Every student can relate to having a busy schedule, filled with academic commitments, sports, band, and many other activities. However, finding the time to volunteer and get involved in your off-campus community may be valuable, even if your school doesn’t mandate it.
I chose to volunteer at a local nonprofit near my campus that provided low-income women with clothing, daycare, and affordable housing. My responsibilities included organizing the clothing donations from the community into their collective closet. Though this service didn’t directly correlate with my Biochemistry major, it did align with my Pre-med track. I chose this particular organization because I loved how it highlighted my affinity for helping others in my community.
Contact your academic advisor or read your school’s newspaper to find some volunteer opportunities. Another method is to simply search online for local nonprofits that are seeking volunteers. Once you have an organization in mind, be sure to consider the following secrets in order to find a great site!
Location, location, location
Consider your volunteer organization’s location. Depending on your campus, you may not have access to a car; therefore, ensuring you’ll still be able to arrive at your service site will be an important factor to consider. During my freshman year of college, I didn’t have a car, so I chose to volunteer at an organization that was near campus that I was able to walk to. This was nice since there was limited parking near my organization and I normally volunteered during rush hour, so traffic was high.
If obtaining a car isn’t an issue, you should still consider whether the organization’s location is a doable drive on a regular basis. Also consider how traffic and parking might affect your commute to your volunteer site.
Determine how often you’re willing and able to volunteer. Choosing a service site based around your time commitment is critical. Hospitals, for example, have a mandatory training session. Other service sites may also have required shifts that have to be completed within a certain time frame. On the contrary, some service sites have no time constraints and are less restrictive with time commitment.
Before selecting a site, consider how much time you’re being asked to commit, and make sure you can really commit that time to the organization. You don’t want to agree to a volunteer schedule and be unable to fulfill your promised time.
Research is key
A bit of research will help you determine whether or not there are volunteer openings, how much of a time commitment the organization is expecting, and whether it’s a long- or short-term opportunity. Additionally, by reaching out to an organization, you’ll learn what their expectations are for your volunteer experience. Communicate with an organization directly once you have an understanding of what might be expected of you so they can help you find the best position with them.
Before I began volunteering at my service site, I reached out to their administration to see if there were any openings in the daycare program. After I discovered that the timing didn’t align with my classes, the administration suggested I volunteer in a different sector of their organization. I’ve been at my service site for about eight months, and I hope to continue to volunteer with them. Good research gives you the grounding to find an organization you love so you’re excited to spend time there.
The most important factor to consider is the organization’s mission—what this organization promotes and their objectives. This may also foreshadow what you’ll do with the organization. With animal shelters, for example, their missions revolve around the welfare of animals. This may translate to volunteers for walking dogs, cleaning kennels, feeding animals, etc. For schools, they may have their volunteers assist the teachers with the children.
It’s so rewarding to have given your time to aid an organization. Additionally, volunteer experiences look fantastic on résumés. Depending on how long you’ve volunteered at the site, your supervisor may even be able to write you a letter of recommendation for the future. Now that you have the secret to finding a great service site, start your fulfilling journey of volunteering!