Answers to College Planning Question Of The Week: Will my high school student getting a part-time job at Panera Bread help him look good at college?- by Justin M. Buffer, Cambridge Owner and Professional College Planner

Mr. Justin M. Buffer, Professional College Planner, Founder & Owner Cambridge Learning Center of New Jersey
Question from a parent from East Brunswick, NJ :
 How might a high school student having a part-time job benefit them when applying to college? My son’s friend works at Panera Bread and offered to help my son get a job there because his cousin is the store manager. I am not 100% sold that it is a good idea yet. He tells me that it can help him look good to college admissions officers. Is this true? Is he correct?
Answer from Mr. Justin M. Buffer, M. ED, Professional College Planner and  Cambridge Head Teacher & Founder:
 From my many years helping students with the college process, I have found that a high school student who has a part-time job can benefit when applying to college in several ways and demonstrate skills and discuss experiences that can definitely be attractive to college admissions committees although it is, like anything on a college application, seen in context with a variety of factors.
Last year, one of my college planning students from North Brunswick High School, who was admitted to his dream school- Northeastern University- wrote his college essay about his work experiences at the local Taco Bell.  I am sure that his excellent essay played a substantial factor in his getting in, and his demonstration of real-life interaction with customers, as well as his description of his personal growth through the job, was undoubtedly attractive to admissions officers.
Having a part-time job can also demonstrate responsibility, time management, and a strong work ethic, which are strong qualities for college applicants to display.  Also,  in general, having a part-time job can be a valuable opportunity for a student to explore their interests and career goals and gain exposure to different industries and professions. College admissions officers generally look favorably on students who have gained experience that has shaped their future aspirations rather than just a demonstrated abstract desire to pursue an educational or professional track.
   Also, it is well known that colleges heavily favor soft skills such as effectively and comfortably interacting with people. Thus, a part-time job interacting with customers can be a positive factor when applying to college. This shows that the student has experience dealing with people and can handle responsibility, which are valuable skills in the workforce and college. Having a job can also demonstrate the student’s ability to balance work and school, which is an essential quality for a successful college student. This is not to say that students “have to” get a part-time job, but there are certainly benefits to doing so.   And the job does not have to be “fancy.” Panera Bread, Wegmans, and Starbucks, can be just as or even more impressive than an internship at a corporate office.
     So, overall, having a part-time job can provide a high school student with valuable experiences and skills that can enhance their college application and prepare them for success in college and beyond.  In addition, if it would help your family, having a part-time job can provide a student with financial resources that can help with the cost of college, such as savings for tuition and other expenses.
   I hope that this answer helps you and your family make the decision that is best for you.