Work Experience for a College Admission Application

These days, there’s a lot of pressure on students to cultivate the right suite of extra-curriculars. Often times, kids join too many clubs or take on too many volunteer opportunities and miss the mark on demonstrating that they’ve committed to one area of expertise. But developing depth in an area doesn’t have to be limited to unpaid activity. In this post, we talk about how work experience can be a great addition to the resume.

Should I Get a Job?

A lot of people who come through our doors ask about whether or not paid work experience is a good idea. After all, kids are basically told that if they don’t have an internship with Bill Gates by the time they’re 10, they won’t be getting into the Ivy League. That’s only partially true. When applying to college, one of your primary objectives should be to connect with the person reading your application. Even though there’s not a whole lot you can assume about the anonymous admissions counselor assigned to your application, there are a few things you can infer. For one, they’re probably underpaid. As such, they will likely be sympathetic to a young person who is working to make some money.

In terms of what looks good on the resume, we actually rank paid work right up there with taking a research position under a professor.  Scores of privileged kids who have gone on fancy “service” trips and high-end prep schools apply to top-tier colleges will submit applications. Working hard to earn money shows that you’re not, well, spoiled.

Leveling the Playing Field  

The other thing about working is that it’s not optional for a lot of students. Although more kids from various socio-economic backgrounds are attending college than they did in decades past, sharp rises in tuition, coupled with insanely competitive application rates, have widened the gap between kids from different income brackets. The kids who can afford fancy SAT tutors, and yes, private college counselors like us, have an advantage. But admissions counselors know that some students just don’t have those luxuries and actually have to work hard to help their families pay the bills. Students who do have to work typically gain real-world wisdom not available to them through joining clubs with their peers. That’s all good news. Showing growth and development through an extra-curricular is key. It also makes for great material to discuss in essays down the line.

So, our advice is to get a job if you can. It will warm the admissions officer up to you and you will learn a lot of valuable lessons.


Need some help with your resume? Reach out to us here. We know what we’re doing when it comes to strategizing about extra-curriculars.