Gaining real-world work experience through volunteering is a great way for students to build skills, increase employability and enjoy a range of other benefits.
Volunteer organisations are crying out for student volunteers to help deliver programs in all sectors. From health care, business, event management to teaching, the beauty of volunteering is its broad scope, accessibility, and flexibility around other commitments. And best of all, you often don’t need any specific volunteer skills - just a positive attitude.
In this article, we’ll look at the main benefits of student volunteering, while answering the important question: how does volunteering help you as a student?
1. Meet New People
Volunteering is a great way to extend your social network and connect with other people who share a common goal and similar passions but perhaps different backgrounds.
Volunteering provides regular social interaction outside of the school environment, and is proven to improve brain function, increase mental health and life expectancy. It can also help increase students' social awareness and build connections throughout the community that can lead to a more cohesive and inclusive society. In fact, according to Track it Forward, volunteering helps connect individuals to their community, which can lower the mortality rate by 2.7%!
2. Become A Leader
Volunteering provides students with many opportunities to hone their leadership skills. When you are passionate about a cause, developing leadership skills is a natural side effect. Some students might find some hidden talents, learning that they thrive working in a team, organising groups, giving instructions and teaching others. While others may seek to develop skills in the administrative side of leadership, by taking on tasks such as streamlining rostering or training using volunteering management software such as Rosterfy.
Regular volunteers, regardless of their age, are often trusted with important roles, giving students a chance to develop their confidence and communication skills, while being treated like a valued member of a team. Taking initiative is a hard skill to train, but a trusting and supportive manager will encourage students to speak up when they think something could be improved.
3. Give back to the community
“Be the change you wish to see in the world,” rings especially true for students volunteering.
At its most basic, volunteering is about using your passion to give back to those in need and contributing to community resources. It’s an extremely rewarding experience to be able to give your time and skills to help others, engage in civic responsibility and impact the world positively. And the sense of satisfaction is something that’s hard to replicate in the workforce.
Students may also find that volunteering can help them put their own problems such as exam stress into perspective. Volunteering may even introduce students to new cultures or cross-sections of society that they wouldn’t otherwise get to meet, thus broadening perspectives and understanding of the world.
When deciding where to give their time, students should focus on what they are really passionate about and how their skills could create value at an organisation.
4. Students volunteering stand out from the crowd
Students volunteering gain valuable experience that they can add to their CV or LinkedIn. While every job teaches important skills, taking on volunteer work can set students apart from the competition.
Employers will look very favourably on students volunteer work experience, as it gives an insight into the type of person a student is away from work. It can also help employers see if the candidate will be a cultural fit with the team, which is extremely important in today’s highly collaborative workplaces.
On top of that, volunteering gives students the opportunity to put what they learn in the classroom into practice. This is especially useful in highly practical fields such as health care or teaching. They’ll be one step ahead when it comes to entering the workplace, already equipped with some of the key skills needed for the role.
5. Improve mental and physical health
University students living away from home for the first time may find it hard to maintain a healthy diet and exercise on top of keeping up with their studies. They may also be suffering from homesickness, loneliness and anxiety as they adapt to their new phase of life.
So perhaps the biggest benefit that students can gain from volunteering is the positive boost to mental and physical health. A recent study from NCVO found that 77% of volunteers benefited from improved mental health after volunteering, with just over half (53%) saying it had improved their physical health too. And it makes sense, with many volunteer roles involving physical activities such as walking, setting up and packing down events, manning drink stations at sporting events, playing with children at camps and more.
6. Achieve a balance
There’s no denying it - school and university can be a stressful time. The pressure to do well in exams can overwhelm some students, while others find the pressure to choose a career path too much.
While hobbies such as playing sports and spending time with friends can help reduce stress, volunteering is another way to find a healthy balance away from the books. We know volunteering helps improve mental and physical health, and taking time to get away from studies while doing something meaningful can often be the mental reset students need. Getting involved with volunteering from a young age encourages students to become socially-minded individuals at every stage in life.
7. Work in a team
Since volunteering is collaborative in nature, it’s a great way to gain experience working in a team. Many workplaces are shifting towards cross-functional collaborative teams, so being able to give concrete examples of working in a team to future employers will be a big plus.
While at university, students will be used to socialising with other students similar to them. However, volunteering attracts people from all ages, walks of life and backgrounds, just like in the real world. Getting used to working with people from diverse backgrounds is important for boosting patience, empathy, understanding and communication skills - all important soft skills that employers look for.
8. Students volunteering can test out a career
Often students choose to study a degree without really knowing what the career entails. Perhaps it’s what their parents do, or they think it sounds interesting, or it was simply a subject they were good at during school. But without gaining real-world experience in the career, it might end up being a big waste of time and money.
Volunteering is the best way to test out a career alongside studies, and determine whether it really is a good fit.
Many companies offer short-term internships or placements, giving students a foot in the door at potential future employers. This is a great way to understand more about the industry, and ask people in the industry more about their jobs and career paths.
Alternatively, volunteering with charity or non profits who run programs in students’ chosen fields are always looking for volunteers to help deliver their services. This is a great way to get out there and meet people, while understanding a bit more about what the job entails, both good and bad!
And don’t forget, opportunities for online volunteer work for students are ever-increasing, especially for IT tasks such as web development, social media, and graphic design.
9. Discover new places
When it comes to volunteering locations, the world is at your feet. Students with itchy feet may want to take the opportunity to combine volunteering with travel and seek opportunities abroad.
There is no shortage of places that are looking for volunteers overseas, in all disciplines. Students who are interested in working with kids could travel to Vietnam and teach English to schoolchildren, or those interested in the environment may want to visit South Africa and get involved with conservation efforts.
Volunteering overseas is a unique way to learn about other countries and cultures whilst simultaneously giving back and meeting new people. More often than not, students volunteering overseas will be travelling as part of a student volunteer program that organises the placement and room and board for the duration of the stay.
Let’s not forget, there are many volunteer opportunities closer to home that also help students discover new places. From beach clean ups to outdoor volunteering at sporting events, it’s highly likely that every opportunity will be a chance to see a place from a fresh perspective.
10. Students volunteering have fun!
Last but not least, volunteering is fun! It is a chance for students to get away from the daily grind of lectures and studying, meet new people, learn new skills and gain a sense of accomplishment and pride. Volunteering student opportunities are often priceless experiences: from getting backstage access to the Super Bowl, to organising games at a children's camp, or selling raffle tickets at a star-studded conference, volunteering is anything but boring!
Why should students volunteer?
The benefits of volunteer work for students are numerous; from health, to career prospects and social networks, volunteering is a fantastic extra-curricular activity for students to get involved with.
And best of all, there’s no shortage of volunteer opportunities, so students will always be able to find a cause they are passionate about to lend their time and skills to.
To find these opportunities, check out:
- The best places to find volunteer opportunities in your area.
- 12 different types of volunteer work you might not know about
- 7 different ways to volunteer outdoors
Rosterfy exists to connect volunteers to events and causes they're passionate about through our end-to-end volunteer management solution.