A Volunteer How-To

Filed under: College Life, Volunteering and Giving Back - BookRenter Team
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By guest blogger Serena Piper
Journalism major at the University of Oregon. Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus Oregon. Magazine, freelance blogger, future world traveler. In her spare time, she likes to read as many books as she can, go for long drives, and peruse news websites. Hopes to one day write for National Geographic.

Extracurricular requirements can play a pretty big part in our college career. Whether or not we’ve done any volunteering shows future employers not only what we’re passionate about, but also that we took on the extra effort, even though we may have already been swamped with our class load or part-time job. Luckily, there is no requirement for how long you have to volunteer at an organization (although it is preferable that you stick with it for longer than, say, 3 weeks); they can always use the extra help.

What’s even luckier is that there are many organizations central to a lot of different cities, so no matter where you are for school, if you find one you like, you can stick with it long after you’ve graduated! Like, for example…


This non-profit organization’s mission is to match a mentor with a mentee age 6-18, and help improve youth self-esteem through one-to-one relationships. Mentors and mentees hang out once per week and do fun things like rock-climbing, white water rafting, and attending sports events. Bonus: they even offer college credit!


If you volunteer for the Humane Society, you have the opportunity to walk and play with the animals. Photo by Travel Salem.

If you’re living in the dorms and policy says you can’t have an animal, the Humane Society is your ticket to cuddling up with a furry buddy. Volunteers are the keys to adoption at the Humane Society. Who exercises the animals and makes them more sociable and adoptable? Volunteers. What better way to spend your free time than helping a critter find its new home?


Another non-profit organization that supports the people and programs that help adults learn to read and write, ProLiteracy works not just in the U.S, but internationally as well. Volunteers help with G.E.D. preparation and English as a second language, and assist middle schoolers/high schoolers with test preparation in reading, writing, and mathematics.

What you should know before volunteering:

  • When you find an organization you like, be up front on your volunteer application. Let them know what your time commitment is and of any schedule restraints you have.
  • Sometimes you’re going to get a little dirty! Unless you choose to volunteer in a nice clean office, you might get a little muddy or a little hairy. For example, if you don’t want to chance ruining your favorite pair of Levis, you might not want to volunteer at a horse ranch. Try to find an organization where you’ll be less concerned with what you look like, and more concerned with the mission at hand.
  • Attitude is everything. Find an organization you actually like, otherwise it won’t be as pleasant an experience as it could be. Remember you’re there to help in any way you can, so if you show some enthusiasm, there’s always the possibility of a letter of recommendation, or even a job offer down the road.
  • Don’t assume that just because you’re one person, you can’t make a difference. No, you aren’t Superman, but as cheesy as it sounds, you might be exactly that to a youth at risk, or an animal needing advocacy. One person can get a lot done, so don’t underestimate yourself and your ability to contribute!

How to Connect:

If you still haven’t found what you are looking for, head over to volunteermatch.org. They’ve got a whole archive of opportunities so you’re bound to find something you like.

Good luck with your search!

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