Benefits of Volunteering

Volunteering can be an amazing, life-enhancing experience. It is one of the surest ways to get outside oneself and explore the ways your community functions or you function in your community. It can also increase your life span. Studies show that people who volunteer live linger than those who don't. Self-exploration, helping others and living longer – what could be better?

There are opportunities for students to volunteer in both high school and college. In either case the main benefit will be the self-discovery and self-fulfillment that comes through helping others. It may be counter intuitive but it often seems that the people who serve benefit more than those who are served. Perhaps this is because helping others allows you a new frame of reference in which to see your own existence and your own problems or concerns.

Individuals in high school interested in volunteering can check with their guidance counselor, local churches or their chamber of commerce. Opportunities are myriad and really depend only on your schedule and the amount of time you're willing to commit.

A few things to avoid. Don't approach this as another chore to get through on your way to college or professional life. See it for what it is or at least can be: a chance to expand your horizons and have a positive impact on the world around you.

You'll also want to avoid the pitfalls of being a volunteer-tourist. Spending part of a summer building a school in Guatemala may sound ideal but there are definite drawbacks. First, ask yourself if your interests lie more in hooking up than helping out. Also, college admissions officers see more than their share of these tales are are quite sick of them. Impressing college admissions officers is going to be more difficult than impressing your grandparents.

For college students the benefits of volunteering are perhaps even greater. In addition to the positive gains mentioned above, college students can use volunteering to network and to subject their career plans to a reality-test. Do you really want to be a doctor? Try volunteering at a health clinic. Has it been your life dream to be a journalist? Spend a summer at a newspaper or television station. You may find that you're right on target or you may find that your career goals were unrealistic or untenable. Either way this is valuable information.

It's never too late or too early to start volunteering. You'll met people, build up your resume, learn new things and all while actively participating in community betterment. You may find that its the experience of a lifetime.