Does Work Experience Help an Applicant’s Admission Chances?

When it comes to extracurricular activities for college applications, students are always deciding with filling up the little time they have to boost their college portfolios. A common debate for any applicant during the summer is whether or not to take an unpaid internship in a possible field of study or to just work for pay.

While they’re arguments for both side, outside of financial difficulties, internships tend to be more conducive to a successful application than working a job. In a perfect world, it would be an option for any applicant to have a paid internship that would show experience in a field that could be pursued in college. However, this is rarely the case and in the end, students often will have pick between the two extracurricular activities; it’s important to consider what is most important for a student’s long-term future.

One of the common arguments for getting a job over an unpaid internship is that it shows a sense of money to college admissions officers. However, colleges have shown time and time again that they prefer relevant experiences over just raw cash earnings with a job at a restaurant or a convenience store. There are a few situations where working would help an applicant’s application.

  1. The applicant’s current financial situation actually requires him or her to find paid work to support him or herself and his or her family. If this is the case, the applicant should make that aware somewhere on his or her application of the situation. Whether it be on the essays themselves or in the extracurricular activities section, colleges should know the reason for an applicant choosing to pursue work over an internship. In addition to showing a rationale, it also can possibly give an edge to schools who give an advantage to low-income applicants.
  2. The applicant has no other option and would just be sitting at home if he or she isn’t working. This situation has gotten more and more common with increasing numbers of students applying to a much smaller supply of available internships. If internships don’t end up panning out and there are no better options such as volunteering, an applicant should consider finding work.
  3. An applicant’s schedule is so packed that the only option he or she has is a part-time job that doesn’t require additional time outside of the designated work hours. At this point, the applicant is probably already committed in other extracurricular activities and the job is just an extra way to either earn cash to fill up free time.

Paid internships are the most ideal situations for any applicant, but any internship of any kind during high school not only shows experience but also a genuine interest in similar college programs.

That being said, working is better than not doing anything at all, but in general the answer to the question of “in a perfect world, is any job BETTER than any internship” is this: unless absolutely necessary, working is not the most ideal way to make an applicant stand out to colleges.

In response to the title question, however: “Does work experience help an applicant’s admissions chances [as opposed to hurt, or seem like an unreasonable choice no matter the circumstances], the answer is yes! Work experience that reflects a strong work ethic, skills acquired and mastered, and other important pillars of your character that can support and shine with the rest of your application profile. Work is a valid choice if it is the option most available to you at the time. 

As long as you continue to show initiative and spirit, there are ways to start taking steps toward your best future. At Empowerly, we can help you confirm that you’re on the right track. Book your consultation below for scheduled time to review and discuss your college profile so far. 

Questions? Let us know!