You probably did some volunteering in back in high school to beef up those college apps, but now that you’re in college, it can be tough to find the time, motivation, or resources to get back out there. But volunteering in college is still just as important and rewarding as it was in high school, even though it may be a little tougher to get out there. Here are four reasons you should volunteer in college, and five resources to help you get started.
Reasons to volunteer:
1. It will help you feel more connected with the DC community
Volunteering is one of the best ways to get beyond the Tenleytown/AU bubble and out into parts of the city you wouldn’t otherwise experience. It also introduces you to locals who are active in their communities and is a good reminder that so much more goes on in DC than what we see on campus and along the red line.
2. Meet new friends!
Volunteering is a great way to meet new friends at AU who you otherwise might not have crossed paths with, or other people in the DC area that you would never have met. Participating in group service projects brings together students who have similar motivations to give back to the community, so the chances that you’ll get along with the people you meet are high. Also, there’s no better way to build a friendship than working toward a common goal, which is what volunteer projects are all about
3. Great experience
Is your resume looking a little thin? Volunteering can fix that. A regular volunteer position, where you’re working once or twice a week, can be a great addition to any resume. It demonstrates that you are motivated and responsible, and with a longer-term position you’ll likely end up with impressive, tangible accomplishments to show. There aren’t many opportunities to reveal your character on your resume, and listing consistent volunteer experience can be one.
4. You’ll push yourself beyond your comfort zone
It is easy to fall into a comfortable, familiar weekly pattern on campus. While that is great, there comes a time when it is important to break away from this and step out of your comfort zone. Volunteering is the perfect way to do that. Volunteering can involve traveling to a new place, meeting new people, and participating in activities you may not have been exposed to before. Breaking out of your comfort zone is essential to personal growth, and volunteering can help facilitate this.
Resources and ways to volunteer:
1. Center for Community Engagement and Service
The Center for Community Engagement and Service (CCES) is the hub of all things volunteering on campus. They can help you find somewhere for a meaningful ongoing or one-day volunteer opportunity. In addition the Center coordinates all community-based learning credits alternative breaks (more on those below).
2. Alternative Breaks
Alternative Breaks are student-led trips over spring, winter, and summer breaks to both domestic and international locations. These trips offer an immersion experience in social justice issues and give students the opportunity to engage with a community in a meaningful way. Alternative Breaks do have a cost, but travel grants are available. Contact the CCES to learn more.
3. Community-Based Learning and Research
Through the community service-learning program, students can turn any SIS, CAS, SPA, or Kogod course into a community-based learning course. This means that you will volunteer at least 40 hours throughout the semester with an organization that is relevant to the course material and complete an additional assignment related to the volunteer experience. In exchange, you will receive one extra, pass/fail credit for the course. In addition, some AU courses have community service built into the syllabus. See the CCES to learn more.
4. Check out local organizations
There are several tools to help you learn about and connect with local organizations to volunteer with. Here is a directory of nonprofits put together by the CCES. You can also find many other directories online by Google-ing DC volunteer opportunities.
5. Other AU-affiliated volunteer groups
Don’t know where to start? Coming up on March 4th, Dr. Seuss Day celebrates the children’s book author by reading his books to elementary school classes. Check out more about it here.