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Frequently Asked Questions

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What is Service Learning?

  • What is Service Learning?
    Service Learning brings to life the subject matter of a course by involving students in some "real world" activity directly related to what is being learned. Several courses at CSUSM include Service Learning as part of the learning process; in fact, this is becoming a popular way to learn at many colleges and universities.
  • How is Service Learning different from volunteerism, or internships and field education?

    While volunteerism is geared toward the advantage of the community, Service Learning also requires that the student reflect on and learn from the service being performed. The student, as well as the community, will receive the "benefits" from the activity. While internships or field placements tend to focus solely on student learning. Service Learning focuses on both the service the community needs and the instructor's learning objectives. Both the communities needs and the student's learning needs will be met.


Finding a Virtual Service Learning Opportunity


Finding a Service Learning Site


Course Requirements


Additional Questions

  • Where can I complete my hours if I am under 18?

    You can use the database to search for opportunities that do not require you to work with children (as this is generally the kind of situation that requires you to be 18 or over). Instead, you can work with adults or animals.

    Opportunity Search Instructions:

    Start by looking at some of the opportunities at the top of this page: Service Learning Opportunities

    Use the following steps to search the database:

    1. Log-in to the database: https://app.calstates4.com/csusm/dashboard with your CSUSM email.
    2. Click the green “Place” button by Course Placing for
    3. Click the “Search by Opportunities” option.
    4. Update the search option fields:
      1. Program: Service Learning
      2. Keywords: Examples are Adults or Animals
    5. Click “Apply Filter” and the page will refresh with your results.  You will see various Opportunities.
    6. If you find one of interest to you, click the green “Select This Opportunity” button.
    7. Review the Site Staff and send an interest email using the Service Learning Script
    8. Once you have heard back from the site staff member about the opportunity, you can return to the database and complete your placement paperwork.
  • Is the site I interview with obligated to accept me?

    No. Your interview is like a job interview! Several factors play a role in a good match: course goals and objectives, schedules, position availability, the agency's needs, the skills and learning interests you bring, etc.

    If you need assistance with a resume, cover letter, or other essentials to landing your Service Learning opportunity please contact the Career Center.

  • What do I do if I have not heard back from my Service Learning site?

    If you have not heard back from the sites that you have reached out to please consult with your instructor for a list of additional recommended sites.

  • What if my Service Learning site no longer works with my schedule?

    Speak with your site supervisor immediately. If there is a problem please discuss the matter with the organizations volunteer coordinator to see if you can explore other available opportunities at that organization.

    If the problem persists, first talk with your instructor and then with the Office of Service Learning for help with a change of settings.

  • Can I perform Service Learning hours at my place of employment?

    Service Learning needs to address an important community need and contribute to achieving your course objectives. Job assignments may not be compatible with course learning needs.

    Performing service at another agency offers the opportunity to expose you to new situations and experiences.

    Overall, we strongly encourage you to serve at another agency.

  • What do I do if I have limited transportation?

    If you have limited transportation, there are several on campus sites that may fit your course.

    Use the keyword: "CSUSM" when searching the database. 

  • I do not live in San Marcos, can I do my Service Learning elsewhere?

    If you do not live in San Marcos use the search bar in our database to search by the city you are located in.

    If you find a site in your city that you wish to complete your hours at but it is not in our database please contact your instructor.

  • What if I am a DACA-mented or undocumented and have concerns about filling out required forms such as a fingerprint background check, or completing my service hours at a particular site (law enforcement or military base)?

    You can visit or contact the Dreamer Resource Office where they can provide you with support and access to information, including free legal advice, to determine any risks that may be associated with applying for, or completing a service opportunity. But keep in mind that not all sites require fingerprint background checks, so if you do determine a risk, please reach back out to the Service Learning and Civic Engagement Office, and we can help you find an alternate placement.


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