Every April, National Volunteer Week provides an opportunity to recognize the impact of volunteer service in all types of communities. Volunteering is of special importance to many college students. Scholarships, admissions committees, and potential leadership positions are all looking to see community and civic engagement. Sometimes this can make it feel more like a requirement than an act of service, but with a little effort we can turn that around.
Finding the perfect volunteer position for you can take a little time and effort. It is always worthwhile in the end so that you and the community you are serving can get the maximum benefits of your volunteering. Understanding the types of service that exist, learning what makes up a meaningful volunteering experience, and figuring out how to find what you’re passionate about are the keys to maximizing your volunteering experience.
The first step to this process is understanding the different types of service you can engage in. Clinical service is often popular for students looking for experience in the medical field, including hospital and clinic settings. This is a good option for people looking for a specific time to come every week. Most college towns also have animal shelters for those who prefer animals over humans. For those who prefer less interaction, food insecurity is an amazing place to start. Soup kitchens and food pantries are always looking for volunteers to cook, clean, and stock shelves. Many campuses even have a food pantry for students suffering from food insecurity. These places are often looking for volunteers and love having a helping hand whenever available. While these are just a few examples, places in your community are always looking for people, you just have to reach out.
Pick Your Meaning and Passion
Learning what makes a meaningful experience and figuring out how to maximize your time by finding something you’re passionate about go hand in hand. As a pre-medical student I was primarily focused on finding clinical opportunities where I would volunteer in a hospital setting. While that was great, I was not allowing myself to see the other service opportunities in my community. If I wouldn’t have branched out, I would have never found the local soup kitchen where I have served breakfast every Friday for eight months. Finding an opportunity that makes you excited and gives you something to look forward to every week is the kind of experience everyone wants to find. When you love to serve and are eager to help, both you and the people you are serving are able to reap maximum benefits.
My biggest advice throughout this process is to volunteer at a few different local places as one-time experiences, and take time to reflect after each of them. More often than not the type of service that speaks to you the most will reveal itself to you after just one time. But if it doesn’t, that’s OK too; everyone’s experience is different. I can guarantee when you find the right place for you, you will know it. Service is not always about the time you spend, but rather the love, compassion, and concern for others and for your community that you are able to give is.