Thinking Ahead: Volunteering

Posted by Megan on April 7, 2014

Journey to the Centre of York

Good morning readers!

Today I wanted to talk a little about the importance of volunteering in university. For incoming students, I’m sure you can remember the required 40 hours of service in order to graduate from high school. I’m not sure if it was just my high school or not, but I remember that the majority of students (myself included) approached the situation with ‘Ugh, 40 hours? This sucks…‘ which is pretty silly because that’s only 10 hours of personal time for each year of high school – out of approximately4080… (save yourself the math, it’s far less than even 1% of the total time).

Anyways, I really think the perspective of most students starts to change in university. You start to learn more about different cultures and beliefs. You have access to information that really challenges how you see the world. On top of that, especially in your later university years, you begin to realise how important it is to accumulate volunteer experience. The experience and reference letters that you get are invaluable – not only for personal development but also for grad school and future careers. Volunteering is one main component in becoming a well-rounded student.

What are the other benefits to volunteering?

According to World Volunteer Web some benefits include: learning or developing a new skill, being a part of your community, motivation and a sense of achievement, boosting your career options, finding new interests or hobbies, having new experiences, and meeting a diverse range of people.

But beyond that they are even MORE benefits. According to an article on HelpGuide, volunteering also:

  • Increases your social and relationship skills
  • Increases your self confidence
  • Combats depression (this is well documented in studies)
  • Helps  keep you physically healthy

You really can’t underestimate the power of volunteering!

Alright, so where can I volunteer on campus? 

There are tons of different places you can volunteer on campus. Your best bet is to scan the Career Centre volunteer postings, and also check out the clubs and organizations on YU Connect that need volunteers. You can even put your hours in YU Connect so it can keep track of them for you!

So to elaborate – you can volunteer for York – whether through SCLD, YFS, etc. You can also volunteer with most of the clubs doing tabling. There are also charities/organizations with chapters on campus that can always use help.

What about volunteering off campus?

A lot of cities have volunteer listing websites, but assuming you are from the GTA, some great sites include:…/volunteers/find-volunteer-listings.apsx

And you can also just do Google searches for some of the well known groups such as YMCA/YWCA, Habitat for Humanity, etc.

How much should I volunteer? 

Some people prefer to volunteer consistently and I think that this is a more practical/beneficial option in the long term. My suggestion is to try to volunteer weekly or every two weeks with the same organization. Aim for 6 months – 1 year minimum before you consider leaving the organization. Most volunteer positions only require 2-4 hours a week, so you might be able to hold a couple positions at a time, depending on your other commitments.

You can also volunteer in chunks. At York specifically, you can  do this by volunteering your time for different events like York’s Birthday, or YorkFest. While 1 chunk of volunteering might not look that impressive on a resume, you will still have a good experience, and consistent ‘chunks’ of volunteering can still add up to a pretty fine resume!

For those that are curious about grad school or career options, it really varies. The most I’ve seen a program or career ask for is about 3 reference letters where they preferred at least a year in the position. This could be done as 3 positions in one year, or 1 different position for 3 years. Personally, I haven’t been able to fit volunteering in my life just yet, but when I start over the summer/early Fall, I will be aiming for 2 different weekly positions. The following year I will either remain with the same two or change 1 of them to a new position.

Well that’s all for this post. What are your thoughts on volunteering? Are you on the fence? Have you noticed benefits in your own life? Let’s start a discussion below!




Megan is a third-year Psychology student. Follow her on her journey of self-development as she explores and ventures through campus.

See other posts by Megan