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INTRODUCTION. Few studies consider how purpose in life predicts emotions related to community service in college courses even though a purpose in life, a “compass” for finding opportunities to make meaningful prosocial contributions, should motivate students to serve. METHOD. Multilevel structural equation modeling estimated direct and indirect effects of survey responses regarding students’ past service experience, sense of purpose, and searching for purpose on their emotional expectations for service-learning before starting. RESULTS. Controlling for age, gender, extrinsic motivation, and characteristics of universities and courses, students’ past service experience and two purpose variables positively related to expected positive emotions toward service work, mediated through both students’ helping identity and intrinsic motivation to serve. Only sense of purpose was associated with higher intrinsic motivation, which was associated with lower expected negative emotions. DISCUSSION. Considering students’ life purpose may stimulate intrinsic motivation and schemas of being a helping person, which could contribute to positive emotions toward community service even before the service work begins.
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