WAITLISTED? Act now. Get expert guidance to write a standout Letter of Continued Interest!

3 Ways to Leverage Your Summer Job on your Ivy League Applications

Mar 18, 2024

Time off of school during summer break offers a critical opportunity for students to bolster their college application profiles. While colleges and universities want to see that students are prepared for rigorous coursework, much of students’ time in college will be spent outside of the classroom. Elite institutions seek to admit students who will not only meet the high demands of their academic curricula, but who will also enrich their campus communities through leadership and service. The best way to demonstrate that you are such a student is to leverage your summer break strategically to showcase your interests, skills, and engagement in your community.

From merit-based summer programs to volunteer opportunities to online coursework, there are myriad ways for students to spend the summer months. Many students assume that a summer job is the least likely option to stand out to top colleges. However, with the proper strategy, thoughtfulness, and hard work, students can leverage their summer job to stand out to Ivy League admissions officers. Here are three ways that students can compellingly convey their passions and talents through their summer jobs:

1. Demonstrate Leadership and Skill Development

Whether you’re working as a lifeguard, camp counselor, dog walker, or administrative assistant at a law office, every job offers the opportunity to demonstrate self-motivation and leadership, even in a small capacity. Stepping up in the workplace not only allows students to develop critical life skills that will carry them into their college careers, but it can also highlight students’ willingness to contribute to their communities. Highlighting the specific professional and leadership skills you have honed during your summer job is essential for creating a standout application. For example, perhaps scooping ice cream helped you develop customer service skills, babysitting required you to be responsible for another individual (or more!) and waiting tables helped you develop time management and interpersonal skills.

Further, earning and stewarding your own money shows colleges that you are financially responsible, a skill that will serve you well as you begin your life as an independent adult. The University of California application, for example, asks students to explain how they intend to spend their earnings from their jobs: “Please tell us how you’ve used your earnings from all of the jobs you’ve listed. This information will NOT be used to determine financial aid — rather, it gives us more context about you and your experiences. How have you used or will you use your earnings?”

2. Connect Your Summer Job to Your Academic and Professional Goals

Articulating how your summer job relates to your academic and career aspirations can provide valuable context for Ivy League admissions officers. Reflect on how your summer job experience has influenced your personal and professional development and shaped your academic trajectory. Whether you’re exploring a potential career field, gaining insight into an industry, or honing skills relevant to your academic interests, make meaningful connections between your summer job and your future goals. Even if you are not working in the field you hope to enter in the future, get creative as you think about how you might use the skills and lessons your summer job has taught you in your future profession. If you are working a summer job as a freshman or sophomore, consider writing a journal entry at the end of the summer reflecting on your experiences. Doing so will not only help you to introspectively consider your experiences and their impact on your future goals, but will also provide a log for you to return to when it comes time to compile your applications. By demonstrating this alignment in a thoughtful and innovative way, you will convey a sense of purpose and unique perspective that will stand out to Ivy League admissions committees.

3. Build a Professional Network

Perhaps the most critical long-term benefit of a summer job is developing a professional network that can connect you to future opportunities and vouch for the caliber of your work. Students should be collegial and professional in the workplace and always treat their coworkers and managers with respect. As you navigate your summer job and build relationships along the way, consider who might provide you with a compelling letter of recommendation.

A well-crafted letter of recommendation from a supervisor or professional mentor can provide valuable and personal insight into your character, work ethic, and potential for success. When requesting a letter of recommendation, choose someone who knows you well, can speak authoritatively to your strengths and accomplishments, and can offer specific examples of your contributions and impact in your summer job. By obtaining a compelling letter of recommendation, you’ll provide Ivy League admissions officers with additional evidence of your qualifications and readiness for success at their institution, as well as a personalized picture of your character and interests.

Leveraging your summer job for your Ivy League application requires strategic planning and thoughtful execution. Remember to approach your summer job with intentionality, reflect on its significance in your application, and articulate how it aligns with your aspirations. Through careful consideration and effective storytelling, your summer job can become a compelling asset that sets you apart in the competitive Ivy League admissions process.

Originally published on Forbes.

Share our Blog