The Many Benefits of Volunteer Work for Students
For most students, the primary purpose of going to college is to become qualified to pursue a good job with a lucrative salary. Although being able to support yourself and your future family is certainly important, it’s equally necessary to remember that there is indeed more to life than money. As you look ahead to becoming a full-fledged, productive member of society, it’s 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 are 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
These days, 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, not to mention social media. It can be hard to find the time to put in unpaid work hours, particularly for ongoing volunteer work. Yet, the benefits of volunteer work for students in high school are well worth the investment of time. Here’s a look at some of these benefits.
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. Volunteer work can give you hands-on experience in various fields and professional settings. It’s a risk-free 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 is 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. 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 volunteer position, it may teach you skills such as leadership, communication, organization and project management.
Qualify for Certain Scholarships
The benefits of volunteer work 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.
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 can increase your chances of getting accepted. This type of work experience will help your application stand out from the crowd.
The Benefits of Volunteering for College Students
College students are often even busier than high school students. Not only are you juggling your class schedule and your homework, clubs and social activities, but you’re also learning how to navigate life in the real world 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 is definitely worth it. Here’s a look at some of the benefits of volunteering for college students.
You’ll Learn Invaluable Soft Skills
Did you know that soft skills are highly prized by employers? Soft skills, or non-technical skills, include communication, accountability, initiative and teamwork. These are the skills that are primarily learned through real-world experiences, rather than classroom lectures. Acquiring them will make you a more desirable job candidate, no matter what industry you choose to specialize in.
Some of the soft skills you’ll 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 learn to communicate effectively with your fellow volunteers and with the people you serve.
- Time management – Volunteer work will 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 learn how to make the most of the time you have.
- Professionalism – Professionalism is typically something that workers learn through on-the-job experience. As a volunteer in college, 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’ll Gain Work Experience and Acquire New Skills
Your degree question will teach you everything you need to know to pursue a job in your field. Yet, learning never stops after graduation, and it shouldn’t stop during school breaks, either. Though 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 will help you not only get better at your current job, but also prepare you to pursue higher-level positions.
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 volunteer work you choose to do, you’ll learn practical skills within real-world contexts that will 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. 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 may need to ask them for letters of reference later on.
You’ll Build Your Professional Network
Speaking of letters of reference, building a professional network is one of the main ways that college students can establish a solid foundation for career success. 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
As valuable as volunteer work is for students, the intangible benefits of giving back to your community will 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.
- 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.
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.
How to 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’ll 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 the perfect 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. 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 for success:
- Always arrive on time or a few minutes early
- Conscientiously complete all necessary onboarding and training
- 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 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.
Grand Canyon University 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.
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.
More About GCU