How to Document Volunteer Hours for College

Keeping an accurate record of all of your volunteer efforts will make filling out the activities portion of your college applications that much easier. You can document your activities and your volunteer and community service hours in whatever platform that works best for you. You can do so in a Word document, in your notes on your phone, even in an email sent to yourself and maybe your parents for safe keeping. But exactly what information do you need to document? We recommend including the information below as that is what you will be asked to provide on your application.

Key Information to Include in Your Volunteering Document

You should note the following information for each volunteer event:

Title of the Organization Where You Are Volunteering

The college admissions officer should be able to immediately know at which organizations you volunteered. Was it with a local nursing home? A hospital? Did you volunteer at a high school event to raise funds for a good cause? Make sure you include the title of the organization in your document.

Activity Description

Describe your activity. Did you take a lead role? Were you the initiator of the community service work/activity? Did you work with underprivileged children? Did you help children or people with disabilities how to play soccer, tennis or some other sport? Did you volunteer at your local food bank? What did you do there? Organize the food, distribute the food? Write down exactly what you did.

Average Hours Per Week and Average Weeks Per Year

So here’s a critical piece of the puzzle. You need to document the amount of time you have spent on your volunteer activities. Most college applications ask for the time you have given to each activity and volunteer experience broken down by the average hours per week and the average weeks per year that you participated. Sometimes this may be difficult to estimate, but you need to do so. If you do this every week for your entire school year then estimate about 40 weeks per year. If it is something you do every week, each week of the year, I would say document 48 weeks, since you should account for vacations and holidays. If you participate in an activity a few times a year, then document 3 weeks per year. Don’t stress over the exactness of this number. It is your best estimation.

When to Start Documenting Your Volunteer Activities

Documenting any of your high school activities should start at the beginning, meaning in 9th grade. Why is this? There is no time like the present, when you are in the moment, to fully recall and understand what you have done, who you have done it with, what the experience consisted of and the amount of time you spent doing it. By writing down all the information about your volunteer efforts at the time, you will be sure not to forget important information when it comes time for those applications.

If you are reading this now and saying to yourself, but I’m a sophomore, junior, or even a senior, what do I do now? That is completely fine. You can’t go backward. You don’t have a DeLorean Time Machine from Back to The Future. You can only move forward. Start to document.

To summarize, don’t put off documenting your volunteer hours or your activities as a whole. It’s not difficult to do and if you document activities when they happen, it is infinitely easier than much further down the road when either you don’t recall all facets of the activity or, worse yet, you don’t recall it at all. Ask your parents for their input since they may recall activities that you participated in that you don’t remember. Also, don’t leave any activity out, even if you think it is minimal and not worth including. That is something you can decide down the road when you complete your applications. Better to have everything documented and decide later on whether to include it, or not.

Wondering if volunteering is important for college admissions? Watch this short video.

Looking for help with the college search and application process? We help students and families through the entire college planning journey – from search, applications and essays to interview prep, financial aid consultation and final school selection.

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