For many students, the concept of “community engagement” is off-putting, as it seems like a chore or forced activity for your resume, student organization, or athletic department. But the truth is that helping those in need and doing what genuinely interests you is far from a chore; it’s a tool of empowerment. There are so many ways to help out the community surrounding your campus in ways beyond joining a student organization. To give back to the area that gives to you is a rewarding experience that can mean just as much as your degree. If you need some convincing, here’s a few key reasons why volunteering outside of your school is important:
1. It’s a networking tool
College kids tend to love the idea of networking because as soon as you hit that senior-year grind, you realize you don’t know nearly as many “important” people as you thought you did, and LinkedIn isn’t really helpful if you don’t have any connections. Well sometimes the most important networking happens outside of job fairs and offices, and it isn’t always when you’re looking for it. When volunteering in just about anything, you meet tons of people and build genuine connections beyond a handshake and business card exchange. Those who get to know you and see your values are much more likely to extend a helping hand to those they begin to know and trust.
2. It helps build useful life-skills through experience
You can take a million Managerial and Marketing classes and get high grades in Communications, but nothing will ever match up to real-life experience. The things you learn while volunteering also hits home a bit differently, as the laid-back and hands-on atmosphere removes the stress of an academic or working environment. With this weight gone, learning can feel more natural and genuine, so genuine you barely realize you’re “learning” at all. Common skills taken away from community engagement are:
What’s amazing about these specific skills is that their value goes beyond specific jobs and daily work tasks, in fact, it goes beyond work all-together. These skills impact your character, which is more valuable to potential employers than you may have ever realized. Many other job applicants may hold your GPA, past experience, and Microsoft Word skills, but genuine presentation means a lot to those who are hiring in order to grow their business.
3. Volunteering is a release from academic-stress
College can be really hard on one’s mental health. The daily grind of class, studying, and schoolwork can be overwhelming and many students often feel unfulfilled, even if their grades and social life are stable. Humans, and most other animals are built with a natural tendency toward compassion. It’s the same urge that makes us feel bad during times of natural disaster and national tragedy, and the urge that makes us want to help. Unlike the quick release of stress that going to the bar after a long day may give, volunteering regularly will provide for you a long-term sense of happiness and fulfillment through giving your time and helping those in need. After giving an hour or two and few times a week, the stress that seemed to weigh so heavily seems less important with the perspective community engagement provides. Though it may not feel like it sometimes, there are things more important than passing or failing a test, and life goes on despite it all. Knowing that you’re actively helping yourself and the place around you can greatly reduce the stress college hands to you and can give you perspective on what the stress is even worth.
4. It’s beneficial to you as a person and your community as a whole
Studies show that volunteering can improve brain function and that many other health benefits are not limited to those receiving help through engagement programs, but to those giving it. As mentioned before, the action of regularly volunteering provides a good feeling that isn’t fleeting and helps you feel as if the time you give is being put to good use. There is a special, indescribable feeling in providing to those who cannot give back and to being a part of someone’s life and growth. That service may not always be direct or hands-on, but our actions trickle down and impact more than we can imagine. Realizing our ability to provide to the community and world around us is a life-changing revelation that affects lives more than your own.
Whether it be playing with children, feeding the homeless, spending time with the elderly, or helping to keep your community safe and clean, getting out and providing your time will always be one of the most valuable gifts you can give. For college students, getting involved in your community is as easy as stopping by your campuses Center For Community Engagement (every college has one) and telling one of the employees that you’d like to volunteer. They’ll ask you all about what you’re interested in, and there really is an opportunity for everyone. After that it’s as easy as reaching out and showing up! Know that living your #bestlife often doesn’t involve your life alone.
For more ways to help out your community, check out the links below.
- Volunteer Match
- Red Cross
- United Way
- Habitat For Humanity
- Give Pulse
- Points of Light
- Boys & Girls Club of America
- Create The Good