August may seem like an awkward time to post about New Year’s resolutions, but for millions of college students the start of the school year holds greater significance than the change in calendar year. A new school year means a new chapter and a fresh start. It’s a chance to purge bad habits and replace them with better ones.
Typical school year’s resolutions usually relate to improving academic performance: a pledge to study harder, finish assigned readings, attend class more... That sort of thing. Sometimes students set health-focused goals like eating healthier or vowing to use their free campus gym more (trust me, you will miss it when you graduate).
This year, in addition to your other school year's resolutions, consider making a commitment to volunteer as a reader, tutor or mentor. Of course, just making a resolution is easy – staying committed is the tricky part.
Here's a tip: sticking to a resolution is always easier when you do it with friends. Inviting your friends to get involved will increase your impact and make your volunteering experience more enjoyable. You may run into friends that are nervous about getting involved. If your friends are interested in joining the cause but are still apprehensive, it may help to know some of the most common excuses along with a few facts to rebut those claims:
- “I’m taking a lot of credits this semester! I don’t have time to volunteer.” I understand where you’re coming from. After all, school comes first and you don’t want to jeopardize your success by putting too much on your plate. But let’s take a closer look for a moment. There are 168 hours in a week. Assuming you get eight hours of sleep per night, you’re still left with 112 hours to be productive. Subtract from that your average weekly workload of 15 hours of class time plus two hours of studying for every credit hour you’re taking (which is probably generous) and you still have 67 hours at your discretion. Considering the fact that a recent study found the average college student watches 10 hours of television per day, it's hard to imagine you can't find an hour per week to give back.
- “I don’t know anything about kids, education or early literacy.” Who cares? Some of the simplest tasks, like reading a book to a preschooler or eating lunch with a sixth grader, can have a huge impact when you volunteer in a structured environment. The staff at your volunteer site will be able to help you if you have questions, and it’s unlikely they’ll put you in a situation you can’t handle. Come as you are!
- “I don’t know where to go to get involved.” We’ve got you covered. United Way’s website provides a listing of volunteer opportunities in your area. You can reach out to your local United Way to see if anything else is available. You can also reach out to the Student United Way on your campus and if there isn’t one, you can start one!
Most of all, let your friends know that you, your community, and the children in need of readers, tutors and mentors need them to volunteer. It's going to take all of us working together to meet our bold goals for the future, and the power of students to make a difference will have a huge role in our success.
So set your school year's resolution now and recruit your fellow students to join the call to action. For someone out there, it could be the most important resolution you make.