3 Things High School Students Should Think About When Searching for Summer Jobs

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3 Things High School Students Should Think About When Searching for Summer Jobs

Spending your summer working is a valuable use of your time. You will make money, friends and contacts that may assist you in the future. You will learn important skills such as time management, money handling, responsibility and how to deal effectively with disgruntled customers. A summer job can also boost your self-esteem, introduce you to a potential future career and help you get into college. Before you run out and take the first job you can find, here are some things to consider when choosing your summer job.

1. The Job You Choose Sends a Message to Colleges.

Simply by listing a particular job on a college application, you are highlighting specific personal attributes, interests and skills. College admission counselors are always impressed by students who have consistently maintained summer jobs because they can infer that these students are responsible, mature and committed to something beyond video games, YouTube, and hanging out with friends. Although all jobs will enhance a college application, students should be conscious that any job they list on their college application sends a message about who they are. Each job suggests a different set of personal attributes, areas of interest and soft and hard skills which will differentiate one applicant from another. An admission counselor may reasonably assume that a student who has spent a summer waiting tables has topnotch interpersonal skills and the ability to multitask. A student who spends the summer coding is likely to be self-reliant with the ability to think logically and abstractly. Working for a charitable organization may demonstrate a student’s values and sense of community. All of these summer jobs bode well for a student’s college application but each sends a distinctly different message about the student. Be aware of the message you want to send and choose your summer job accordingly.

2. The Most Valuable Job is Not Necessarily the One that Pays the Most.

Value your summer job based on the paycheck, but also a means of laying the groundwork for a future career. Although the amount of income a student earns during the summer is important in meeting college and personal expenses, there are other benefits of summer jobs that might prove to be more important and lucrative in the long run. A job which sends a strong message about a student’s skills, interests or values may help the student get into the college of his or her choice. The contacts made at a summer job, whether with the other employees, the manager or owners of the business or the customers, can prove instrumental in creating a network that opens up future job opportunities. For example, an endorsement from a summer employer might lead to an internship during college, which then can lead to a career. The transferable skills one learns or hones at a summer job can also be very important. The ability to handle time pressure and interact with all sorts of people that one might gain in food service or retail will likely be very important as one inevitably encounters similar dynamics in a future career. As you search for a summer job prioritize those jobs that will give you more than just a paycheck.

3. Some Jobs Won’t Hurt Your College Prospects, But They Won’t Help Much Either.

Choose variety over consistency and consider pursuing new opportunities even if a job is readily available at your family’s business or by returning to the same job you had last summer. All jobs will add some value to a college application. But, some jobs carry more weight than others. College admission counselors are looking for standout students to fill their classes. Let the jobs listed on your application help them understand how you stand out. Students should avoid repeating the same job summer after summer. A variety of jobs will necessarily expand the student’s range of experience and skills and maximize networking opportunities. Also, seeing the same job listed summer after summer without apparent advancement could lead a college admissions counselor to conclude that the student lacks motivation or is unwilling to seek new challenges. Changing jobs to explore a field of interest or to stretch horizons beyond the familiar will be more impressive to admissions counselors. Although working for Mom or Dad can be a valuable experience, it also can be interpreted in a negative light. Simply put, when Mom hires you, it doesn’t say much about how impressive you were in the interview. It’s easy to get hired at the family business. If you already have the family business on your resume, it’s time to try something new.

The key to getting the most out of a summer job is to think ahead about what the job will do for you aside from providing you with spending money. Go in with eyes open, make an affirmative choice, stretch outside your comfort zone and then bring your best self to the job every day. Don’t think of this experience as “just a summer job.” It is an opportunity that could launch you into future successes.


Michelle McAnaney is the founder of  The College Spy, a full service independent educational consulting firm that assists students and families across the US and internationally with the college selection and application process. Prior to founding The College Spy, Michelle was a guidance counselor and educator for more than 15 years, including serving as the Director of Guidance at two high schools, an adjunct college professor and a GED tutor. Michelle holds a master’s degree in school counseling and a bachelor’s degree in human development. She recently completed UC Irvine’s certificate program in educational consulting and is a MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) Certified Practitioner and a NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner. Michelle visits over 40 colleges each year so that she has first-hand knowledge of the colleges and universities her clients will be considering. You can find her on FacebookTwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.