There was a piece in “The New York Times” yesterday by Ron Lieber entitled “Essays About Work and Class That Caught a College’s Eye” that we figured we’d draw to the attention of our readers. It is a very good piece that focuses on how so many applicants are either reluctant to write about their jobs and work experiences or they simply don’t have work experiences to write about. We’ve found that the latter case is especially true. Indeed we’ve been writing on the pages of this college admissions blog for years how having work experience can indeed help one’s case for admission. And yet so few students have such real-world experience when applying to college.
As Lieber writes in his terrific piece, “Of the 1,200 or so undergraduate admission essays that Chris Lanser reads each year at Wesleyan University, maybe 10 are about work. This is not much of a surprise. Many applicants have never worked. Those with plenty of money may be afraid of calling attention to their good fortune. And writing about social class is difficult, given how mixed up adolescents often are about identity. Yet it is this very reluctance that makes tackling the topic a risk worth taking at schools where it is hard to stand out from the thousands of other applicants. Financial hardship and triumph, and wants and needs, are the stuff of great literature. Reflecting on them is one excellent way to differentiate yourself in a deeply personal way.”
There is a misconception out there that attending a fancy summer enrichment program at a highly selective university is how students should be spending their summer months. There is a misconception out there that the student who works at McDonald’s to help out her parents with their mortgage payments and finances is hurting her chances for admission to highly selective colleges. Indeed in a segment with “Huffington Post Live,” Ivy Coach Founder Bev Taylor properly corrects the moderator when he suggests that schools like Harvard and Yale aren’t looking for middle-class kids. They are looking for middle-class kids. They are looking for kids with real work experience. They are looking for kids who will be the first in their families to attend college. Schools like Harvard so very much want these students.
It’s time to put this misconception that work experience hurts one’s chances for admission to highly selective colleges to bed. Parents should save the $10,000 they would otherwise spend on sending their children to fancy summer enrichment programs. Instead, students can make a few thousand dollars. They can learn about hard work and the power of contributing to their family’s finances. It’s a valuable life lesson. And it’s a life lesson that admissions officers at highly selective colleges do indeed appreciate. Even though so many folks think they don’t. For students considering writing about jobs in college essays, you’ve got our green-light. Now, it’s all going to come down to execution.