There are lots benefits to volunteering at any age, from enhancing your resume to boosting your emotional and physical health. But college students especially have a lot to gain from getting involved off-campus.
Think you don’t have time in between classes and college life? Volunteering is easier than you think. Read on to find out how you can get started this school year, and start reaping the benefits.
Benefits of Volunteering Off-Campus
The top benefit of volunteering that comes to mind for many college students is resume enhancement, and for good reason. According to a survey by TimeBank, a U.K. volunteering charity, nearly three out of four employers would choose a candidate with experience volunteering over a candidate without any volunteering experience.
But besides padding your resume, there other great benefits college students can reap from volunteering. You can:
Meet new people of all ages and backgrounds.
Combat isolation and improve your social skills.
Practice and develop the new skills you’re learning in the classroom.
Get to know your new community, if you’ve moved away from home for school.
Get regular breaks from the campus and college life.
Give back, make a difference, and help make the world a better place.
Volunteering has also been shown to boost your health and happiness. According to HelpGuide.org, volunteering can increase your self-confidence, combat depression, and help you stay physically active and healthy.
Challenges of Volunteering Off-Campus
You’re probably wondering how you’re supposed to fit volunteering in with all your other schoolwork and activities. It’s true that finding the time to volunteer can be difficult no matter what stage you’re at in life, and burnout can be a serious risk.
Volunteering shouldn’t interfere with your college classes and responsibilities. But if you’d like to reap all the benefits mentioned above, you can decide to make volunteering a priority in your college life and find a balance with your other responsibilities.
Volunteering should be fun and enjoyable. If you’re finding that you’re starting to feel burnt out, it may be time to resign from that service position. You may need to try volunteering at several different places before you find the opportunity that’s a good fit for your skills, goals, and schedule.
How to Get Started
Now that you’re determined to start getting involved off-campus, you may be wondering where to being. Here are a few steps you can follow to get started:
1. Pick institutions you are interested in.
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are over 1.5 million non-profits in the United States. You might be surprised to find that there are probably hundreds of nonprofits in your city alone.
Local organizations in need of help might include:
- After-school programs for youth
- Sports teams
- Places of worship like churches, mosques, or synagogues
- Museums and historical societies
- Literacy programs
- Senior centers
Whether you’re a nursing student, graphic design major, or accountant-in-training, there’s sure to be a non-profit in your area with a need for your skills.
There are plenty of ways you can begin your search. You can start right on campus by asking your fellow students, academic advisor, or professors to see if anyone knows of an opportunity that’s a fit for your goals and skills.
As you compile different choices, make a list to keep track of the organizations you are considering to get involved.
2. Contact the organizations.
Now that you have a list of volunteering opportunities that you are interested in, reach out to the organizations to find out important information to help you decide where to volunteer. Some questions you may want to consider asking are:
What kinds of roles do you seek for your volunteers? What skills and knowledge should volunteers have before participating? Is there special training that volunteers must go through to participate in your organization? What is the usual time commitment that you ask of your volunteers?
It is also helpful to find out if the organization has other volunteers that are college students. This will give you some sense of how feasible it is to volunteer for them while you are taking a full course load.
This is also a time for you to voice any concerns you may have about the specific organization you are talking to. As long as you are respectful in the way you communicate, letting the representative know your thought process will show her that you have put thought into this decision and researched the organization.
3. Take a trial run.
If the organization allows, try out volunteering at the organization. Ask if there is an upcoming event you can attend to get a sense of what the organization does and the people that are involved with the cause. This will allow you to better understand if the organization is right for you before making a commitment.
Kemp, G., Saison, J., & Smith, M. (2013). Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits. Retrieved from Help Guide
Lerner, M. (2012). People Who Benefit The Most From Volunteering. Investopedia. Retrieved from Investopedia
Reasons to Volunteer. (n.d.). TimeBank. TimeBank
Smith, J. (2013). When The Employer Requires Experience And You Have None. Forbes. Retrieved from Forbes