The Importance of Working and Volunteering on College Applications By Kristina Carroll, CollegeWeekLive

High school underclassmen often hear from teachers and parents that having work or volunteer experience is a necessary part of college applications, and it’s something students should be doing as freshmen. But, do college admissions officers really feel the same way? And if you don’t have this experience by senior year, will that decrease your chances of getting into a college? The answer, in most cases, is yes. Keep reading to find out why.


It Shows Commitment and Interests

Having a summer job every summer of high school, or keeping a steady record of community service hours from freshmen to senior year are some of the best ways students can prove their work ethic to admissions officers. While it’s not necessary to keep the same job or volunteer opportunity all throughout high school, it’s important to be able to have a continuous timeline of experience (working the summer after freshman year and spending the summer after sophomore year on the couch isn’t going to fly with most colleges). Also, your experience can help highlight some of your interests in terms of future career paths—for example, if you spend your summers working as a camp counselor and are applying to be an education major, it shows admissions officers you’re serious about your choice, and you already have experience doing it.

It Paints a Picture of Your Life Outside of School

Often times, admissions officers know very little about you other than what you do everyday in school. Sure, the clubs you participate in and the sports teams you’re on can be a great way to showcase your talents and interests—but what about your life outside of school? Having a summer job or volunteer opportunity in your college applications is an excellent way to point out the less-obvious qualities and interests that you identify with. These experiences can play a huge role in helping college admissions officers imagine you as a person, rather than just a transcript on a piece of paper.

It Proves You Can Multitask

Time management is an important trait that college students need to learn early on in order to have a successful academic experience. By having after-school experience, or a combination of a summer job and community service hours, you’re proving to colleges that you know how to balance your time. This is something that college admissions officers are always looking for in students, and it can really help to give you an edge over other applicants.

It Can Help with Your College Essay

Struggling to find a college essay topic? Having work or volunteering experience gives you the ability to write about a wide array of topics. Maybe you volunteered at a homeless shelter, worked as a lifeguard this summer, or tutor underclassmen after school. Whatever it is, you’re bound to have interesting stories and memories as a result—and those can make for excellent college essay topics. If you feel like you gained something profound out of any of these experiences, highlighting them in your college essay can be a great way to not only show your experience, but also point out qualities and traits about you that otherwise might not be known.

It Makes You a Well-Rounded Applicant

A major thing that college admissions officers seek, and many high school students struggle with, is a well-rounded applicant. What exactly does this mean, you ask? Well, colleges don’t want to just see a student with a 4.0 average, especially if that’s all they have. Often times, admissions officers are more interested in students who do well academically, play a sport or participate in a club, and have work and volunteer experience. This is because students with multiple outlets and interests often have more to contribute to a college than students who simply get good grades.

Working and volunteering have huge impacts on college applications. In fact, students should aim to have experience in both by the time they’re applying to college. While this seems difficult to do, especially as a high school freshman, there are actually a ton of opportunities for students to gain experience while they’re still in high school (and summer is the perfect time to start!). Remember, having these opportunities on your college application can help you stand out among a pool of applicants. And while admissions officers most likely won’t deny your application just because you lack work or volunteer experience, it can certainly be the deciding factor between you and another applicant.

For more information on how you can prepare for college applications, or to ask admissions officers more questions about what they look for in applications, log on to CollegeWeekLive today.