University offers us many amazing benefits that go far beyond our academic studies. We know the nightlife can be amazing, and there are plenty of societies that we can join to make friends and pursue our interests.
A lot of our extracurricular activities can improve our employability – which is essential to standing out as a graduate. More universities are offering formal volunteering opportunities for students looking to improve their skills while giving back.
What’s more, volunteering is great for your CV and your future chances of employment. In fact, putting volunteering on your CV can increase your chances of getting a job by one-third!
Here, we’ll cover some of the ways you can get involved in volunteering when you start university.
Get involved with your student union
Many universities’ student unions have organised volunteering opportunities. This means they’re easy to access, and you can even receive formal recognition for your hard work. You could volunteer for the student union or another not-for-profit cause within the university, like equality societies. Alternatively, you could utilise the university’s charity partnerships to work with some of the country’s leading charitable organisations.
If you join your student union, you could take part in organising freshers’ activities, from helping new students move into their accommodation to organising social events. Not only will this help you with your organisational and communication skills, but it can also help you meet lots of new people – and we know making new friends is an essential part of university life!
Volunteer with local charities
If you’re passionate about a particular issue, why not approach a charity directly to enquire about volunteering opportunities? Not-for-profit organisations are always on the lookout for passionate supporters who are keen to contribute to their cause.
There are many different types of charities you could look to volunteer for. Whether it’s animal welfare or fighting homelessness, local charities will benefit the most.
Charities like animal shelters often look for volunteers who can help to look after animals or organise donation drives. These organisations often need vital supplies for animals, like beds, blankets, food, and toys. Organising fundraising events can be a rewarding experience, and you’ll have the knowledge that you’ve helped out vulnerable animals who need love and support.
Charities like the Edinburgh Cat and Dog Home often have vacancies for foodbank volunteers, who will manage pop-up events dedicated to collecting these vital supplies. If you drive, there are also opportunities to collect supplies, which can make giving donations easier for those who don’t have their own mode of transport.
If you’re lucky, there may also be opportunities to walk dogs and play with the animals, so you can give them the love and attention they need!
Charities with shops
If you have retail experience, why not translate that into working in a charity shop? These stores are critical for generating income for charities both large and small but can be expensive to run and rely on volunteers.
Roles within charity shops can vary from store assistant to supervisor – so if you’re studying for a business management degree, this is a great opportunity to hone your leadership skills.
The current generation of school and college leavers is hugely passionate about social issues. If you’re passionate about eradicating poverty or racism, committing to a cause that fights these injustices is a perfect choice.
Volunteering for these types of charities can come in many forms. Charities like Show Racism the Red Card, which operates in England, Scotland, and Wales, seek volunteers to attend fundraising events and act as the face of the organisation. There are also opportunities to get involved in educational work with schoolchildren – a great option if you see yourself with a future in education.
Use your existing skills
Volunteering has many benefits, from contributing to an important cause to honing skills. But sometimes you can use your existing skills to find the right opportunity that will help you develop more skills.
Were you the friend at school who always helped your peers with their coursework, homework, and exam revision? Why not turn that skill into tutoring? You could help local children who are struggling with school but can’t afford a paid personal tutor, or you could even help out your fellow university attendees who may struggle to keep up with their own curricula.
Equally, if you’re a technical whizz, you could spend your time digitally enabling people who don’t have the everyday digital skills to succeed in this technology-driven world. Services like Volunteer Scotland and Volunteering Matters offer these types of opportunities. As well as utilising your existing skills, you’ll be able to develop soft skills like empathy and communication. These are just as important as your academic skills, with 95% of UK managers supporting this claim.
University is a time for learning, pleasure, and so much more. While many of us will go, primarily, to pursue the subject and the career that we’re most passionate about, there are plenty of other opportunities on offer. Why not utilise your university’s volunteering arm or seek out your own opportunities for fulfilment and skills development during your time there?