The Decision to Volunteer — What to Do?

This is the second of two posts about the benefits of volunteering for college students.  In our first post, we suggested some advantages of volunteer work for your student.  In this post, we offer some suggestions about helping your student decide where and how to volunteer.

Your college student has decided to find some time in her college schedule to volunteer somewhere.  Good for her.  There are many benefits of volunteer work.

College students who choose to spend time in volunteer activities may do so for many reasons.  Some students find or believe in a particular cause and want to do all that they can to further that effort.  Other students may want to give of their time, but they are not sure what they want to do, or they are not sure what options exist.

Some colleges have an office or a designated person whose responsibility is to help students find and manage meaningful volunteer or community service opportunities.  If your student’s school has such a resource, this may be the best place for her to begin.  She may also talk to faculty members or other students (particularly upper class students) about opportunities.

It is possible that your student may turn to you for help.  Although you may know less about the available options at school, you do know your student.  If she asks for your advice, one good approach may be to simply ask your student some questions that will help her make decisions about what she would like to do.  You’ll have your own questions, but here are a few to get you started:

  • Is there a cause that you believe in or a need that you have recognized that you would like to address? If so, is there an organization (or several organizations) that address that need?
  • If you have found an organization that interests you, what opportunities do they offer for volunteering? Are any opportunities local?
  • What do you enjoy doing? What kinds of activities would you enjoy participating in?
  • Are you willing to do anything that is needed or do you have specific things that you hope to be able to do — or that you would be unwilling to do?
  • How much time can you commit to volunteering?
  • Do you have transportation available? Will you be able to travel off campus?
  • Are there opportunities available on campus?
  • Are there other students who might be interested in joining you?
  • What particular talents or skills can you offer? (Don’t dismiss anything as too small. Many organizations are happy to have willing volunteers even if they don’t bring many skills beyond their enthusiasm.)
  • What kind of people are you interested in working with? Do you hope to be able to interact with people who may be different from you — perhaps in age, background, gender, ethnicity?
  • What do you hope to learn or gain from the experience?
  • Are you able/willing to invest any money in the experience?
  • Are you looking for a short-term opportunity or something ongoing that you can continue doing?
  • Why do you want to do this?

As your student explores her answers to some of these questions, she may be surprised about what she discovers about her interests and options.  Finding a good match between your student and her ”cause” will help her continue to be motivated and interested — and help her benefit from her experiences.  If she chooses to move ahead and volunteer, she may be pleased to discover that, although she is working to help others, she is benefitting as much as anyone.

Related Posts:

College Experiences That Lead to Well-Being After Graduation: Participating in Extracurricular Activities

Helping Your College Student “Supersize” His College Experiences

Why Your College Student Needs to Do Something for Someone Right Now


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