The summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, I worked two jobs. Every weekday morning, I finished swim team practice, put on my bright orange counselor t-shirt, and boarded the school bus with my 5-12 year old charges. After 8 hours of playground games and sunscreen applications, I’d scoot across town to spend my evenings selling souvenirs in a local gift shop. I earned some money that summer, and used it to defray my own expenses throughout the school year – an important life lesson for any young adult. But I’d reckon that the lessons I learned from the workplace carried me farther than the paycheck.
After reading “When A Part-Time Job is Your Extracurricular Activity,” I was saddened to think that we as a society undervalue the lessons of the workplace for teens. In this economy, finding a summer or part-time job (paid or unpaid) can be a lesson and a challenge in itself. For a student who is working to meet the financial needs of his or her family, or to save for college or personal expenses, the lessons last a lifetime.
As an admissions officer, I considered a job in the context of how a student chose to spend his or her time outside of school. Some students are heavily involved in athletics, or theater, or community service, and others have jobs. Each offers an opportunity to work with others, manage time efficiently, develop leadership, and promote responsibility. While it may not be as exotic as a summer in Europe or a tour of the Middle East, a part-time job scooping ice cream or mowing lawns may teach you just how important that college education will be to your future. In reading applications, I placed some emphasis on the initiative a student had shown. Finding and maintaining a job can demonstrate that far better than a program for which your parents have paid the fee.
With any activity, I advocate undertaking it for its own value, not perceived value in the college admissions process. By following your own interests and pursuing them, with thought, creativity and enthusiasm, you will bring your best to the admissions committee.