Get Started

What is your motivation? 
Why do you want to volunteer? What do you hope to get out of the experience? Develop leadership skills? Learn about a social issue? Develop a course project? 

What are your interests? 
What are you passionate about? What population or community do you want to serve–the homeless, elders, children, prisoners? Do you want to be an activist or an advocate? Work at grassroots organizing or do research?

How much time can you commit? 
How much time do you have and when are you available? Will you have time to participate in training before you begin? Can you make an on-going commitment to one agency or are you looking for one-time events that don't require a regular commitment?

Research the Possibilities

Student Programs
The Public Service Center has over 30 student programs that are involved with service experiences locally and nationally. 

Volunteer in the Local Community
For one-time opportunities, including date-specific or event type needs in the local community, check out the Hotlist.  Don't forget the annual Into the Streets event.

The United Way of Tompkins County database can help you look for different opportunities in the greater Ithaca community.

Volunteer on Campus
These campus organizations are always looking for great students with whom to work. Contact them directly. 

Volunteer Outside of Ithaca
For service-related opportunities outside of Ithaca, explore our Opportunities Beyond Ithaca page. Stay connected to the Cornell community by participating in the annual Cornell Cares Day.

Get a Job Serving the Community
If you have a Federal Work-Study award to work off campus, the Community Work-Study Program can help you find opportunities with over 50 local non-profits.

Take a Service-Learning Course
Service-learning courses engage students, faculty, and community partners on issues relating to poverty, literacy, education, access, health care, immigration, hunger, affordable housing, environment, and others. Learn more.

Check out the report on public engagement & the land grant mission. 

 Still not sure what you want to do?

Meet with a student Center Program Specialist (CPS) who can help guide you through the various opportunities within the community and the Public Service Center. To make an appointment, email cupsc@cornell.edu.

Subscribe to our weekly E-news. The newsletter promotes local, regional, and national opportunities in public service including: on-going volunteer opportunities, jobs, fellowships, awards, scholarships and grants. Request to join our listserve by emailing cupsc@cornell.edu.

A few tips for working with agencies

  • Be realistic about your expectations and those of the organization. Make sure you and the organization have the same expectations of each other.
  • If you are going to be late or can't go to the agency at all, you need to CALL. (They expect you and, in many cases, rely on you.)
  • When committing to an agency, be sure you discuss your class schedule with them, including holidays, time off, and also end of the semester time for studying, so they can plan in advance.