Student’s Guide to Volunteering in College
From campus fundraising to alternative spring break programs, learn the best ways to give back as a student and get tips for balancing volunteer work and college life.
Kathleen Curtis is an American writer currently living in Louisville, Kentucky. She has developed content around education for more than a decade for both domestic and international clients.
College can be a great time to volunteer. You’re critically engaged, questioning the status quo, and eager to change the world for the better. That passion and optimism make college students some of the best volunteer candidates. Yet finding the time to give back is often challenging, if not impossible. Between class, work, and social obligations, many volunteering commitments just aren’t feasible. Making volunteer promises you can’t keep leaves everyone disappointed, and no one wants that.
Fortunately, there are many ways to fit volunteering around your already crazy schedule. Some opportunities are even designed with students in mind. In this guide, you’ll discover the best ways to volunteer during college (and which options to steer clear of), find real-world programs that match your interests, see how valuable student volunteering is, and learn how to balance volunteering with the rest of your busy life.
Why Volunteer? 10 Benefits for College Students
Builds meaningful contacts.
Volunteering allows you to network with employees of the organization. Your volunteer supervisor could serve as a great contact for future jobs or as a professional reference.
Boosts your resume.
Recent college graduates’ resumes often demonstrate limited professional experience. Volunteering gives you something concrete you can add that shows hiring managers your dedication to skills-building.
Develops new skills.
Whether taking photos for your local humane society or breaking out the hammer at Habitat for Humanity, volunteer roles can help you gain new skills that enrich your personal and professional life.
Allows you to test the career waters.
Before beginning the job search and accepting an offer, try volunteering in areas that pique your interest. This will either confirm your interests or nudge you in a different direction.
Increased sense of fulfillment.
Giving back to your community can help build a sense of accomplishment and improve your self-confidence. It can also remind you how important it is to make time for others less fortunate.
Improves mental health.
Studies have shown that volunteering can help stave off mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and even high blood pressure. It can also help reduce overall stress levels.
Forges new friendships.
In addition to professional contacts, volunteering may lead to new friendships. You often meet like-minded individual in these settings who see the world in similar ways as you.
It’s easy to live in our own little bubbles and not fully understand the challenges facing others. Spending time volunteering exposes you to hardships and makes you more aware of the world around you.
Provides academic credit.
Some college classes may provide credit or participation incentives for volunteering. If unsure, ask your professor or academic advisor about opportunities.
Makes the world a better place.
At the end of the day, volunteering is necessary if we want to live in a kind and compassionate world. Spending just a few hours of your time helps ensure these qualities remain engrained.
Student Volunteering: What to Look for and What to Avoid
Before adding your name to a volunteer sign-up form, it’s important to consider several important factors that affect what you get out of the experience and whether it works with this stage of life.
Top 5 Types of Volunteer Work for College Students
While college students are eligible for just about any volunteer opportunity, some naturally work better than others. Here’s a closer look at some of the top volunteer options that can fit into your already busy class, work, and social schedule.
Where to Find the Best Volunteer Opportunities for Students
With so many volunteer opportunities available, finding the right one can seem overwhelming. Plenty of resources exist to help you locate an organization that combines your skills and passions. We offer a few ideas for where to get started below.
Tips for Balancing Volunteering, School, and Life Commitments
Despite altruistic instincts to give back to your community, finding balance between volunteering, school, work, and social responsibilities is incredibly important. Classes, work, group projects, and hanging out with friends and family can take up a lot of time, but students who plan ahead can fit everything into their busy days. Here are some tips for keeping it all together and staying sane.
Keep an updated calendar
Managing your time well starts with knowing where you are supposed to be and when. It can also help you schedule meetings in blocks rather than sporadically, thereby giving you more consolidated time for volunteering.
Even though volunteering is unquestionably a worthwhile endeavor, you must make sure to prioritize your classes and assignments. Even if you make great networking contacts while volunteering, hiring managers won’t be impressed by subpar grades.
Avoid unnecessary commitments
If you decide that school and volunteering are your two top priorities, commit the remainder of your time accordingly. It may be necessary to turn down some offers if they do not fit within your goals.
Make time for self-care
Is the degree program offered in a format that fits your schedule?
Bring a study buddy
Does the program accept transfer credits from other schools?