3 Areas to Discuss Work Experience in Your Application
While work experience isn’t required for college admissions, admissions officers do value students who can show what they’ve learned from a job.
“The admissions staff wants to admit a group of students with diverse interests and backgrounds, and work experience is one piece of that equation,” Allen Grove, a college admissions expert and professor at Alfred University, writes. “Even if your work isn’t in any way academic or intellectually challenging, it has a lot of value.”
But how should applicants discuss work experience in their application, and what kind of value should they highlight? Tiffany Sorensen, a tutor at Varsity Tutors and contributor at US News, recently offered a few tips on how to discuss past and current jobs throughout different areas of the college application.
Your resume is an obvious component within the application to list your work experience. But, Sorensen says, how you categorize your experience matters.
“…if you have held several jobs and they span different sectors – for instance, as a salesperson, customer service representative and babysitter – you may want to categorize your work experience under more specific labels,” Sorensen says. “In any case, list your job experiences in reverse chronological order, putting the most recent item first and working backwards in time. However, if there is one entry you want to emphasize – because you worked there a long time, for instance, or it relates to your intended major – you can place it first.”
Work experience can be a touching point in your interviews as well, especially when asked about career goals and ambitions.
“Imagine, for example, that you worked at a hospital cafeteria one summer and from that experience you discovered a passion for nutrition,” Sorensen says. “You could bring up this experience if asked about your intended major or where you see yourself in 10 years. For instance, if you get the question about your major, you could respond: ‘While working at the cafeteria of X Hospital, I realized I have a love for nutrition when … Now, I’d like to pursue a major in health science or dietetics, so I can … ‘”
Your admissions essay can be a good place to discuss work experiences, as essays can complement the information on your resume. If it doesn’t fit or flow with the essay content, Sorensen says, leave it out.
“The point is that the work experience you mention should cast you in a positive light and be well-integrated into the essay,” she says. “It shouldn’t read as an afterthought or out-of-place point you are trying too hard to squeeze in.”
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