How Applying for College Is Different Than Applying for a Job

By the time you reach senior year of high school, you may have some experience applying for jobs. The job application process can be nerve-wracking, but it's a much different ballgame than applying for college. Here's why.

By Sarah Wright

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The Application

Your average job application will ask straightforward resume-type questions, and typically, the shorter you keep your answers, the better. Employers simply want to know that you're competent and responsible enough to do the job. But college applications dig a lot deeper. Usually, a college application will include essay questions that are designed to help you paint a picture of who you are as a person. Essays might also challenge you to think creatively. A little outside-of-the-box thinking on a college application essay question will probably help you stand out in a good way, whereas an outlandish response to a question on a job application will probably just make you seem weird.

The Wait

Depending on when you turn in your college application, and whether or not you end up on the wait list, you can end up waiting several months to hear back from your college of choice. Though these kinds of waits can happen when applying for jobs, high school students probably aren't going to wait for months to hear back from a single job.

The Interview

At the undergraduate level, college interviews, especially those with students, alumni and other college representatives who aren't admissions officers, aren't going to make or break your application. Contrast this with job interviews, particularly for those at a level that high school students are qualified for: these interviews are typically designed for employers to size up and get a personal sense of the in-person intelligence and polish of a prospective employee. But college interviews are often designed more for the applicant's informative benefit than for the school's judgment.

This doesn't mean that you shouldn't appear and act professional, responsible and generally like the best version of yourself in a college interview. But it does mean that you should ask more questions and be more willing to challenge and pick the brain of your interviewer than you would applying for a ticket-taking position at the movie theater down the street from your parents' house.

The Stakes

For a lot of high school students, the stakes of getting a job while they're still under their parents' roofs just aren't that high. Even if you're working through high school in order to save money for college, your eye is probably on a higher prize - college. The stakes of applying for college are higher than applying for a part-time job as a high school student, and you're likely to feel more stress commensurate with those increased stakes. It's easy to get lost in stress, anxiety and anticipation while applying for college, but it's important to remember that once the applications have been sent out, it's out of your hands. Do the best you can to make your applications as polished and outstanding as you can, and then try to relax and get excited about the prospect of moving on to an important new phase in your life.

Unlike applying for a job, you can apply early decision to college so you'll get your answer sooner!

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