Many high school students spend time volunteering or participating in community service activities as part of their high school graduation requirements. Those who are not required to participate by their school often participate in community service activities in order to bolster their college applications.
Volunteering, or participating in activities to help others, is always a good thing, whatever the motivation. However, one possible outcome of this requirement is that many students, once they get to college, feel they no longer “need” to volunteer since the school no longer requires participation and their college applications are done. Like participation in extracurricular activities, some students see these activities as a means to an end (college admission) and may not realize many of the other benefits.
If your student is in college, help him think about the reasons why continuing to volunteer or donate his time to a worthy cause might be something he should consider. Aside from the benefit to the organization, he will gain much himself. Here are some of the benefits your student might gain from volunteering during the college years:
- Your student will gain experience and may learn new skills that will be directly transferrable to his chosen career. Skills such as working as a team, problem solving, speaking to groups, interpersonal communication skills, and responsibility are things best learned through direct experience rather than in a classroom.
- Your student will have an opportunity to try his wings and gain confidence in his abilities.
- Your student will have an opportunity to work with others who may be different from him. Working with people of different ages, backgrounds, cultures or values will help him learn both about others and about himself.
- Your student will make new friends.
- Your student will have an opportunity for networking and getting to know people who may help him connect with others when he is ready to begin his job search.
- Your student may make connections with people who would be willing to write a reference for him. Although he certainly can, and should, ask college professors for references, having a reference from someone who knows and has worked with your student outside of the classroom, and who may be able to speak to his work ethic and responsibility, will be helpful.
- Your student may have an opportunity to volunteer for something related to his chosen career. This will allow him both to explore the potential career field, and also gain experience that will strengthen his resume.
- Your student may find that spending some time volunteering to help others will be a stress reliever as he spends a few hours each week thinking about and focusing on others.
- Your student will be sending a message to future employers that he lives his values, that he goes beyond the minimum required, and that he is willing to work for causes in which he believes.
- Your student will begin to develop a lifelong habit of helping others.
- Your student may find that he has a lot of fun.
- Your student will feel good about himself as he works to do good, to change lives, and to make the world a better place.
One of the advantages of most volunteer opportunities is that they are often part-time and can be managed around your student’s class schedule. If he needs to travel off campus, he can ask others to join him and may even be able to make arrangements for the college to help with transportation. Your student may also gain skills in time management as he works his schedule to be able to fit in time for his volunteer work.
Volunteering should be just that – volunteer – so don’t insist or pressure your student. But have a conversation about the values and benefits of spending some time working for the good of others.
In our next post, we’ll discuss some questions that may help your student decide what he’d like to volunteer to do.