Summer Work Experience and Admissions

Admissions and Work Experience, Work Experience in Admissions, Summers and College Admission

Work experience at McDonald’s can actually help a student’s case for admission to a highly selective college (photo credit: Bryan Hong)

We used to get asked quite a bit, “How would work experience factor into my child’s case for admission?” Regrettably, we get asked this question less and less in recent years. And why? Because fewer and fewer students who come to us and who are seeking to earn admission to highly selective colleges have ever considered holding a job — much less actually held a job. It’s just not on their radar. And that’s rather silly — something we’ve been saying for years.

Instead, the question we usually get is, “Should my son do the Stanford Summer Enrichment Program or Duke TIP?” Our response? Regular readers of our college admissions blog know where we stand on the issue of summer college enrichment programs. We stand against them. What these programs convey is that mom and dad are wealthy, that your child didn’t have the imagination, the initiative, and the individuality to come up with an idea of his or her own for the summer, and that your child is basically going, well, to summer camp. And admissions officers don’t exactly root for students who spend their summers at camp. It’s just not interesting.

The math is simple. Flipping Burgers > Duke TIP. Sorry, Duke. And this applies not only to Duke’s summer program. It applies to enrichment programs at highly selective colleges across America.

Admissions officers at highly selective colleges are rational human beings. Rational human beings understand the importance of work experience. They understand the value such experiences impart on young people. And admissions officers are employees. Do you think they’re going to root for the student who went to some fancy summer camp or are they going to foot for the kid who worked at McDonald’s all through high school to help out mom and dad with the bills. If you’re even the least uncertain, they will root for the latter student. Every single time out of ten.

The admissions process is a human process. Working humanizes students. More students seeking admission to highly selective colleges should consider holding summer jobs. It’ll be a great life experience, too. So there’s that.

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3 Comments

  • Jackie Liu says:

    What about the highly selective college programs? Especially those that cover program fees and sometimes even travel cost to and from the program location. These programs are highly selective and don’t even give you the option for paying for them, so it’s not really a matter of showing colleges how wealthy you are- they rely solely on merit. In these cases, how would attending these programs influence how colleges view your application?

    • Ivy Coach says:

      Jackie — These programs are not the best kinds of activities students can be involved in over the summer months. 1.) Admissions officers don’t much care how selective a summer program is; 2.) These programs demonstrate a lack of initiate on a student’s part (there are activities that students can be involved in over the summer that demonstrate lots of initiative!); 3.) College admissions officers often don’t know which programs cost money and which are free.

  • Kiki says:

    What about the National Youth Leadership Forum? I received a letter from them which read that I had been selected for their “Advanced Medicine and Healthcare” program. They said they only accept students who show academic promise and leadership potential. Will this impress colleges if I choose to attend?

    Also, I was thinking about applying to the Harvard Pre-College Course. It says that if your admission is accepted and you complete the summer program, then it can really supplement your college application, especially if you pass. I’m a current sophomore and I will be entering junior year in the fall of 2018. Please let me know what to think of these two programs for the summer.

    Thank you.

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