Why college students should volunteer over summer break

Volunteering over summer break should be seen as an opportunity. You may be able to meet new people, offer a helping hand, and even build important relationships. When you have free time this summer, consider how volunteer work could benefit you.

1.Get real-world experience.

Every industry is in the market for free labor. As a volunteer, that is exactly what you are. But, while the company may be getting free help from you, you are gaining much more. For those who know which career path they are taking, getting this type of real-world experience is critical. If you do not know where you hope to be after graduation, this experience gives you a first-hand look at what you can expect in various careers.

2. Gain references.

All of those real-world experiences are sure to open doors to new connections for you, too. Volunteering over the summer months in an area you are interested in allows you to learn about industry leaders. You gain the opportunity to meet people who could become references for you later. These connections can make a difference when you are job hunting in a competitive field. More so, by establishing a relationship with people now — before the rest of your graduating class does — you may be more in line to get a paid internship that the organization offers to a select handful of candidates.

3. Learn hands-on skills.

Classrooms provide you with incredible information and insight, but they lack one key thing — being in the field. There is nothing quite like the experience of working in the industry of your major(s). Imagine spending your sophomore or junior summer months working in the field, learning techniques and practices. You will gain insight and experience not available in a classroom, while also building your resume. This type of industry-specific knowledge helps make you valuable to an employer down the road. However, it also allows you, right now, to start doing things you want to do professionally.

4. Qualify for college credit.

Talk to your school about specific volunteer opportunities. Some programs will allow you to gain college credit through volunteering. This can work as a non-paying internship, for example. If volunteer work can help you meet college educational requirements, it means you are spending your summer doing something very valuable for yourself and your future.

5. It feels good.

Hands down, the main reason so many young men and women volunteer is not because of what they will gain, but what they can do to help others. You may be passionate about giving back and being charitable. You may be looking to pursue aspects of servant leadership. Or, you may just want to do something meaningful with your time. It feels good to do something positive that helps others. Giving up a few hours a day each week can help change the lives of other people — albeit a charity, local food bank, wildlife rescue or any other area of interest.

Why should you, as a college student, volunteer? In short, it provides life perspective and often translates into opportunities down the road. It also can bolster your resume and make you a more viable job candidate in the future — even help you stand out from the crowd. Volunteering goes above and beyond educational knowledge; it’s real-life experience that can make a difference for everyone on the giving and receiving ends.