10/11/2011 10:48 am ET Updated Dec 10, 2011

How to Find Time to Volunteer in High School

Yes, you know it is important for high school students to volunteer. And yes, of course you want to give back to your community. But how does a high school student find the time to volunteer with an exorbitant amount of homework, athletic team commitments, clubs, planning for college, plus a part-time job? Sure, high school students realize the benefits of community service. But how can students find flexible opportunities that fit their packed schedule? Consider being a virtual volunteer.

Is social networking your strength? Many nonprofit organizations welcome youth to set up and maintain their Facebook page, Twitter site or blog postings. High school students can complete volunteer tasks via the Internet and a laptop computer. Virtual volunteering allows nonprofit organizations to expand the benefits of their programs, by allowing more volunteers to participate, and by utilizing volunteers to reach out to the community. It is a win-win situation. High school students tend to be fluent in social networking and can utilize social media to help connect the generations. Do your research. Check to see if the agency you are interested in volunteering has a current online presence on Twitter, Facebook or a blog. Approach a local nonprofit and offer to be their social media volunteer.

Students volunteer for a myriad of reasons. Some high school students are required to fulfill a community service obligation for graduation, and some strongly recommend volunteer service, but consider it optional. Other high schools feel that volunteering should not be dictated by graduation requirements, that students should want and feel the need to get involved in their own communities.

Finding the dedicated time to volunteer is critical. Flexible scheduling is often needed for students, thus nursing homes, homeless shelters, hospitals and animal shelters providing 24/7 care, may offer more opportunities to volunteer on weekends and holidays. Students can also take the initiative to organize their own service project. Online resources and tools from Youth Service America, Generation On, and Do Something are great ways to guide your project. Volunteer opportunities provide a critical link to the community and enhance a resume and college application.

Keep in mind that colleges are not just looking for a list of nonprofits organizations and dates that you volunteered. Admissions staff want to see the real you. Be able to demonstrate examples of your commitment to volunteering, dedication to a cause and passion for your interests. Colleges pay attention to your life both inside and outside the classroom. How you spend time outside school reveals a great deal about you. Admissions staff are also looking to see if you can manage your priorities and maintain a long-term commitment, and how if you give your time to help others. The key to volunteering is making the time and finding your passion.