When it comes to extracurricular activities for college applications, students are always filling up the little time they have. All of their energy is invested in boosting their college portfolios. A common debate for any applicant during the summer is where to gain experience. Should you take an unpaid internship in a possible field of study, or just focus on work experience 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; in other words, a supported opportunity to show experience in a field that could be pursued in college. However, this is rarely the case. In the end, students often will have pick between the two, or only have one choice in front of them. Therefore, it’s important to consider what is most important for a student’s long-term future.
Job over unpaid internship?
One of the common arguments for getting a job over an unpaid internship is the sense of money it shows to colleges. However, colleges have shown time and again that they prefer relevant experiences in admissions. They prioritize academic gain over earnings with a job.
There are a few situations where working would help an applicant’s application.
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 why you pursue work over an internship. This shows your rationale and initiative.
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 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, an applicant should consider finding work.
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.
Outside of these…
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.
So, how does work experience affect my chances?
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.