Anyone who hasn’t served as a volunteer may be tempted to ask, why do it? And that’s a reasonable question. But the fact is, anyone can benefit from volunteering. For students, a major plus is the chance to gain valuable experience in high school or college. Here are some great reasons you should consider donating your time during school.
Connect with your interests
Volunteering is a great way to get an up-close look at career fields you’re interested in. For example, a student who hopes to become a veterinarian might benefit from volunteering at an animal shelter. A prospective teacher could help out at a child care center. A robotics competition might offer a great volunteer opportunity for a prospective engineer.
Sometimes the experience isn’t related to educational or career interests, but it’s worthwhile for other reasons. At Shalom Farms near Richmond, Virginia, volunteers harvest food to feed families in need. Working with a group dubbed Banding Together, volunteers in Mission Valley, California, assist with jam sessions for people with special needs. At Kansas City’s Shoal Creek Living History Museum, volunteers do everything from helping repair log cabins to serving as historical reenactors.
Connect with others
If nothing else, volunteering helps you avoid “it’s all about me” syndrome. When you’re giving your time rather than working for pay, you’re making the choice to donate time and provide help where it’s needed.
That kind of attitude is essential at many charities and other nonprofit organizations, where volunteers make it possible to complete work that might not otherwise be accomplished. And you can contribute in ways that support your personal beliefs, whether that’s protecting the environment, reaching out to the homeless, or supporting a political candidate.
At the same time, your own benefit from volunteering can be substantial. Annie Wendel, Assistant Director of Volunteer Programs & Service Learning at Sacred Heart University, says this is a great way to make contacts.
“You’re probably going to meet other like-minded student volunteers and connect with peers with similar interests,” she says. “It’s also an opportunity to connect with local schools, nonprofit agencies, and organizations.” These can all be important contacts in the future when looking for internships or jobs.
For any student, volunteering can really help fill out a résumé. When applying for jobs, college admission, scholarships, graduate fellowships, and other competitive situations, a record of volunteer activity is likely to make a positive impression. In a study conducted by Deloitte, more than 80% of employers surveyed said they were more likely to choose a job candidate with volunteering experience.
Once you become a volunteer, you’ll be joining one of the most popular activities undertaken by people of all ages. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 60 million Americans contribute time as volunteers. Common activities include preparing and serving food, tutoring, helping out with youth sports, performing general labor, and fundraising.
Depending on the type of work involved, you’ll also have the chance to develop important attributes by volunteering. Along with the knowledge gained from a new experience, you can polish what employers call "soft skills." Traits such as communicating with others, cooperating as part of a team, and simply showing up on time not only help you function as a volunteer but prepare you for future job success.
All things considered, volunteering offers the chance to participate in a win-win situation. It brings good to the organizations being served and the volunteers who serve them. What can top that?
Your volunteer experience can help you get scholarships too. Find them using our Scholarship Search tool.