Volunteering, Internships and Jobs: How Colleges View Them

on September 21, 2017

Every summer, high school students choose between internships, jobs and volunteer opportunities. All of these can be rewarding, but many students wonder what colleges will think of their choices.


When deciding between an internship or job and volunteer work, it's important to think about how your choice highlights your interests and passions and furthers your goals. You also need to take time and finances into account. Take a look at the list of advantages and disadvantages below before you decide how you want to spend your summer.


Advantages of Volunteer Work


Not only does volunteer work help people who need it, but it also shows that you're engaged with your community. Admissions officers appreciate your dedication to others. When it comes to volunteering, it's best to choose a cause or organization to which you can devote most of your volunteer time. Volunteering also can expose you to adversity in ways you wouldn't normally experience, which can broaden your perspective.


Disadvantages of Volunteer Work


Volunteering, though impressive in some instances, is increasingly common among high school students. Although it can be a good thing, it can make it more difficult to make your volunteer experience stand out in an application. Many high school organizations also require students to volunteer for a minimum number of hours. Admissions officers can tell when you've only volunteered because you had to.


Additionally, volunteering abroad can be a profound personal experience, but extravagant mission trips risk coming across as privileged or frivolous. Finally, remember volunteering for a week every summer is no substitute for a full-time job or internship, so if you're truly passionate about a cause, find more serious opportunities to volunteer consistently. 


Advantages of Internships and Summer Jobs


Internships and summer jobs can be difficult to obtain, but they're a great indication of interests and future aspirations. A summer job — even a relatively menial one — shows maturity, responsibility and financial planning. Internships might be harder to secure, and many (especially for high school students) are unpaid. Both look impressive on an application, and your work experience will make it easier to apply for jobs and pursue professional opportunities in college and beyond. 


Disadvantages of Internships and Summer Jobs


Internships and summer jobs are serious commitments, which mean they aren’t always the most fun or personally fulfilling way to spend your time. They might also make it difficult to pursue other hobbies or activities. If your summer job or internship has nothing to do with what you want to study or do professionally, it can be a question mark on your application, especially if you highlight it. 


Of course, there's no reason you can't both work and volunteer, if you can find the time. Ultimately, figure out which summer opportunity shows engagement, maturity and open-mindedness.

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