How Do I Leverage My Community Service Experience in College?

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Developing a heart for community service helps more than just those served as many college bound, high school students have begun to figure out. Students who participate in these activities experience levels of personal development that they would have a hard time gaining from most academic curricula. The connections with people from all types of socio-economic backgrounds and cultures as well as the skills that they often learn from service activities help to prepare them for life beyond college. Here are some specific examples of how serving the community can pay off in a big way during and after college.

Gain Valuable Work Experience While Serving the Community

Working with like minded people on projects for which one is passionate is often a welcome break from the narrow confines of university class rooms. However, students who participate in these service related projects continue to learn skills that they can often use throughout their lives. For example, nursing or health science students can obtain work experience while still in college when they volunteer to care for seniors at assisted living facilities. Education majors who offer to tutor children through community outreach organizations gain verifiable experience for future teaching opportunities. Additionally, computer science and engineering students can hone both professional and leadership skills while providing computer support for businesses started by their community’s low income residents or teaching technical skills to seniors. These service positions are most often coordinated by well known and respected non-profit organizations like VolunteerMatch and Jumpstart, and the students’ work can help lay the foundation for future professional reference requests.

Seek Opportunities to Network With Community Leaders

Some students graduate from university degree programs without the necessary contacts to gain desirable jobs in their chosen career fields, but this is likely not the case for students who have invested their time serving their community. A community’s most active, effective and influential leaders may not be the ones that are visible for all to see on the city’s website, but a service focused student may come into contact with these real movers and shakers within their community while participating in their favorite projects. While these students are not guaranteed career opportunities because of who they know, name recognition by these leaders is helpful when competing for jobs. Even if the student is known for excellent work on community projects that are not associated with their career field, their contacts will likely relate the person’s good qualities to other people who may be able to help the recent graduate professionally.

Make Service Activities Double as Academic Projects

Even party prone college students understand that time is valuable, and having an enjoyable community activity that can provide information for an academic research project is considered a winning proposition for all. For example, agricultural science students may have a project that investigates urban farming techniques and results. Students who volunteer as community garden coordinators may already have enough information to begin documenting their project’s report.

Conclusion

Today’s customer oriented, global business environment rewards companies that include corporate responsibility and social consciousness initiatives into their business models because these efforts often reflect the values and passions of the majority of their customers. Subsequently, students who excel at both academics and community service appear very attractive to many of the top tier universities who want to enroll students with the most potential to make positive social and economic changes locally and abroad.

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