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5 months ago
Admissions Advice

Work hours vs Volunteer hours

Would colleges value volunteer hours more than work hours? I was thinking about getting a retail job but I was going to join Key Club as well but I don’t think I can juggle both. Would I have better chances of getting accepted to colleges if I had the volunteer hours instead of work hours. I already get volunteer hours from being on the yearbook staff as well as 4H

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2 answers

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2 months ago

Colleges value students who make a contribution and investment in areas that interest them. That can be in the form of volunteering, job shadowing, or work experience. They understand students have different circumstances. They value a student who contributes to the family by watching siblings while parents work, just as much as they value a student who builds a house in Costa Rica. Colleges want to see that you can balance academics with outside activities. Work experience is a great way to demonstrate that. If you volunteer - it's unpaid work - and valuable experience. Be sure to track and verify all of you contributions.

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5 months ago[edited]

There is no correct answer. It really depends on your narrative, demographics, whether you belong to a marginalized group of applicants, your family circumstances, your spike, etc etc. If you are low income and your family relies on you to pitch in to help pay for basic needs like food, housing, clothing, then working to help your family is what you need to do and colleges applaud that. I've read various Harvard admits share about working at McDonald's for 4 years to help their family who didn't have much time to do other impressive ECs. I think all colleges want to be sensitive to your own family's personal circumstances and acknowledge the 'lack of privilege' whenever possible.

But if you are just bored and want to get a part-time job to save up for a car, that's not very enterprising if you want to impress top colleges.

Now if you are a low-income BIPOC queer high school kid that works to help his family, and also volunteers at a suicide hotline where you help counsel troubled teens struggling with gender, identity or depression or other mental illness into feeling good about themselves, then both working and volunteering have something positive to say about your character and using your voice. Doing something like that impresses people reading your application.

Volunteering at the yearbook or 4H doesn't seem particularly challenging as an extracurricular activity but it depends on what your college admissions goals are. I don't know what caliber of colleges you are trying to apply and get admitted into but if they are Top 100 schools, try to find more challenging activities that have something to do with your passion or spike.

Good luck

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