February 2006 Newsletter
“I’m working on a story about the decline in the percentage of teenagers who are working while in school. How do colleges view teen work when it comes to applying for school? Is it viewed less or more favorably than in the past? Does a student who has worked have an edge? Do you encourage students to find part-time work to round out their application?”
Economics reporter, USA Today
On many college applications, students are asked to list their extracurricular activities in one section and then in another section list their work experiences. It is always to the student’s advantage to complete all parts of the application and do so with significant information.
A student who has real work experience shows college admissions counselors that he or she cannot only assume responsibility, but is also mature, trustworthy, reliable and dependable. These are character traits that can certainly be addressed in letters of recommendation from the student’s counselor and from teachers who know the student the best, but these same qualities are especially apparent through part-time employment experiences.
Sometimes a student may have no extracurricular activities because he or she must work five hours a day on weekdays and eight hours a day on weekends. If this student is working so that he or she is helping to support his family, then that needs to be explained somewhere on the application, either in an essay or through the counselor’s letter of recommendation. If this is the case, the student’s work experience would truly enhance the application.
However, to answer your questions more specifically…:
1. Is it viewed less or more favorably than in the past?
A student’s real work experience has always been important and not more or less favorably than in the past.
2. Does a student who has worked have an edge?
No one particular activity or factor is going to give a student an edge in being accepted at the college of his or her choice.
3. Do you encourage students to find part-time work to round out their application?”
I encourage students to find their passions and work at developing those passions. If a student is a talented swimmer and he or she works summers as a lifeguard and also works as an assistant coach or swim instructor during the year, then that student is further developing his or her passion for swimming. If that same student chooses to volunteer as an assistant coach or swim instructor, then that volunteer work/community service would be viewed in lieu of paid work experience.
Good luck with your story and if you should have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.