We know college community service is a great way to help others. But volunteering comes with plenty of benefits for you, too — the chance to explore longtime interests and discover new ones, make friends and have a genuine good time.
What’s more, community service can be excellent real-world training for that summer internship or job you’re hoping to land.
But how can you find community service activities if you’re a college student with a full schedule? Follow these tips to find out what options are available to you.
Ask for Community Service Opportunities
Two ways to start searching for community service projects are:
- By interest. What sort of volunteer work would you enjoy doing? Even if a group or agency isn’t actively advertising for volunteers, it never hurts to ask. If you pick community service that motivates and excites you, you’re more likely to stick with it over the long term.
- By need. What organizations or causes in your community have a great need for volunteers? If there’s a local shelter or nonprofit that consistently asks for help, you know you’ll be put to good use.
Larger organizations like schools and hospitals may have a detailed volunteer application process. Check and see what information, if any, you need to provide.
In general, be prepared to wash dishes, stock shelves, sweep floors or do whatever you’re asked to do – no task is too small!
Look for Schedule-Friendly Options
It’s helpful to determine whether you want to spend a few hours volunteering or commit to a community service project over a series of weeks and months. Make sure to honor your commitment, whatever you decide. Many organizations like to build relationships with their volunteers, and they may give them increased responsibility over time.
Join College Organizations
Well-known organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Key Club, Greenpeace and Big Brothers Big Sisters will often have college chapters. Chances are, your college has its own clubs and extracurricular activities dedicated to serving the community. Check bulletin boards, sign up for mailing lists and ask around.
Since you’ll be working side by side with other students, it’s a perfect opportunity to make friends. If you have friends already involved in community service, why not ask to join them?
Search Your Local Community
Whether you are in a tiny college town or a large city, you probably won’t have to look far to find people in need. Public libraries are a good resource for volunteer projects. So are community centers. Food pantries, animal shelters, local parks and other organizations will often welcome help, and in some cases may have a partnership with your college or university.
Find Special Events
Community festivals, holiday celebrations, fundraising marathons, building cleanups … all kinds of events may lead to a call for extra volunteers. These short-term service projects might require only a few hours. They can be an ideal way for a busy college student to get involved in the community.
Think Beyond the Obvious
If you enjoy working with kids, animals or the elderly, you have plenty of community service options. If your interests and skills lie in computers, political science or art history, you may need to get a little more creative.
For example, a nonprofit may need help organizing its finances or maintaining its computer system. A community bookstore may run entirely on volunteer staff. A grassroots publication may depend on volunteer contributors.
Academic skills can be used in community service, too. You may be cooking and serving large quantities of food at a homeless shelter or transitional living facility; you might also help residents write resumes and cover letters to find jobs. In addition to needing envelope stuffers, nonprofits might need volunteer graphic designers and photographers to help with their marketing campaigns.
A large part of community service is initiative and being willing and available to do what’s needed. This way, your college community service can be rewarding both to you and to those you serve.