How to Balance Volunteering While Studying

3 minute read

Volunteering is one of the most worthwhile pursuits there is. It allows you to give back to your community, explore unique local opportunities and meet an exciting range of people. Most of all, it broadens your perspective and helps you develop a clearer understanding of the world. But volunteering while studying can seem impossible.

Here’s how you can incorporate volunteering into your life when you’re busy with full-time studies.


The benefits of volunteering

Volunteering while you’re a student not only allows you to be part of something purposeful, it also helps set you up for a future career. Some of the benefits of volunteering while studying include:

  • Work experience – you’ll gain valuable real-world skills that employers look for (but have a hard time finding) in new applicants.
  • Employability – if you can hold down a volunteer position and perform well even when no one is paying you, it speaks volumes to potential employers about your commitment to doing quality work.
  • Operational knowledge – having a working knowledge of charities can uniquely qualify you for relevant jobs.

volunteer leader

Balancing work and academic life

Many student volunteering opportunities are flexible and informal. These can be perfect for fitting around a busy academic life. However, depending on the kind of voluntary role you take on, some may function more like paid positions.

That means you’re likely to find yourself managing it like a job―for example, keeping a schedule and answering to a department head. Couple that with the responsibility of maintaining good grades and things can get a little challenging.

To keep everything in focus and meet all your responsibilities, try implementing some of the following ideas.

Plan out your term in advance

Go through all your syllabi and figure out what you need to accomplish when. Make sure class time is scheduled around work, and budget enough time for studying while volunteering and completing personal activities. Never neglect that last bit―sometimes taking time to relax and do nothing ‘productive’ is the most productive thing you can do.

Be realistic

You might find the perfect volunteering opportunity and want to spend as much time as you can helping out. But it will impact you, the organisation you’re volunteering with and your studies if you take on too much work. This is why it’s important to set realistic goals and boundaries from the outset.

The amount of work you’re given at college or university can vary at different times of the year, and this is the same for volunteer roles. Don’t feel bad if you need to scale back your volunteer hours at certain times to keep up with the demands of your studies.

Ask for support if you need it

If things start to feel a bit overwhelming, your academic supervisor or tutor should be able to help you organise your weeks and prioritise tasks. They’ll also know who to speak to if you need an extension on a deadline.

If you think you’d benefit from talking things through with someone, you can reach out to the mental health support team at your university/college. Or maybe you have a friend or family member who’d be more than happy to listen to you and offer support.

Working as a volunteer brings with it numerous personal and professional benefits. If you have the opportunity, dive in with both feet. With support in place to help ensure your success, balancing volunteering while studying is not only workable, it’s advisable.

Potential employers like working with people who use their time wisely and in pursuit of causes that positively impact the community. Being a dedicated volunteer who also manages to prioritise academic success shows your ability to thrive even with multiple commitments to maintain.


Feeling inspired? If you’re looking for the next volunteer opportunity that’ll boost your skills and your future career, take a look at all of the amazing roles being advertised on CharityJob right now


This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated to ensure relevance and to reflect the current jobseeker experience.


Mary Kutton

Mary Kutton is a freelance writer and experienced content distributor interested in e-learning and management. Her articles are featured on Thought Catalog and