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University Volunteer Programs: Importance and Benefits

Every university in the world worth its salt offers a good choice of university volunteer programs, in- or off-campus. Academics know just how and why these opportunities have real-life benefits for students, but engaging college volunteers can be challenging. Students tend to resist things that don't offer instant gratification and a fun university experience. Volunteerism requires commitment, long hours, and a whole set of yet undeveloped skills that will serve later in life.

Importance of University Volunteer Programs by the Numbers

Countless studies and surveys reveal that participation in higher education volunteer programs is critical for students' future. Volunteering for any cause during the college years may be a significant advantage when seeking a job. Here are some figures from the 2016 Deloitte Impact Survey Report:

  • 82% of employers are more likely to choose a candidate with volunteering experience;

  • 85% of employers may overlook other CV flaws when a candidate includes volunteer work;

  • 80% of employers say that active volunteers are more likely to move into leadership roles.

The takeaway: volunteering enhances the chances to land an interview while applicants with other skills but no volunteering may get overlooked.

University volunteer programs are crucial for the students engaged in volunteerism and impact the communities they serve.

Real-Life University Volunteer Programs Examples

The University of Northern Iowa partners with the Volunteer Center of Cedar Valley (VCCV) to provide students with service-learning opportunities in the community. For example, students can volunteer to serve on the board of directors of nonprofit organizations. From such a position, volunteers will improve their leadership skills, gain business experience, learn about fundraising, interact with like-minded people, develop new ideas, and much more.

The University of Montana has a variety of university volunteering programs, including and not limited to:

  • single-day service projects with local nonprofit organizations,

  • long-term tutoring placements with area elementary schools, and

  • week-long intensive service-learning programs across the United States.

These opportunities correlate with the university curriculum, helping students understand the relevance of what they learn increasing their likelihood of graduating.

Otterbein University has a broader spectrum of volunteering opportunities for students; some are as easy as walking a dog, while others involve more advanced skill sets. Here are some examples:

  • America Reads is a weekly after-school tutoring program to help second-graders with reading skills. Student volunteers learn effective methods of literacy education then help the children with vocabulary, grammar, and reading fluency.

  • Volunteering for the Association of Fundraising Professionals introduces students to aspects of nonprofit organizations while improving their fundraising, volunteerism, and philanthropy skillsets.

  • The Beat is for volunteers who understand the importance of music in children's lives and want to promote the future of music in schools.

  • Grandma's House is a volunteering program bringing together students and senior citizens to foster inter-generational understanding through recreational activities, themed parties, and bingo games.

These are some examples essential in understanding how different university volunteer programs can benefit students.

Benefits of Higher Education Volunteering

To persuade students to volunteer, it is essential to highlight the benefits of such activities, and the list is quite extensive. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Communication skills: By interacting with different individuals, including teammates, other volunteers, NGO staff, teachers, trainers, and community members, students develop better communication skills.

  • Leadership skills: Student volunteers often participate in service-learning opportunities, which helps them improve on or gain leadership skills. Such opportunities prepare them for leadership roles and rewarding careers.

  • Accountability and commitment: Students understand that volunteering is not something you do to pass the time. Instead, it's a promise: I'll be there; you can count on me. People depend on the volunteers and keep them accountable. Therefore, volunteers must commit to the job to make a difference. This skill set will serve later in life when they join the workforce when their employers hold them accountable for their work.

  • Health and life balance: Some of the documented outcomes of volunteering include increased life satisfaction, self-esteem, and happiness, while depressive symptoms and psychological distress are lower. Studies reveal that volunteering can lead to many other health benefits. At the same time, it can "help accrue genuine supportive relationships and social integration, self-worth, a sense of mattering, and life meaning."

In conclusion, students should actively seek to participate in college and higher education volunteering programs not to beef up a resume but as an actual means of bettering their lives and planning for a successful career.

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