My students have discovered some of their best topic ideas for their college application essays from their job experiences.
I’m not sure why they make great fodder for college essays, but I believe that simply working for others naturally reveals a complimentary set of qualities, skills and values—humility, determination, perseverance, responsibility, people skills, industriousness, dependability, and the good old work ethic.
It’s no coincidence that these are the same qualities and skills that you need to succeed in college—and what college admissions folks are looking for!
I also think work experiences often fall under the category of “mundane” or everyday topics—which is a good thing!
Former students have written lively essays out working at places like Circuit City, a shoe store, ushering at a playhouse, serving gelato, washing dishes at fancy restaurant, bagging groceries at Ralph’s, working at Dunkin Donuts, etc.
Most work places lack glamour, and that naturally makes them feel “real,” authentic and interesting.
And although we have all worked in our lives, it’s always fun to learn about what it’s like at those places we never worked, no matter how pedestrian they seem (so the essays are naturally interesting to read).
When you think of past jobs, explore them for those other features that make great essays:
- Something happened. (Look for a little story or moment or example to tell)
- There was a problem. (Something went wrong; you messed up; you couldn’t do it correctly; you were scared; someone was in your way; etc.)
- The event or context was “mundane,” meaning simple and common in nature. (in this case, your job or the related problem: cleaning houses, serving burgers, etc.)
- You learned a lesson. (How you turned something negative into a positive.)
- There was something “unexpected” about what happened or what you learned. (A twist/surprise)
- Need more help getting started? My Jumpstart Guide can give you a boost!
This article is still highly relevant, even several years since I wrote it. Check out this article (June 2016) on why Teens Should Have Summer Jobs.
Thanks for leaving the comment at FrugalYork.com!
This is a great site; my daughter will definitely be reading through it all.
I’ll also be passing it on to the kids at school!
thanks so much! i like to think there’s lots of information on this site that could help students who are struggling to write these cursed essays! i wish i knew more ways to get out the word.
best of luck to your daughter!
You are welcome! I was trying to get out the word and reach the right audience. Best of luck to you and your daughter! JR
This is very beneficial for me as a non native speaker. <3
You are so welcome!! Best of luck to you!! JR
Thank you so much. Every time i need help, I check this site.I have even bookmarked it 🙂
You are so sweet! That really makes my day to hear you find this site so helpful! Thanks!! JR