How Being a College Volunteer Supports More Than the Community

Last updated: Nov 11, 2020

When you’re juggling a mountain of homework, a busy social life, and a host of demanding sports and club activities, volunteering may be the furthest thing from your mind. Here’s why you should consider making the time: Being a college volunteer provides some significant benefits for you and the communities you serve.

A group of college students in matching blue shirts picking up trash in the park

Why Are College Students Volunteering?

According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, 25% of all college students volunteered in 2015, contributing 286 million hours of service worth $6.7 billion to their communities. Here are just a few of the reasons why so many students choose to volunteer despite their time constraints:

It Gives Your Resume a Boost

Volunteering can provide you with a competitive edge when you enter the job market. According to the 2016 Deloitte Impact Survey, only 30% of resumes list volunteer experience, yet 82% of respondents said they would be more likely to choose a candidate with volunteer experience. Volunteering also demonstrates commitment and accountability to future employers when your employment history is short.

It Provides Real-World Experience

Through community service, you can practice important skills like leadership, problem-solving, and time management. Volunteering also provides opportunities to apply your classroom learning and explore your career interests. In many cases, you’ll get the same benefit as completing a student internship, with the added bonus of helping people at the same time.

It Can Help You Earn Scholarships 

Shocked? It’s true – volunteering can help you earn scholarships through community service. DoSomething.org has awarded $1.2 million over the past six years to student volunteers under the age of 25. We call that a win-win scenario.

A group of college students making brown bag lunches

It Fosters Connections

We may live in a world defined by social media interactions, but nothing beats face-to-face relationship building. Nonprofits partner with many other businesses and organizations, and they are often willing to offer recommendations or put you in touch with the right people. They’re also a valuable resource for advice and questions about your career field.

It Improves Mental Health

Ever heard the expression “when you help others, you help yourself”? Turns out, it’s wise advice. A 2018 study on volunteerism and health found that participants experienced an 8.5% increase in mental health and a 4.3% decrease in depression after volunteering regularly.

It’s Just Good Karma

Perhaps the most compelling reason to give back is the chance it offers to brighten someone’s day and directly impact the well-being of your community. Even small acts like reading to a home-bound senior can mean much more than you thought possible.

To Get Started, Do Some Soul Searching

So, you’ve made the decision to be a college volunteer. Bravo! Now you’ll need to decide how and where to deploy your talents. However, before you jump headlong into the volunteer pool, you’ll need to ask yourself some important questions. The answers can provide insight into your skills and preferences and help guide you to volunteer opportunities that are a good fit.

Some good questions to ask:

  • What talents can you offer? Are you an organizational whiz, a gifted coach, an empathetic caretaker, etc.?
  • How much time can you spend volunteering?
  • Who do you want to help? Are you interested in working with disadvantaged youths, elderly individuals in nursing homes, animals in shelters, etc.?
  • What are some of the tasks you’re willing (and unwilling) to do as a volunteer? For example, are you willing to deliver meals or tutor kids, but unwilling to staff events or scrub out kennels?
     

A group of college students planting trees in the park

Next, Find Your Perfect Match

Now that you have a rough idea of where your talents lie, how much time you have to give, whom you want to help, and what you want to do, it’s time to hunt for “the one.”

A good place to start your search is local organizations you’re familiar with such as museums, libraries, soup kitchens, animal shelters, and senior-living communities.

Many universities also sponsor spring break service trips, in-service days, and volunteer opportunities with local nonprofit organizations. For example, USF hosts its Stampede of Service every winter, along with the Bulls for Kids dance marathon, Bulls Service Breaks, and myriad volunteer opportunities in the Tampa Bay area.

Other sources include national organizations that offer local volunteer opportunities, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, National Alliance for Youth Sports, Meals on Wheels Association of America, Habitat for Humanity, and the American Red Cross.

Finally, check out web sites where you can search for volunteer opportunities that fit your interests or career aspirations, such as All for Good, Just Serve, DoSomething.org, Idealist, and VolunteerMatch.

Wherever you decide to give of your time, volunteering can be a rewarding experience that has lasting effects – for you and your community. If you’d like more information on college volunteer opportunities at USF, contact the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement at (813) 974-7595.