volunteer experience often helps students stand out when applying to colleges as well as jobs.
    • Volunteers may work with people who are disenfranchised.
      Volunteers may work with people who are disenfranchised.
    • Volunteers may choose to assist the elderly.
      Volunteers may choose to assist the elderly.
    • Volunteers may work in communities struggling with extreme poverty.
      Volunteers may work in communities struggling with extreme poverty.
    • Students who attend private high schools may be required to perform volunteer work before graduating.
      Students who attend private high schools may be required to perform volunteer work before graduating.