Universities and colleges with service learning programs offer do-gooders a chance to help others while working towards valuable personal experience. Community-based college programs may address issues in the school’s own city, encouraging students to form connections with locals and help make the neighborhood a better place. As another possibility, universities with service learning programs may address issues across the nation or the world! You may even be able to find colleges with service learning programs specific to your major, that harness your unique talents.
Keep scrolling to check out our list of colleges with service learning or community service programs! Or, fill out our form to find your perfect match.
What Is Service Learning in College?
Service learning is a way for college students to apply their talents and education to projects that help other people and solve problems. Students may work with a particular community, non-profit agency, government body, or other organization, as an opportunity to enhance their learning. In other words, learning goals and service goals are combined for the benefit of both students and the common good.
Service learning programs may vary in how they are structured. For instance, students might work on a one-time service project within a college course, that connects to the curriculum being studied. Or, they might embark on a long-term project that spans multiple courses or even multiple semesters. Action research projects, where students conduct research to address the needs of a community, are one example of a longer-term service project.
Colleges with Service Learning Opportunities
According to U.S. News and World Report, these schools ranked high for service learning in 2017. Most of these schools offer online programs, so students in need of flexible scheduling can get a shot to get in on the do-gooding.
1. Georgetown University
Georgetown is a Washington D.C. academic and research institution with the mission of educating the next generation of global citizens. Georgetown was founded in 1789 and is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the U.S. They offer baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral programs, in areas like law, medicine, public policy, nursing, and more
About Georgetown’s Service Learning: Students at Georgetown are encouraged to grow in their compassion and service for others. The Center for Social Justice has a variety of service opportunities, from homelessness outreach to after school programs for kids. Academic programs at Georgetown may also have service-learning modules. For example, students in the medical school partner with local organizations to identify health needs in the community. In total, Georgetown has over 100 university-sponsored service programs!
2. Purdue University
Classes first began at Purdue University in 1874. Today, it is a globally-recognized public research institution with several regional campuses throughout Indiana, as well as online learning opportunities. Students may choose from over 200 majors in areas ranging from aeronautical engineering to web programming.
About Purdue’s Service Learning: Like other colleges with service learning, Purdue University strives to connect students with opportunities to serve their communities. One example is the EPICS program (Engineering Projects In Community Service), a service-learning design program where students try to address human, community, and environmental needs locally and around the world. They’re currently working on a multi-line Braille eReader, among other projects. Plus, the Student Grant Program offers funding to students and groups for community service and service-learning projects.
3. Northeastern University
Founded in 1898, Northeastern is a research university that values experiential learning and engagement with the wider world. Students may pursue a range of undergraduate and graduate programs in nine colleges and schools. Northeastern is based in Boston, but has graduate campuses in Charlotte, North Carolina; Seattle, Washington; Silicon Valley, California; and Toronto, Canada. They also offer online degree programs.
About Northeastern’s Service Learning: Northeastern values college service learning as a means of discovering new strengths while helping to solve world problems. Each year, 1,100 Northeastern students complete more than 41,000 hours of service. Opportunities like the Service-Learning Advocacy Workshop may teach students knowledge and competencies like lobbying for reform, and even helping legislation get passed. Plus, students may have access to over 80 service-learning partnerships in three counties, potentially allowing them to combine service with travel.
4. Portland State University
Portland State is a public research university in Portland, Oregon, with over 27,000 students. The university is dedicated both to serving the city of Portland and solving problems on the global stage. Students may choose from more than 200 majors, such as Management, Psychology, Health Studies, Biology, and Accounting.
About Portland State’s Service Learning: Portland State offers a variety of programs and courses that implement community engagement and service learning, including a Civic Leadership minor. Plus, the Senior Capstone Program allows seniors to form cooperative learning communities, while working together on a project that makes practical use of their education.
5. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
University of North Carolina is the nation’s first public university, opening its doors in 1795. Home to a diverse student body, the university serves over 29,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UNC - Chapel Hill is a leader in teaching, research, and public service, and they take seriously their mission to seek solutions to pressing world problems.
About UNC’s Service Learning: The University of North Carolina is home to APPLES Service-Learning (Assisting People in Planning Learning Experiences in Service), where students can choose from a variety of ways to serve. For example, there are APPLES courses, which integrate the course curriculum with community service performed on behalf of a community partner. A 2018 course, called Enabling Technology, will help students consider technology solutions for people with disabilities. UNC students can also find alternative service-oriented spring-break opportunities, where they learn and serve in a community instead of spending the week on the beach!
6. Vanderbilt University
Founded by Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1873, Vanderbilt University has evolved to become a dynamic public research institution with a focus on liberal arts and sciences, engineering, music, education, and more. They serve 6,500 undergraduates and 5,300 graduate and professional students.
And, attention music lovers! Vanderbilt is located in Nashville, Tennessee—home of renowned country-music institutions such as the Grand Ole Opry House, the famous “Grand Ole Opry” stage and radio show, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Ryman Auditorium, and the Johnny Cash Museum, not to mention a ton of honky-tonk spots for live music.
About Vanderbilt’s Service Learning: The Office of Active Citizenship & Service at Vanderbilt serves to facilitate student service. Choose from a variety of existing service organizations, including Coaching for Literacy, Habitat for Humanity, and the Vanderbilt Prison Project. Or, consider starting your own service organization. Students may also take service-learning courses designed around a particular theme, like human displacement and resettlement.
Colleges with Strong Community Service Programs
Many schools offer service opportunities, but here are just a few of the colleges out there that value community service:
1. Case Western Reserve University
Case Western Reserve University is a leading research institution that fosters student engagement and promotes global citizenship. The first in college in northern Ohio, they started in 1826 as a small but forward-thinking school. Today, Western Reserve has 5,121 undergraduate students and 6,219 graduate and professional students.
About Western Reserve’s Community Service Programs: Students may have lots of opportunities for engagement at Western Reserve. They can join in on Greek Life, which focuses on philanthropy and public service. They may be able to participate in service-based summer internships with the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning. And, the university has a variety of student organizations, youth community outreach programs, and other potential chances to get involved.
2. Antioch University
Antioch was founded in 1852, on the principles of social justice, inclusion, and equality. Many alumni, (including Coretta Scott King!) have made a difference in the world. Antioch offers five campus locations, including Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Seattle, plus online and low-residency programs.
About Antioch’s Community Service Programs: Antioch has a strong mission to promote social justice, and students may find various ways to get involved at its different campuses. For example, the New England campus is home to the Center for Place-Based Education, which encourages students to become active in a particular community while seeking solutions to real-world problems.
3. Nova Southeastern University
Nova was founded in 1964, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Today, it is an active research university with many locations throughout Florida, as well as a campus in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and online learning. They offer programs in law, education, business, psychology, engineering and computing, oceanography, and more.
About Nova’s Community Service Programs: Nova Southeastern University has a strong commitment to community outreach. The Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement helps connect students with opportunities to get involved. These range from day-long volunteer projects to international service trips. Plus, Nova builds relationships with community affiliates in order to connect students with ways to help out.
What Might Be Some Benefits of Service Learning for College Students?
Colleges that require community service may each have their own philosophy about how service helps students and the common good. But here are some potential benefits to college service learning:
- Students may apply what they learned in college to “real world” issues
- Students may improve in areas like problem-solving, critical thinking, and analysis
- Interpersonal relationships may strengthen, and students could develop teamwork and leadership
- Students might make connections in the community, and find new educational or professional opportunities
- A greater sense of cross-cultural understanding may arise, helping students banish stereotypes
- Students may discover new things they are passionate about, and might remain active in the community after graduation
Launch Your Search for Colleges with Service Learning
Whether you’re looking for colleges that require community service, or colleges with service learning as one potential option out of many, a little research should be able to uncover potential schools that are the perfect fit. Click on any of the schools above to learn more, or fill out our form to get matched!