Having college students volunteer in your organization can be a wonderful way to accomplish important tasks while providing students with real-world work experiences. However, not all college student volunteers are the same. College students volunteer for a variety of reasons. It is important for community organizations to understand these reasons so that they can be sure to recruit the type of student volunteer who will be most helpful to them.
Internships typically place a single student in a community organization with the intention that the student will be provided with specific work experiences related to the student’s intended profession. Internships may or may not be connected to educational programs and academic credit.
Community organizations that sponsor interns may be expected by the university to provide specified learning experiences and to provide intern supervisors who hold specific professional credentials. Internships may last between two and nine months, be part- or full-time commitments and are paid or unpaid opportunities. Some internships are paid, and the organization is expected to contribute this amount; however, most campuses offer students the opportunity to complete unpaid internships for academic credit.
- Interns can sometimes provide skilled services (e.g., creating a website, database management).
- Interns often work a large number of hours each week (e.g., 20 or 40) for a single semester (i.e., three months) or for an entire academic year (i.e., nine months).
- Intern supervisors must typically provide ongoing supervision across extended periods of time, which in the short-term may increase the supervisor’s workload.
- Internship requirements vary greatly from university to university, and even across departments within the same university, making it sometimes challenging for community organizations to know what is expected of them as internship supervisors.
For more information, visit VCU Career Services.
Federal work-study is a government subsidized and needs-based employment program for students with financial need that allows them to earn wages in special student employment positions, typically up to 20 hours per week.
Many universities approve a list of off-campus, community-based work-study positions that enable qualified students to work within local community organizations. Because the federal government pays a portion of the student’s hourly wage, the community organizations realizes a significant cost savings when it employs a work-study student.
- The student typically remains on the job for at least one academic year and can return to the same position for multiple years.
- Community organizations can typically interview more than one work-study student applicant and select the student who best fits the needs of the organization.
- Organizations must be flexible in scheduling the student’s work hours around his/her class schedule.
- Typically, organizations must pay a portion of the student’s wages.
- Organizations must hire only those students who qualify for the work-study award and must be approved annually by the university as a community work-study site.
- Typically, work-study hiring occurs only once a year in August and September.
For more information, visit VCU Federal Community-Based Work Study Office.
Service-learning courses integrate community service with an academic for-credit course. Students in a service-learning course complete required community service activities that relate to what they are learning in the classroom.
- Community organizations often develop long-term relationships with the university faculty member who teaches the class, thereby enabling a steady supply of student volunteers.
- In their classrooms, students are learning about the social issue addressed by the community organization.
- The student volunteers are typically dependable because the service is connected to their academic studies.
- Long-term planning with the course instructor (i.e., three to six months before the volunteers arrive) is often necessary to ensure that the service activities completed by the students meet the organization’s needs and match the course content.
- Students are typically involved in the service-learning course for only a single three-month semester, so a new group of students must be oriented every few months.
For more information on service-learning opportunities, visit servicelearning.vcu.edu.
Most campuses offer opportunities for students to join clubs that match their interests, and some of these clubs provide volunteer hours to the community. In fact, some student groups require their members to participate in a specified number of service hours each year.
- Student clubs can host fundraising events.
- Student clubs can provide a targeted short- or long-term service across one or more academic years.
- Student clubs rally a large number of volunteers for special projects, sometimes on a short-notice basis.
- Communication challenges due to frequent changes in student leadership.
- Possible inconsistent participation by students due to academic class demands.
For more information, visit University Student Commons & Activities.