Investigating service learning centers for college

Students can consider looking into the service learning centers at universities as they prepare for college.

Why do students attend college when they graduate from high school? Many students go to college so they can put themselves in position to meet the requirements to pursue a career they’re interested in. Some type of post-secondary degree like a certificate, license, an Associate’s, Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctorate degree is required to qualify for entry into certain career fields. Getting ready for college to prepare for the future can be challenging with a lot of big decisions to make. Michigan State University Extension recommends that as students get ready for college, they begin researching what the school has to offer in order to prepare for their career by reviewing things like the majors and academic departments. An often overlooked question to consider when it comes to preparing for a college is, “What is the college or university’s community service or service learning program like?” Community service consists of volunteering and a service project. Service learning consists of learning by researching an issue, performing a community service activity regarding the issue, with follow-up and reflection.

It’s important to consider a school’s community service/service learning opportunities, because such opportunities can be vital in preparing students for their career of choice. Students can get involved in a service project based on their talents, hobbies, passions, classes or majors at their school’s service learning center. As students participate and complete their service projects, reflection on skills gained and lessons learned is important. One way to reflect is by recording any lessons learned in a journal or record book for future use. These “lessons”, even if informal, can be great additions to cover letters, resumes and/or interview dialogues. Participating in a service project gives students experience and career skills without officially working at a job. Other benefits include commitment to community betterment, increased self-worth from helping others, building teamwork and an experience in civic engagement.

Students should consider making an attempt to visit service learning centers during their college visits tours. For example, Michigan State University has the Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement for students interested in participating in service projects during their time in college. A visit to a service learning center can help prospective students get an idea of how they function and to become familiar with them. During the visits, students can ask questions such as:

  • What opportunities are available?
  • How will the opportunities that are available assist me in my career preparation?
  • Are college faculty members who teach classes involved somehow in service learning?
  • Does it offer an Alternative Spring Break opportunity?

The information pre-college youth can learn by asking the above questions and visiting a service learning center can help them make a more informed decision on what college, or program of study they want to choose for their post-secondary education. Before a student reaches the college phase of their education journey they can begin their participation in service projects. Parents and students can visit the Michigan 4-H Youth Development website for information on Community Service and Learning and Leadership and Citizenship to learn more about their community service/service learning experiences.

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