When a part-time job is your extracurricular activity

Stephanie Dupaul, director of admissions at SMU, talks about how admissions directors look at applicants who take part-time jobs in the summer rather than taking the summer off or going on exotic community-service endeavors in third-world countries.

By Lily Altavena

While some high-end college counselors may recommend that their clients embark on expensive and exotic community-service endeavors in third-world countries in pursuit of an elite college acceptance, other applicants find themselves working in their hometown to save money for school. These students may, understandably, worry that their part-time job will be a blemish on their application.

However, students who forgo a pricey summer activity or an unpaid internship in order to earn for college have not necessarily hurt their chances of admission at all — and could well have helped them, to say nothing of easing the financial burden on themselves and their parents. The answers, though, like so much in admissions, are mixed and not necessarily formulaic.

In an interview, Southern Methodist University’s director of admissions, Stephanie Dupaul, provided the reassuring words that some of the best personal essays she’d read were the result of a summer working in fast food.

“It demonstrates that students are working hard,” she said. “We look for students who haven’t turned off over the summer.”

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