Summer Job? Let Your Essay Be Your Guide


This time of year, juniors are focused on what courses to take next year to best position them, not only for the rigors of college, but for their college application, too. But before next September comes the summer, and juniors may want to plan their summer with an eye to their applications, as well—not in terms of their résumé, but, believe it or not, in terms of their upcoming essays.

The folks in college admissions certainly look at students’ activities and sustained interest in a sport or hobby; they also look favorably on community service and volunteer work. But if you’ve decided on looking for a paying job this summer, my advice—all other things being equal—is to let your future college essay be your guide.

What I mean by this is, look for opportunities outside your comfort zone, where you will learn new skills, meet new people, face new challenges and surmount new obstacles. Through these experiences—not necessarily easy or pleasurable ones—you will have a treasure trove of material from which to fashion a terrific personal essay.

The best essays I’ve worked on with my students have been both the most mundane narratives and the most transformative ones—stories about personal growth through overcoming adversity, often in the performance of a dreary summer job. So try to see this coming summer as an opportunity to not only save up some money for college, but also to put away some lasting memories—tales of life lessons learned that will be great reads on your application.