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Serving in College, Flourishing in Adulthood: Does Community Engagement During the College Years Predict Adult Well-Being?


* Nicholas A. Bowman, Center for Social Concerns, 164 Geddes Hall, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556-4633, USA. Email:


Colleges and universities are placing a renewed emphasis on the importance of service and community engagement. Although the short-term effects of these college experiences are fairly well understood, little is known about the long-term impact of college volunteering and participating in engaged forms of learning (e.g. service-learning). This longitudinal study examines 416 participants during their freshman year of college, their senior year, and 13 years after graduation. Results show that both college volunteering and service-learning have positive, indirect effects on several forms of well-being during adulthood, including personal growth, purpose in life, environmental mastery, and life satisfaction. Specifically, these college experiences are associated with subsequent behaviors (adult volunteering) and attitudes and values (prosocial orientation), which in turn are positively associated with well-being. Implications for research and practice are discussed.