Volunteers get class credit and competitive student advantage

English: New Orleans, LA, 3-13-06 -- Volunteer...

New Orleans, LA, 3-13-06 — Volunteers  look for salvageable items in this home that was destroyed from Hurricane Katrina. Marvin Nauman/FEMA photo

Hey, working for no money is lame. But what about the time tested barter system: you work, but in exchange you get college credit for it. That works for me! Just match your major or school subjects with appropriate work in your community or abroad to gain valuable experience that you can’t get in a classroom. When you volunteer for class credit — also called service learning or experiential learning — you can teach kids, contribute to a science project with real scientists, work with nonprofit organizations, bring safe drinking water to communities around the world and a host of other cool things. And remember, internships and volunteer programs offer a student advantage by giving your resume a boost.

Benefits of community volunteering for college credits

Service learning is valuable for a number of disciplines, including education, biology, agriculture, English, geography and business. Examples of volunteering for credit include:

  • a biology major volunteers with a research project
  • an education major teaches elementary school children one semester or coaches youth sports
  • a historic preservation major works at a historic site or museum renovation
  • a communications or journalism student interviews noteworthy community movers and shakers.

“Besides the community and educational benefits, there are many advantages of service learning. It connects the world of the university with the world the university inhabits. It is giving students valuable experience. They are learning realistic and practical skills, not just reading about them,” according to “Service Learning – Earn College Credits and Get Involved In Your Community” on StateUniversity.com.

Some basic rules for volunteering to get college credits:

  • Verify with your college what the requirements are to get credits and if the credits are transferable.
  • Learn the costs to participate in volunteer work and if you need financial aid (especially programs abroad).
  • Make sure the work you are doing is related to your course of study.
  • Make sure you have an advisor, teacher or team leader to oversee your work and report your academic achievements and progress.
  • Write a research paper or report of your work or keep a log of your duties.
  • Above all, recognize that you’re the kind of person who is willing to work hard, take responsibility and apply a skill in the real world.

“More than one-fourth of four-year colleges and universities and more than half of community colleges have formal service learning programs,” wrote Melody Brumble in “Fewer college students volunteer their time,” for USAToday.com January 22, 2012. Like volunteering in general on a national level, students volunteering to earn college credits are on the decline. But there are always people who need extra help and want to share their knowledge, so available seats on projects should be easier to get.

Volunteer abroad for college credit

For the more adventurous of us, a trip to another country might be the ticket. Expand your horizons, as they say. Volunteer abroad programs “generally range from two weeks to one semester, and often take the form of internship, independent study, or research programs. Credit is arranged on a case-by-case basis via the university, or offered through a partnership with a volunteer abroad program,” according to Sarah Palmer in the July 23, 2012 article, “Volunteering Abroad for College Credit” in GoOverseas.com.

For example, the Up with People organization conducts tours to such countries as Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, USA and Mexico. Affiliated with universities in Massachusetts, Florida, Wisconsin and Hawaii, it offers transferable college credits in communications, conflict management, business management, intercultural communication and contemporary leadership.

Here are a few other volunteer abroad programs that offer college credit:

  • Red Cross
  • CloudForestSchool
  • GoAbroad
  • Global Crossroad
  • Humanity Exchange
  • Student Conservation Association

Where would you like to volunteer if you knew you could get college credit for it? Let us know in the comments below!

6 replies
  1. Kyle says:

    I would like to volunteer in my local hospital (not necessarily with research), or online helping people to learn how to use their computers.

  2. Jacob Grossklaus says:

    Normally I do not read article on blogs, nevertheless I wish to say that this write-up really forced me to look at and do so! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thanks, quite fantastic post.

  3. Michelle Macon says:

    I would like to find out more information about volunteering and getting a college degree. I have been volunteering at Northwest Assistance Ministries as a crisis advocate in the Family Violence Sexual Assault Center for over a year now. I love what I do and want to make a career heloping others with resources to change their life altering circumstances with positive reinforcement to not repeat that dysfunctional cycle of abusive in all areas. I, myself, have had life experience in the same trauma. This has given me the passion to give assistance in changing the old tapes that play in your head and change your perspective of their worth.


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