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Why a Paying Summer Job May Not Add Much Value to Your College Application

Does a Summer Job Help your college application

It’s the summer before your senior year and you’re probably evaluating your options.  Among those options, you might be considering getting a paying summer job.  After all, maybe many of your friends are doing it or your parents are encouraging you to get a summer job with the hope that doing so will improve your chances of getting into the college of your choice. However, a summer paying job may not add as much value to your college application as you, your parents, or peers might think.

First of all, the strength of your admissions application doesn’t increase just because you add more stuff to it.  Colleges aren’t looking for an applicant that has done a million things, but rather colleges are looking for an applicant that has had meaningful experiences.  Hence, adding a paying job to your college application, as part of the list of one of a dozen things you’ve done over the summer, isn’t a guarantee that you’ll make your application stronger.  It’s the quality of your application that will get you into the school of your choice.  The number of jobs you’ve held will not play a great role in a positive admissions outcome whether you’ve held only one paying job or 50.

Now, there are exceptions, of course.  There are summer paying jobs that can actually add value to your college application. Thus, before taking a paying job in the summer just because you think it’ll give you a competitive advantage, consider these questions:

Will it help your personal growth?

When a college decides to accept a candidate, they’re not only accepting the person you are, but the person you can grow to be.  In other words, colleges are making an investment in your personal growth.  If you find a summer paying job that will allow you to grow as a person, then it might be worth pursuing.

Will this job serve to make your college application stronger?

Remember colleges are looking at your application holistically.  There isn’t a single factor that will guarantee you a spot in the freshman class or a single aspect of your application that will get you denied.  Thus, one paying job cannot make up for other weaker aspects of your application. If you can’t think of how the summer job you’re considering can make your application stronger, then it might not be worth pursuing.

Is the summer paying job unique or impressive in some way?

Colleges are looking for individuals who are different.  They’re looking for people who stand out.  As mentioned above, when a college admits you, they’re investing in you with the hope that as an alumna you’ll be successful, which in turn will reflect positively on the college.  Hence, if you land a prestigious summer job, meaning a job that is impressive and unique in some way, then it could definitely add value to your college application.

Would you gain an experience that will challenge you?

It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone, to find a job that you know you’ll already be good at.  It’s easy to find a summer job that aligns with what you think your major might be.  And that would be a good experience, but would it be a challenging experience? 

If you want to dedicate your summer to a paying job that will increase your chances of being admitted to the college of your choice, then you need to find a job that will challenge you.  You’ll need to think outside the box.  After all, you’ll be competing with thousands of other applicants.  Who do you think would stand out more?  The candidate who found a summer job doing something he or she feels comfortable doing, or the candidate that took a chance, thought differently, and challenged himself?

There’s nothing wrong with finding a summer job just to have some extra cash.  But if your goal is to find a paying summer job that will make admissions officers take note of you, then find a summer paying job that fulfills if not all, at least one of the criteria listed above.

Colleges are looking for a person of substance and character; find a paying summer job that is unique, will challenge you, and help you grow as a person and you’ll be sure to give yourself a competitive advantage in the admissions arena.

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