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What are the Best Ideas for College Community Service?

Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands

College community service projects that help needy populations are among the best community service ideas. A few very worthy efforts include volunteering at homeless shelters, local after-school literacy programs and hospitals. Other ideas for volunteering are easy to find through community service clubs or community service websites. Volunteering time to people in need is always a rewarding experience for college students, as well as the individuals they seek to help.

Also among the best community service ideas are the ones that directly relate to a student’s area of career interest while, at the same time, fulfilling a need in the community. Students may volunteer their time for a variety of different reasons. Some perform college community service for college credit, others perform required community service per a scholarship agreement or as a way to gain experience within a chosen career interest. Others volunteer because of a passionate need to help others.

Volunteering at a homeless shelter can be a rewarding college community service.
Volunteering at a homeless shelter can be a rewarding college community service.

Just about every community has a hospital, a neighborhood health clinic or a hospice that can likely use volunteers. Often, systems are already in place to allow college students to help with various administrative and outreach efforts. Where these opportunities are not organized or are not well-staffed, a good college community service project can include helping to shape these volunteer programs. By doing so, programs may live on long after students graduate and lay the foundation for more students to participate in the future.

Volunteering to help children develop literacy skills is a popular college community service option.
Volunteering to help children develop literacy skills is a popular college community service option.

No matter how affluent the city where a college is located, in most parts of the world poverty is not too far away. Community service ideas that address the needs of the impoverished in local communities are always a welcome effort. Feeding the homeless, volunteering to collect school supplies for low-income children or helping to sponsor a community garden filled with fresh fruits and vegetables are all very worthy ideas for a college community service project.

Some college students perform community service for academic credit.
Some college students perform community service for academic credit.

Literacy projects are always very good college community service activities. Helping children and adults learn to read opens a world of opportunity to these individuals. At the same time, these types of activities can instill a sense of purpose in a student’s life. Also, many younger students struggle with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia and dyscalculia. Volunteering to teach new ways of learning despite these disabilities can be rewarding.

Discussion Comments


@julies - I find it interesting how you mentioned how much your daughter gained from her community service experience.

I got into some trouble in high school, and had to spend a summer doing community service.

As you can imagine, I did not have a very good attitude about it, and thought it was a big waste of a good summer vacation.

I ended up helping with some kids at a YMCA program. I can't say that my attitude changed right away, but I did find myself getting kind of attached to some of those kids.

At least by the end of the summer, I realized the importance of something like this. That was a long time ago, and I still like to volunteer in ways around my community that make a difference for others.


When my daughter was in college she used her talents and shared them with inner city kids in an after school program.

She is very active in drama and local community theater and shared her passion for this with these kids.

It was a great way for them to express themselves as they acted out different plays they wrote. By being involved with the whole process, they were much more interested in the end result.

They actually wrote their own scripts and then acted them out. I think she gained as much from this as the kids did, and she still keeps in touch with some of them.


@lonelygod - I have found that college community service programs and high school community service programs really teach individuals the value of volunteering and help those less fortunate. It is unfortunate though that some students are forced into the service or face failing their programs.

I wonder if there is a better way to go about getting students involved in community service without linking it to credits earned?

I think that in the case of community service for high school students that hours required for community service should be decided on a case by case basis. If a kid has a real job they should be required to do less.


When I was in college we had a lot of community service learning worked into our last year courses. It seemed like all of our professors wanted us to get out and help an organization as part of our final projects. While I think this sort of community service is great for the individuals being helped, it seems a bit unfair to me to force students to do community service as part of their program.

We still had to attend all of our classes as normal, plus figure out a way to schedule in another 10 hours a week of community service to complete our projects. I feel like some teachers forget that most college students also work too.


@JaneAir - I don't think that all volunteer positions have that kind of application process. It really depends on what it is. I know if you want to volunteer at a hospital or with kids, you will have to probably get a background check.

Which I can totally understand! There are a lot of good people out there who just want to volunteer, but there might be other people that have more sinister reasons for wanting to be around children and/or sick people.


@starrynight - That's great for your friend. I personally don't think it's a problem if your youth community service helps you get a job later. It seems like a win-win for everyone involved, you know?

I just wanted to say that sometimes it's not that easy to volunteer. I was looking into volunteering for a local organization awhile ago, and they wanted me to fill out an application and provide references and go through an interview! Personally it was just too much effort for me to put in to basically work for free. I'm looking around for other opportunities now.


I know this isn't really the point behind student community service, but it can look great on a resume. Seriously great! I actually have a friend who bar-tended for a year after college instead of getting a regular job. She just wasn't ready to enter the "real world" and she was making more as a bartender than if she had gotten an entry level job in her field.

However, she spent a lot of her daytime hours doing community service. She got a ton of great experience, and she was able to put it all on her resume. In fact, her volunteer experience actually helped her get the job she has now, which she loves!


@JimmyT - It has been a while since I have looked for any community service opportunities, but I know when I was in school, they actually had a spot on the website pointing people to different opportunities. They also had summer community service trips that you could sign up for. I am not personally familiar with any specific online resources, though, but maybe someone else is.

Does anyone know whether college fraternities and sororities are still required to participate in community service activities? The college I went to was huge into the Greek system, and I know that was a big part of getting in and staying a member. They did a lot to help out some of the various organizations in the region.


@cardsfan27 - I agree. Habitat is a great way to get involved, and you can usually find a group closeby.

The article mentioned that community service can be required of a scholarship recipient, but a lot of times, having a good community service record makes you more appealing to scholarship committees. I know when I was in school, that was something everyone always asked was how you were involved in the community.

That being said, I know some people that would be scared off by having to do something that they weren't familiar with. I was wondering if anyone knew of any online resources to help students find different opportunities to get community service hours. Something maybe that was broken down by the skill sets needed or hours per week.


I think the best idea my professor ever had was to make us early childhood education students become babysitters for a month. We got some real-life experience, and many of us were unprepared for dealing with children one-on-one.

The professor registered us with a babysitting service, and we all found jobs. I don't know if he did this on purpose, but we got some of the most difficult children to babysit! Mine was used to getting his way all the time, and I had to do some serious mental manipulation to manage him.

This provided us with a bit of wisdom on how to handle unruly children. I know that dealing with an entire classroom will be different, but I feel like if I could handle one of the worst, I could take on the whole group.


@titans62 - That sounds like fun. I wish we would have had something like that where I was. The problem I had was that I went to a smaller college in a smaller community, so there wasn't as much to do as far as community service organizations went. What we did have, though, and what I think a lot of places have was Habitat for Humanity.

Basically, they are the ones responsible for building homes for disadvantages families. The best part is that, even though you're building a house, you don't really need a lot of carpentry skills to start with.

I knew a little bit going in, but learned a lot more by the time I was done. They always have plenty of experienced people on hand to train you how to do things and make sure they're being done right. They can also cater your responsibilities to your skills. Even people who had hardly touched a hammer in their life were able to be utilized.


@wavy58 – That sounds like fun. I also participated in a food related project in college that benefited the community, but it wasn't quite as hands-on as yours.

I studied cooking and restaurant management. Along with the other students, we ran a restaurant for two months during the summer. Our professor was there to help us out, but we did most of the planning and cooking.

We all took turns with the various duties. Everyone had a chance to cook, be a waiter, be a hostess, and do the dishes. We got to see what it was like to work in every area of the business.

The meals were free to the public. Because of this, people were required to make reservations. It was a very popular idea.


These are some really good suggestions. I know when I was in college, there were tons of different opportunities, and I tried to help out where I could.

I think probably the funnest thing I got to do was help local grade schools with science projects. It started out as a way to get extra credit for a chemistry class, but a lot of people really liked it and kept doing it.

Basically, what we did was create a few simple experiments and then show up to the schools and try to teach the kids about different science concepts. The best part was that you could choose the grade level to help with. I'm not great with really young kids, so I went to sixth through eight grade rooms. They also knew more to start with, so we could do a little more interesting experiments.

A lot a community service opportunities exist when you're in college. You just have to go out and look for them sometimes.


I know several nursing and occupational therapy students who helped at my grandmother's nursing home as part of a community service project. This experience really separated the dedicated from the casual students, and several of them switched majors after this.

I think that many of the kids had no idea what they would encounter in their field. Seeing that they would have to change diapers of the elderly and take control of confused and agitated patients changed some of their minds right away.

Some people are just born helpers. The students that did the best at the nursing home went on to have successful careers in the field, and they kept coming back to visit the residents, not because they had to, but just because they had come to care for them.


When I was in college, all the agriculture students got together to plan a community garden. We chose plants, fertilizers, and irrigation methods, and we made and maintained the whole thing.

The garden was intended for those below the poverty line. They were welcome to come and pick vegetables anytime.

We also picked a lot of the produce and donated it to shelters. Workers there used the produce to prepare meals for the needy, and sometimes they just let them eat tomatoes and peppers raw, if they wished.

The whole project was very fun and educational. I feel better prepared to plan my own garden now, and I feel good knowing that the community benefited from my work.

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      By: wjarek
      Volunteering at a homeless shelter can be a rewarding college community service.
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