Tips for Parents
How to Help Your Student Do Good
College is about more than your student “finding” himself and becoming an adult. And, it’s about more than studying, learning and building the foundation for a career. For today’s college student, college is increasingly about doing good.
According to the most recent study by the Corporation for National and Community Service (PDF), college students’ participation in volunteering and community service increased 20 percent after 9/11. Terrorism and natural disasters have contributed to the culture in which your student is growing up. For many students, watching Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti and tornadoes in Missouri in real-time on TV and the Internet was less a lesson in history unfolding and more a call to action.
If your student identifies with the role to give back as much as he takes away during college, you can encourage him to look into several opportunities:
Many universities now offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in responding to disaster and emergency situations. According to a June 10 New York Times article, the number of emergency management degrees— like disaster science, emergency preparedness, public safety administration, hazard policy, humanitarian action— has more than tripled since 2001.
If your student doesn’t necessarily want to make a career out of humanitarian efforts — or if he wants to do something now — suggest that he volunteer locally. By volunteering regularly for an organization, at least once a week, your student will begin to build relationships with the people he’s serving or serving with.
You can anticipate that the “honeymoon” will end, and your student will get tired, bored or discouraged with community service. When that happens, encourage him to stay committed and remind him why he wanted to volunteer in the first place.
Interning with a non-profit organization will provide him with deeper insight than he would have by just volunteering; seeing the day-to-day operations and business model of a non-profit will show your student the organization, leadership and funding necessary to make a difference.
Non-profit organizations also benefit greatly from college interns whose passion and energy can help raise money, recruit volunteers and raise awareness through new methods, like social media.
Religious organizations and humanitarian aid groups offer national and international positions as long-term volunteers. Peace Corps, for example, send volunteers on 27-month stints after a careful application and selection process. Some volunteer positions require college degrees and others don’t.
If your student is considering pursuing Peace Corps or a similar organization, talk to him about where he wants to go, what he hopes to get out of the experience, what challenges he can anticipate and what integrating back to “normal” life would look like. Just like with any big decision, keep the communication lines open and help him research all possibilities.