For most students, the primary purpose of going to college is to become qualified to pursue a good job with a lucrative salary. However, when you do find yourself in a good financial situation and are able to support yourself and your loved ones, remember that there are other valuable factors in life besides money. As you gain experience though school and employment, you might want to take some time to reflect upon how you can better serve your community in ways that will nourish your soul, if not your wallet.
Volunteer work is the lifeblood of every community, and the benefits of volunteer work for students can be immeasurable. Through the hard work of dedicated volunteers, the hungry are fed, the illiterate can learn to read and the homeless have places to shelter. Whether you’re already a seasoned volunteer or your volunteer work has yet to move past the planning stages, it’s worth taking a closer look at the numerous benefits of volunteering for high schoolers and college students alike.
The Benefits of Volunteer Work for Students in High School
There are so many things that demand a high school student’s attention — from keeping up with schoolwork to sports and clubs to friends and part-time jobs. It can be hard to find the time to put in unpaid work hours, particularly for ongoing student volunteering positions. Yet, the benefits of volunteer work for students in high school can be well worth the investment of time. Here’s a look at some of the benefits of community service for students.
Discover New Career Possibilities
Many high school students have varied interests, and it can be challenging to figure out which one of those interests could lead to a worthwhile career. Student volunteering work can give you hands-on experience in various fields and professional settings. It’s a pure way to explore the possibilities that may await you later in life.
For example, you might work on building homes for Habitat for Humanity and discover that you genuinely enjoy nonprofit work. You might volunteer to teach literacy skills to children or to ESL students and discover that teaching may be your calling in life. From hospitals to professional offices, there are countless types of volunteer jobs that can give you an inside look at various professional fields.
Acquire Skills That Employers Are Looking For
High school students can benefit from acquiring skills that are important in the workplace, such as communication and collaboration skills. Volunteer work is one of the most effective ways to acquire crucial skills while you’re in high school. Depending on the nature of your student volunteering position, it may teach you skills such as leadership, communication, organization and project management.
Qualify for Certain Scholarships
The benefits of community service for students may include financial perks, even though volunteer jobs do not pay. There are many scholarship opportunities available to high schoolers who demonstrate their commitment to community service. This is a good reason to document the number of hours you spend at your volunteer job; in fact, some scholarships may require a minimum threshold of student volunteering hours.
Improve Your College Applications
Aside from college scholarship opportunities, volunteer jobs can help you pursue higher education in other ways. For example, listing volunteer work on your college applications may sometimes increase your chances of getting accepted. This type of work experience could help your application stand out from the crowd.1
The Benefits of Volunteering for College Students
College students may experience being even more busy than they were in high school. Not only are you juggling your class schedule and homework, clubs and social activities, but you’re also learning how to navigate life as an adult. It may not be easy to cram one more obligation into your schedule; however, fitting in a few hours of volunteer work here and there can be worth it. Here’s a look at some of the benefits of volunteering for college students.
Learn Invaluable Soft Skills
Soft skills, or people skills, are something you can learn while volunteering. Employers may also appreciate your ability to better communicate, take accountability, take initiative and engage in teamwork. These are the skills that are primarily learned through practical experiences, rather than classroom lectures. Acquiring these skills could make you a more desirable job candidate, no matter what industry you choose to specialize in.
Some of the soft skills you may acquire as a volunteer include the following:
- Collaboration and teamwork: It takes many hands to see a project through to completion. This means that volunteers must learn to work well together and to manage the lifecycle of a project.
- Communication: Volunteer work brings together people from all walks of life. You’ll practice effective communication with your fellow volunteers and with the people you serve.
- Time management: Volunteer work could teach you how to manage your time more effectively. After all, you’ll need to juggle those volunteer hours along with the rest of your obligations. You’ll need to make the most of the time you have.
- Professionalism: Professionalism is typically something that workers learn through on-the-job experience. One of the benefits of community service for students is that you’ll have a jumpstart on acquiring it.
- Leadership: Depending on the specific organization, new volunteers may work under the supervision of paid workers or experienced volunteers. As you gain experience with nonprofit work, you may in turn be called upon to lead the newer volunteers.
You Can Gain Work Experience and Acquire New Skills
Your degree program can teach you what you need to know in your chosen field. Yet, learning doesn’t stop after graduation, and it shouldn’t stop during school breaks, either. However, do be aware some organizations can have age restrictions and may need further approval to participate.
During your time in college and long after you graduate, you should continually seek out opportunities to acquire new skills and knowledge. This may help you not only get better at your current job, but also pivot into a new industry or profession.1
One effective way to gain work experience and acquire new skills as a college student is to perform volunteer work. No matter which type of student volunteering work you choose to do, you can learn practical skills that can serve you well throughout your life.
You’ll Flesh Out Your Resume
One common problem for recent college graduates is figuring out what to put on a resume. Ideally, you’ll want to list as many relevant experiences and accomplishments as possible. However, as a new graduate, you may not have a great deal of work experience. This is another one of the benefits of volunteering for college students; it can help you bridge the gap between college and your career.
Many employers appreciate a job candidate with volunteer experience on their resume.1 It shows that the individual has taken the initiative to give back to their community despite the lack of financial compensation. It also demonstrates that the individual is a caring person who likely has a solid work ethic.
As you embark on your volunteer work, keep careful records. Make a note of the dates when you began and ended a volunteer job so you can include this information on your resume. You should also keep track of the names and contact information of your nonprofit supervisors, as you might want to ask them for letters of reference later on.
You Can Build Your Professional Network
Building a professional network is one of the main ways that college students can establish a solid foundation for their career. Everyone you meet — from your professors to fellow students, to volunteers and nonprofit supervisors — can potentially be a valuable member of your network.
You should cultivate these contacts and stay in touch with them whenever possible. You never know when someone you met at a volunteer opportunity during your college days may introduce you to your future boss at your dream company. In addition, remember that a professional network is a two-way street; be receptive to assisting your contacts along their own career pathways.
The Benefits of Volunteer Work for Everyone
Although there are many valuable benefits of community service for students, the intangible benefits of giving back to your community can still apply no matter your age or education level. Long after you graduate, you can benefit from putting in volunteer hours. Here’s a look at some of the intangible rewards of serving as a volunteer.
- It’s good for your soul. There is no question that volunteering is good for the soul. Taking time out of your busy schedule to lend a hand to others in your community strengthens character, teaches humility and nurtures the spirit.
- It can boost your mental and emotional health. You probably won’t be shocked to hear that volunteering is good for your mental and emotional health. Scientifically speaking, volunteering can increase levels of dopamine in the brain, which induces those positive, feel-good emotions. As a result, people who volunteer may be less likely to experience depression and anxiety.2
- It’s good for your physical health. Although it’s common knowledge that volunteering is good for your spiritual and emotional health, it’s perhaps less well known that it’s also beneficial for your physical well-being. An improvement in physical health may be due in part to the positive impact on emotional health, although it could also be attributed to the fact that many volunteer jobs require physical movement.3
In addition to having positive effects on your health, volunteer work can expand your perspective. You’ll meet new people, and you’ll get to know their life experiences and unique journeys. Lastly, volunteering can help you move beyond your comfort zone, empowering you to grow as a person while you lend a hand to others.
Find Meaningful Volunteer Work in Your Community
Now that you understand that there are many benefits of volunteer work for students and people of all ages, you may be wondering exactly what type of volunteer job you should pursue. High schoolers and college students often look for opportunities that are aligned with their career goals and academic interests.
For instance, if you’re a nursing student, you could volunteer at a hospital or nursing home. Students who aspire to become teachers could volunteer at a literacy outreach program. Those who seek a career in business administration could volunteer to perform office work at any type of nonprofit.
Note that it’s perfectly acceptable to look for volunteer jobs that do not align with your career goals. You can still gain valuable experience and acquire important skills. For instance, you might volunteer at an animal shelter even if you have no plans to become a veterinarian.
There are a number of places to begin looking for volunteer opportunities, including the following:
- High school guidance counselors
- College career centers
- Libraries (Librarians are skilled researchers who can help you find a great opportunity.)
- Honor societies and civic clubs
- Local establishments, such as museums, food banks and Boys and Girls Clubs
You can also ask if your friends and family members can connect you to local nonprofits.
Important Tips for New Volunteers
If you’ve never worked at a volunteer job before, there are some rules of etiquette you should be aware of. First, know that each nonprofit has its own rules and procedures. You should check the organization’s website and review any available materials carefully before you apply.
Although nonprofits generally welcome new volunteers with open arms, they must also be somewhat careful that they’re taking on the right people. For instance, they need to be sure that a new volunteer will be able to make a commitment of a certain amount of work time. Or make sure the volunteer is clear to work with children. Some organizations require that volunteers put in a set number of hours per week or per month for a pre-determined period of time.
When you do land a new volunteer opportunity, follow these tips:
- Always arrive on time or a few minutes early for your shift.
- Conscientiously complete all necessary onboarding and training requirements.
- Meticulously follow all directions and comply with the organization’s guidelines.
- Be receptive to constructive feedback and adjust your work accordingly.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request feedback on your work.
- Contact the organization promptly if you’ll be late or have to miss a scheduled shift (but do everything possible to avoid these situations).
Lastly, some students may volunteer for jobs in which they work directly with other people, such as patients at a hospital, elementary students or other individuals in need. In these situations, the nonprofit might require a confidentiality agreement. It’s important to respect the privacy of those you are helping.
Community Outreach at GCU
At Grand Canyon University (GCU), serving the surrounding community is a commitment made by both students and staff. Acts of service that impact others on a local, national and global level stem from the university’s Christian worldview and goal to positively impact the surrounding community.
Endless opportunities are available to GCU students and staff to become involved, make a difference and enjoy the many benefits of volunteering. GCU leads a wide variety of volunteer programs and annual events to build connections with the community and serve others. GCU President Brian Mueller leads university efforts to revitalize West Phoenix socially and economically.4 This can be seen in GCU’s home improvement projects and free tutoring services to surrounding schools.
So, what are some of the specific ways GCU does this?
GCU Learning Lounge®
Grand Canyon University’s K-12 Outreach program serves public and private learning organizations through extending learning opportunities. We extend access to the GCU Learning Lounge to students from nearby schools. As a result, area students receive one-on-one and small group tutoring services free of charge.
Tutors in this program are excelling college scholars with a passion to serve others. In addition, they are specially trained to provide assistance to high school students. Not only do students in this program receive tutoring, but they also are exposed to college life and can receive tours of the campus and attend events.
Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit Christian housing ministry, is another outlet through which GCU serves the community. This ministry builds and repairs houses all over the world, and its partnership with GCU is unique in that it aims to impact an entire community. In the program, GCU students and employees work alongside Habitat leaders to repair neighborhood homes by landscaping, replacing roofs, painting and helping with structural repairs.5
Serve the City
As many as 200 GCU students participate in Serve the City Day, a semi-annual event to enhance the neighboring areas around GCU’s campus. Students work together to repaint homes, remove graffiti and clean and revitalize neighborhoods. This event helps to build Christian camaraderie, one of the four pillars of GCU, in which students make friends who become lifelong brothers and sisters in Christ while serving the surrounding community.
GCU CityServe is a big initiative where you can donate to provide life-transformational solutions to individuals and families in need. This compassionate Christian outreach ministry mobilizes resources and collaborative partnerships to make big impacts on people in need. The goal of CityServe is to help vulnerable families throughout the state of Arizona and help with long-term sustainability.
GCU is committed to serving others, and these community outreach programs represent only a fraction of GCU’s impact on the community. Upon graduating from GCU, students are taught how to become responsible leaders who strive to help others meet their highest potential through servant leadership. This model of leadership can be encompassed in a quote from the Bible, “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,” (Matthew 20:26).
GCU has long cherished its tradition of academic excellence, but that isn’t our only mission. We proudly spearhead a number of community initiatives that connect our students to volunteer work. Among our initiatives and partnerships are Lopes for Literacy, the GCU Learning Lounge, GCU CityServe and Habitat for Humanity. If you decide to join our Christian learning community and earn your degree at GCU, we encourage you to get involved in local volunteer work.
1 RC Team. (2023). The professional benefits of volunteering. Resume Coach. Retrieved Aug. 11, 2023.
2 Nader, C. (2023). Volunteering can provide a boost to your mental health. National Association of Colleges and Employers. Retrieved July 19, 2023.
3 Segal, J, PhD., & Robinson, L. (2023). Volunteering and its surprising benefits. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved July 19, 2023.
4 Gonzales, A. (2016). Businessperson of the year: Brian Mueller leads big year for GCU. Phoenix Journal. Retrieved August 8, 2023.
Approved by the assistant vice president of GCU Marketing on Aug. 11, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.