9 Best Volunteer Ideas for College Students

Are you a college student looking for a great volunteer opportunity? We have 10 great ideas to help you get started today. Volunteering can be a great way for you to get experience before you have the necessary skills on your resume for a paid internship or job. It also is great for your mental health. Studies show that volunteering has been linked to reducing stress, anxiety and depression. We can all benefit from that!

My recommendation is to find a social issue that you are passionate about and find an opportunity that matches your passion. The list below will cover 9 different social issues, so hopefully one will stand out to you.

We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a thousand points of light…we all have something to give.

– President George H.W. Bush, Founder of Points of Light

Best Volunteer Ideas for College Students

1. Environment: Clean Water, Climate Change, Etc…

As you probably know, one of the easiest ways to impact the environment is to make changes in your daily behavior. However, if you want to do more there are many organizations that welcome volunteers to make a bigger impact.

  • World Wildlife Fund – WWF’s mission is “to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature.” This organization has many ways for you to get involved including their Panda Ambassador Program. Panda Ambassadors help educate and inspire others to make changes that will positively impact our environment.
  • Paper for Water – Host an origami ornament folding party to raise money that will help bring clean water to those in need. This non-profit was started by two young sisters in 2011. It has many great ideas that you can implement to help educate and raise money to combat the clean water crisis.
  • Campus Clubs – I would be willing to bet your campus has one or more clubs that are focused on the environment. I highly encourage you to join one. You will meet like minded students who care about the environment as much as you do. If there isn’t a club, then start one! If you need an idea for a club, check out Paper for Water school club page.

2. Food Insecurity: Food Drive

If you live in a dorm, I recommend seeing if you can find a campus organization that would be willing to host the food drive. You likely don’t have room in your dorm room to collect donations. If you live in an apartment, this one might be a little easier if you want to collect the donations yourself.

Find a local Food Pantry near your campus at Feeding America. Next, check out that food bank’s website or contact someone there to find out what items are most needed at the time of your drive. You never know what a food pantry needs most. I know some food banks do a peanut butter drive every year.

Secondly, tell all of your friends and family about your drive. Your friends on campus can bring you their donations and your friend and family that don’t live close can donate money and you can buy the donations yourself. If you are working with a campus organization to collect the donations, you will need to check with the organization sponsor on their preferred method of event promotion.

Finally, you will need to deliver the donations. If you don’t have a car on campus, see if a friend that does have a car could help you drop off the donations.

3. Animals: Pet Shelter Volunteer or Make Dog Toys

If you love animals, these volunteer ideas for college students might be great for you.

  • Pet Shelter Volunteer – Obviously, there needs to be a pet shelter near your campus for this to be a viable option. Most pet shelters need volunteers to help walk dogs and socialize the cats. To become a volunteer you will likely need to attend a training class on how to best interact the the animals. Some pet shelters color code their dogs based on how easy they are to handle. If you are a new volunteer, make sure the shelter starts your volunteering with the “easy” animals.
  • Make Dog Toys – If you don’t have a car then making dog toys might be a great option for you. Since you are a college student, my gut is you are getting a few campus t-shirts as you join different organizations. So…you might have some old t-shirts you don’t need anymore and they are just taking up valuable space. One way to put those old t-shirts to good use is to make dog tug toys out of them. I recommend asking your friends if they have some old t-shirts to donate to the cause. Do a Google search or look on YouTube for instructions on how to make the toys.

3. Seniors: Create Holiday Cards or Senior Community Volunteer

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  • Create Holiday Cards for Senior Citizens – This is a great option if you don’t have a car on campus. Just order a set standard blank 4×6 cards from Amazon and then start creating. It’s best if you have some colored pencils or markers to add some color to your cards. They should be bright and festive. Check out Gifts for Seniors for card suggestion ideas and mailing information. If you prefer to write a letter, check out Love for our Elders and Letters Against Isolation.
  • Volunteer at a Retirement Community – If you do have a car on campus and your are passionate about helping seniors, you might love this option. Most retirement communities have a variety of activities for seniors. And it is great for these communities if volunteers can help out with these activities. Some potential activities might include: running a bingo game, painting nails, decorating for an upcoming holiday, etc…Keep in mind, a background check will likely be necessary for this opportunity.

5. Veterans & Military: Paracord Lanyards & Thank You Notes

I have said it many times that making paracord lanyards and writing thank you notes are a great way for students to volunteer. For college students, it’s especially easy since you can order all of the supplies from Amazon and then when you are done making the lanyards or cards, you can use that same Amazon box to ship your items back to Operation Gratitude. My college aged daughter and I have done both of these volunteer opportunities and they are both very rewarding.

6. Mental Health

volunteer ideas for college students - mental health

If your are passionate about helping others that struggle with mental health, this idea might be great for you.

Check out Letters Against Depression. Their mission is “to send hope and support those battling depression and other mental illnesses through our free handwritten letters.” This organization started back in 2014, by Robert Mason after his own experience with depression and anxiety. In 2023, they have a goal of sending at least 15,000 letters.

This is an easy option you can do from anywhere and you don’t need a car! You might need to order a card writing supplies from Amazon or Target, but then you can easily get started. Letters Against Depression, does not require a minimum time commitment. Therefore you can write as many or a few as your course schedule allows.

7. Homeless: Create Blanket Squares, Scarves or Hats

If you want to learn to crochet or knit, give this idea a try. The Warm Up America non-profit started back in 1991 and their goal was to create blankets for those in need. Since then over 1 million items have been donated. They accept knitted or crocheted 7″ x 9″ blanket squares, finished hats, scarves and more. Since dorms are pretty small, it makes sense to focus on making these smaller items. 🙂 Donations must be mailed to Carrollton, Texas so keep that in mind as you get Amazon boxes delivered.

I love this idea for college students, because it feels good to make something for someone in need. In addition, once you get the hang of actual knitting or crocheting, it can provide a nice calm break from studying. To top it off, you can watch your favorite streaming show while doing this work and not feel guilty!

8. Ukraine

volunteer ideas for college students - Ukraine

Does the war in Ukraine tug at your heart? Then the ENGin Program could be great for you. This is a virtual opportunity that will help young Ukrainians learn how to speak conversational English. Ukrainian students age range is from 10-35 and volunteers have to be at least 14 years of age.

This volunteer opportunity for college students is extremely flexible. Volunteers get to decide when to schedule the speaking sessions with students. You just need to be able to commit to 1 hour per week for at least 10-12 weeks. You do not need any teaching experience to be a volunteer.

This organization started on March of 2020 and so far has helped over 16,000 students. Check out this YouTube video to learn a little bit more about the program.

9. Volunteer Abroad in the Summer

volunteer ideas for college students - study abroad

Last but not least, if you are looking to expand your horizons a bit through your volunteer work, then volunteering abroad might be just the right fit. A few websites you might check out while searching for a great volunteer abroad opportunity are as follows:

Unfortunately, I don’t have any personal experience with the above volunteer abroad websites, so make sure you do plenty of research before picking an abroad program. You might also check your college campus to see if they have any campus hosted opportunities.

This post is all about volunteer ideas for college students.

I hope that at least one of these ideas has sparked your interest in giving back to the community. Pick one and try it out, if you don’t like it for whatever reason, come back here and find another option. Volunteering can be something you enjoy and feel good about at the same time.

“What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you make.”

– Jane Goodall

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