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Do I Have to Volunteer to Graduate High School?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By Georgesplane — On Jan 12, 2011

@ 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.

By PelesTears — On Jan 11, 2011

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

By Fiorite — On Jan 09, 2011

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.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor...
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