Weigh the College Application Pros, Cons of High School Jobs News2america

An after-school job at the mall or a coffee shop is a pivotal part of the high school experience for some teens. But some families may wonder how these opportunities affect college admissions.

Most colleges don’t consider work experience to be considerably or moderately important when deciding to admit first-time freshmen, according to a recently released report on college admissions from the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

About one-third of colleges place no emphasis on work experience when vetting these applicants, the report found.

High school jobs offer risks and rewards when it comes to college admissions, so here are some pros and cons families should consider when deciding whether a teen should work.

Pro: Teens can develop skills and experience for life. Teens who work learn responsibility, how to take direction and can develop people skills, says Luanne Finley, academic and college counselor at Lawrence County High School in Louisa, Kentucky.

“It’s real world experience – they learn what they like, they learn what they don’t like,” says Andy Strickler, dean of admission and financial aid at Connecticut College. “Sometimes that’s way more valuable than some of the other, sometimes expensive, extracurricular opportunities that their parents seek out for them.”

Con: Students’ academics can suffer. Working too much can affect students’ academics, says Finley.

And that could affect college admissions. The first thing colleges look at are academic qualifications to determine if applicants are ready to do the school’s work, says Strickler.

But some students work because the job is necessary to the family structure, says Phil Trout, college counselor at Minnetonka High School in Minnesota and president of NACAC, the college admissions counseling organization. “Selective colleges and universities are absolutely going to take that into account.”

As long as students are able to maintain their academic record, level of achievement and performance, they should be OK.

Pro: Teens can explore careers. “If a student is interested in something in health care, they may start out passing trays at a hospital or students who are interested in business may start out doing just filing and basic bookkeeping,” says Finley.

Students could talk about what they’ve learned from their workplace and what sort of career options they’ve observed through their work experience on college applications, she says.

Finley has seen an increase in the number of students working in her almost 20 years as a counselor. Some students work close to a full-time to job after school to help their families pay the bills.

Con: Students have less time for high school extracurricular activities. But Trout says students who work shouldn’t think they don’t have any extracurricular activities – their job may be their extracurricular activity.

“Why should the student who is on the varsity soccer team feel better about their time commitment than the student who is stocking shelves at Target?” he says.

“You have a certain amount of time available to you outside of school, so how is it that you are making use of it? How are you growing as person? How are you developing work habits? How are you expanding your knowledge base?” he says.

One of the best college application essays Trout read last year was from a student who wasn’t able to do any high school extracurricular activities because she had three jobs, one of which was school. “There was a breadth of maturity at work in that student,” he says.

“We are a little concerned that we have students and families who are moving away from having part-time jobs because they are looking for other experiences that they feel will reflect more positively on the college application – and that’s really not the case,” Strickler says.

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