Do Colleges Care About Work Experience For College Admissions?

This is one of the top 5 questions we get at Empowerly when we are helping students and parents through the college admissions process. Work experience means working at a local ice cream shop, doing paid or unpaid work at hospitals, and a variety of other real world jobs during high school.


In this article, we will uncover data we have collected on college’s preferences for work experience, how to interpret the data, and other tools that we are building at Empowerly.

Many students and parents think of college admissions as a game that can be played. In some ways this is accurate – students are applying to more schools each year each cycle, colleges encourage more applicants, and parents spend thousands on test preparation to make their child more desirable. But we at Empowerly believe the admissions process is about helping students uncover their interests. If you follow your interests (which you first have to develop), then the admissions and application process is simply just articulate that interest.

Since 2012, we have been aggregating data on colleges to better understand their preferences and match students to the right university for them. Colleges rank on a scale of 1-4 how much they care about work experience. 4 means very important and 1 is not considered. You will see a wide spray among the college preferences for work experience.

Here it is:


It looks like there is no real correlation between college rank and the rating of work experience. Some schools like College of William and Mary really care about work experience while others like Brown consider it but it is not as important as the 17 other criteria we have assessed.

In conclusion, work experience on average is considered but is not very important. Some colleges look at it closely (3 out of the top 50 rate it as very important), but a majority rank it 2 out of 4. When thinking about work experience, we recommend you view it as something that may naturally fit into your story but is never a pre-requirement. Many parents and students believe it is another checkbox to hit but that is not true – and it is supported by the data above and our internal correlations on student acceptance and their profiles.

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Questions? Let us know!