Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, high school is a great time to try things that you haven’t done before – including volunteering.
Students may think it’s not worth their time to get involved in the community because it doesn’t pay like a normal job would. However, there are several benefits that volunteering can give you that no other job can.
You may be familiar with community service already because it is something that your school requires. In fact, many high schools throughout the United States require their students to help out the community in some way in order to graduate. Though it’s often on the honor system to report what you’ve done, these high schools may require up to 200 hours of community service before they’re willing to grant a degree.
Personal Development Benefits
One of the big ways that students will benefit from volunteer work is through personal development.
This happens in a number of ways. First of all, many students learn about their personal strengths and weaknesses. When you’re working on campaigns and projects and getting to see real-life results, you’ll get to know how your personal attributes and actions can make a difference. Many of these qualities are things that students can’t get good feedback on in the classroom.
For example, students may learn that they have excellent skills in coping with a crisis or other stressful situations, or may learn that they find taking charge of a team to be a struggle. This kind of exposure to different situations can then teach students how to further develop skills that they have, and how to work on areas they struggle in.
Numerous studies over the past several years have shown that volunteering isn’t just good for your mind and conscience; it’s also good for your body. By focusing on others’ problems instead of their own, students have reported reduced stress, and overall improvement in mood and health.
Volunteering allows students to become directly involved in their communities. Some students don’t realize how important volunteers are to the country and to many organizations. But try to imagine if no volunteers showed up to work tomorrow. Can you imagine what would change?
Have you ever wondered if volunteering makes a big difference in college admissions?
The truth is that it’s one of the most popular extracurricular activities that students list on their college applications. And while colleges don’t necessarily expect students to have spent all their free time volunteering, schools (especially the more competitive ones) will usually notice a total lack of community service.
Did you know that employers love volunteers?
TimeBank, a UK-based volunteering charity, and Reed, a recruitment company, partnered to create a study on how employers think about volunteer work. The results were very positive for those who have chosen to donate their time:
- 84% of employers agreed that volunteering is a good way for people to find work.
- 70% of employers said that volunteers have a better chance of getting a higher salary and a promotion.
- 80% of employers said that they like to see volunteer work on a resume.
- 23% of employers said that volunteering had helped their staff learn key skills, such as time management, communication skills, and leadership skills.
The study also showed that half of the employees surveyed thought that their volunteer experience had helped them land their job, and up to 20% of employees thought that their volunteer experience helped them gain key skills in communication, leadership, and time management that were important to their jobs.
How to Get Started
If you’ve decided you’re ready to take the plunge, here are some Do’s and Don’ts to get you started in your volunteer career.
Do try to find the right opportunity for you. It’s important to find something that you are going to enjoy and that you are capable of doing well. Ask yourself what kind of people you like working with (kids? people your own age?), whether you work better alone or as part of a team, how much time you have to commit and how much responsibility you can take on, and what special skills you have that you can contribute.
Don’t volunteer abroad just because you think it looks better. Especially for college applications, admissions officers prefer to see a local long-term volunteer commitment than something that has only lasted a week or two during a summer break. Some volunteer abroad programs can also cause more trouble than good to local people.
Do try to find a cause that you are passionate about. If you have always had an affinity for animals, try working at a shelter or a charity working on animal rights. If you have always valued education, try tutoring or an education charity. The more you care about the cause, the more dedicated you will be to continue working for it over a long period of time.
Don’t be afraid of making a change. Ask questions when something doesn’t seem right. If you end up doing work that doesn’t seem like a good fit, is causing excessive stress, or if the experience isn’t allowing you to do the things you thought you would be working on, it’s ok to leave to find something else.
Do enjoy yourself! The more you are having fun with volunteering, the more it will be a positive experience both for you and the organization you are working with.