When Community Service Isn't an Option
Many high school students end up joining clubs and doing activities because 'it will look good on my college application.' Though plenty of students doubtless enjoy being a part of student government, working for service organizations like Habitat for Humanity or striving to get a spot on a varsity sports team, not everyone who participates in these activities does so for sheer enjoyment. In some cases, students end up devoting the majority of their time out of school to pursuits that are said to be application gold stars in the eyes of admissions boards.
But not everyone has time for this kind of resume padding. For some hardworking college-bound students, the thought of extracurricular activities that don't result in a paycheck is nothing but a fantasy, and a part-time job is more than a means to get some extra cash to fill in the gaps of what mom and dad won't pay for. Some kids rely on these jobs to provide money for college, or even to help out with family expenses. With the way extracurricular activities are hyped as a necessity for college admissions, kids who work rather than volunteer might feel like they're missing out.
Hard Work is Good - Even if it Nets a Paycheck
Though they might feel like they're at a disadvantage, high school students with jobs shouldn't feel ashamed of their position. To begin with, they are gaining valuable experience in balancing school and work, something many college kids struggle with. Additionally, the time management skills and work ethic gained by working in addition to doing well in school are good qualities that are likely to appeal to college admissions officers.
Admissions directors generally like seeing students with some work experience under their belt. To them, working can display maturity and responsibility, qualities that are very important in successful college students. Additionally, a job that relates in some way to the student's intended major displays focus and initiative, making it clear that the student has his or her eye on the prize even before starting school.
How to Make Your Job Work For You
If you're an aspiring college student who spends your summers working for a paycheck, rather than taking unpaid internships or volunteering in exotic locales, you might feel like you have nothing to talk about in your personal essays for your college applications. However, your job can actually be a great source of stories that you can tell; chances are, you can think of something to discuss that will help reflect your best qualities.
If you want to use a story from work for your personal essay, choose something that shows how you can tackle obstacles that come your way. Talk about an instance where you overcame adversity, or learned a new skill that you're proud of. Working can also provide you with valuable ways that you may have gotten involved with your community, which you can discuss in the essay. You can even be funny, but make sure that you're representing yourself well and keeping the focus on your strengths. One thing to avoid, though, is getting defensive and trying to justify your decision to work. Admissions professionals are more sympathetic to financial burdens than you might think.
High school students also may be worried about how their SAT or ACT scores will impact their ability to get into college. But how important are standardized test scores in the admissions process?