The benefits of volunteer service have been documented for many years. Keira Wilson, formerly of Grinnell College and now at Johns Hopkins, captured five key career preparation outcomes that students can expect to acquire as a result of volunteering: mind-set of self-awareness, agility in solving problems, comfort with ambiguity, a collaborative approach, and active preparedness. While these outcomes are not exclusively related to volunteering, they reflect broader educational outcomes that many employers value.
Career preparation is important but may not be the driving interest for all students. The career versus making a difference motivation depends to a large degree on demographic and life experience differences. First generation students attend less-selective universities and graduate at lower rates, which may contribute to their being more highly motivated by social mobility and justice. Seeking purpose rather than financial gain is the key, which relates to the public versus private benefit of students pursuing a higher education. How then might institutions help students see the connection between social justice and the volunteer service that many pursue?
Forty-five colleges in California launched an engagement initiative for low-income students. Called "CaliforniansForAll College Corps," up to 6,500 students will receive $7,000 living allowance and a $3,000 education award for completing 450 hours to "serve the social and civic health of our state" and as a strategy to address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic in vulnerable communities.