Whether you’re applying to college or grad school, you may be wondering if you should highlight your work experience on your application. Short answer: Yes!
Often times, applicants overlook the importance of their work experience and think only extracurricular activities, awards, or outrageous inventions can be the real superstars on an application. The truth is, though, your work experience should also have a starring role since it tells the admissions department something about you that otherwise may not be revealed in your transcripts.
Take every available opportunity on your application to fill in details about who you are and how you spend your time. No job is too small to be featured on your application. Did you run your own Etsy shop? Mention it. Did you start a lawn mowing service in neighborhood? That’s worth mentioning, too. Did you have a tutoring gig helping elementary students with math? Totally mention that. Did you spend a summer blogging about your summer adventures? That deserves mentioning. Did you start a rock band? Mention. It.
Though you may not have immediately realized the impact these experiences could have on your application, they highlight your individuality, personality and passions in a way no grade truly can. This is your time to brag about yourself, so shine a spotlight on each and every one of your truly unique qualities.
Here are some points to consider when describing your work experience on a college or grad school application:
1. You are committed
Did you work in high school or college to support yourself or your family? That kind of work experience definitely catches the admissions counselor’s attention because it shows you have a lot of drive – no matter what job you had. It takes a lot of commitment, hard work and focus to juggle a job while being a full-time student. So be sure to state that proudly on your application.
2. You are a leader
Have you started your own business, cause or group of like-minded hobbyists? Admissions officers are impressed with students who have demonstrated entrepreneurship – a skill many colleges value. Starting a band, food drive, or running your own car detailing business shows that you’re a leader who takes action. If you have work experience that demonstrates your knack for taking initiative, state that loud and proud on your application. Those are the types of skills admissions officers like to see in students – and on campus.
3. You have a strong work ethic
A great recommendation letter doesn’t have to come only from a teacher or counselor. If you have spent a lot of time working, ask your supervisor or someone in authority who knows you and your ethic well to write a letter on your behalf. A recommendation letter from an employer or someone who has benefitted from your services can validate your influence and contributions. Finding someone who will sing your praises as a hard-working employer or leader is an extremely valuable contribution that adds a lot of weight to your application. Admissions counselors take notice when a third party takes the time to write about a student and what they’ve done.
4. You can benefit the program
Do you have a unique leadership style or knowledge that can benefit your college or program of choice? Your application is the perfect opportunity to distinguish yourself from other applicants who have similar test scores, grades, or profile. Use this time to showcase how your unique characteristics will add to the classroom and enrich the school’s learning environment. Consider sharing how you plan to use your work experiences to contribute to on-campus organizations or create new ones.
5. You can benefit from the program
As much as you want to point out your specific skills that make you unique from other applicants, it’s also a wise choice to highlight specific aspects of the program that can help you build upon and further your work experiences. In other words, make the connection between your past work experiences and your future career goals. Talk about how the college or program you’re applying to can help you attain those goals.
Keep in mind: Your application should not just state your accomplishments. It should paint a comprehensive picture of what makes you uniquely you. Yes, you should boast about your accomplishments, but also make sure to boldly state your dreams and your vision for your future.
About the Author:
Jennifer is here to help you navigate college and grad school while still maintaining your sanity. She is a graduate of the University of Florida (Go Gators!), with a major in Journalism and Communications and a minor in Psychology. She’s also a certified Montessori instructor and once witnessed a four-year-old correctly label all 54 countries on a map of Africa. She prefers to sing when not in the shower, and she’s not afraid of heights as long as she’s standing on something that is less than 15-feet tall.
Cover photo: http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/boy-riding-his-bike-while-delivering-papers-with-his-dog-in-news-photo/73534161