High school juniors live in a reality of pessimism and uncertainty in COVID 19 times. It’s easy to be pessimistic about the chances of finding summer jobs to help pay for college. But there are summer jobs to be found, and much to be learned from them. Friends and colleagues shared their stories about their first summer jobs or their first high school jobs. These summer jobs stories are interesting and fun, so please read on!
I was a stringer for the Bayshore Independent (a Central Jersey weekly), covering mostly municipal meetings. Improved my writing and learned to write quickly and meet deadlines.
I worked my first high school jobs simultaneously: landscaper, farm worker, newspaper delivery boy. But I’ll go with my landscaping business, 15 lawns at my peek, their mower or mine. Learned how to run and own a small business, budgeting, expenses, scheduling, time management, bidding, marketing, communications skills and equipment maintenance. It also taught me how to manage and save my money
I was an assistant gym teacher. Let one little girl take off her shoes because they hurt. Resulted in 30 kindergarteners running without shoes. Moral of the story: rules are for everyone.
I worked at the “computer department” where I soldered boards for telephone equipment. Over the course of the summer I helped install the new Rolm phone system by installing these boards and crawling through the ceilings pulling wire. It was where I learned how important having a college education was going to be.
As a sophomore in high school, I was honored to earn the English horn spot in my town’s “professional” symphony (in quotes because I earned a paycheck, but was really more like a community orchestra). Tackles some performance anxiety as a young child and learned a lot of patience. The English horn is a unique instrument. It is typically used as a solo instrument, and is rarely used in ensemble sections. In addition, I began a private music studio my sophomore year. I learned scheduling, communication skills, goal setting, mentoring, marketing, and much more. By the time I graduated, I had about 20 private students, so I was communicating regularly with the students’ parents at drop off/pick up and about scheduling.
I was a McDonalds drive-thru person at 16. Learned that I don’t do my best work when I feel rushed. Learned how hard this “minimum wage” job was and have intense respect for those who work in that industry. Also learned that I’m not a fan of wearing a hat/visor.
I worked for the town recreation department as a counselor in one of the public playgrounds. We offered games and activities for neighborhood kids. One of my first days I was asked to umpire a pick up baseball game. The play was at first and I called the runner out, much to the consternation of the team at bat. I changed the call – never should have done that. Took me a long time to regain credibility. Lesson learned? If you know you are right, stick to your guns.
First paid job in HS – lifeguarding. I learned how frustrating it is when you get paid for a specified shift but have to work a longer shift. Pool members did not leave when the pool closed. Now call it “Expectation Management.” I learned the value of money and the feeling of earning it and wanting to save it for something special.Learned how to treat people and how to be polite when an adult “vented” about something beyond your control. Also learned to be grateful for my parents when they brought me dinner when I worked a long shift.
Counselor-in-training at Lazy J Ranch Camp. I learned so much–the diversity of people out there, really got me out of my bubble since I worked with people from all walks of life, how to work with children, the importance of listening, and the value in a “please” and a “thank you.”
My first job was as a candy striper at the local hospital. I was so excited and loved it. Loved the uniform and my job was basically getting water, food and little things for patients in the hospital. It was volunteer. Sometimes, on a special day I was even able to wheel them in a wheel chair! I was 13. Realized how little some people had visitors and how much they looked forward to seeing me – because I was able to spend time with them.
I had a job singing telegrams at a company called Looney Tunes (yes, possible trademark infringement). As a high school drama student, it seemed like a great gig. Learned that I had a voice with a limited range, felt ridiculous wearing some of the costumes and had more chutzpah than I do now.
My dad managed sales for a glorified mailing house. They were short-staffed the summer I turned 15, so he hired me and a bunch of my friends to sit in the warehouse and stuff envelopes. About day 3, the owner came out to the warehouse and asked if anyone could type. My mom was a typing teacher, so I’d been typing since before I could write in cursive (yes, I know that dates me, too). I raised my hand and got pulled from the swelteringly hot, paper-cut-filled warehouse and was given a cushy chair in the office and a stack of envelopes. Learned then that skills were important and that I wanted to be one of those “office” people, not a “warehouse” person.
Worked on the family ranch driving a hay retriever and digging ditches and moving irrigation pipe and painting floor hardener in 100-120 degree heat in Cuyama, CA 6-6 , 1 hour off for lunch for minimum wage. Learned that the life of the mind was going to be mine.
Marionette Puppeteer with my best friend under the tutelage of my aunt. At 13 years old I learned the meaning of working hard for $20 a show, saving money for college, and bringing a joy to nursing home patients and elementary school kids.
Newspapers were printed accounts that had news stories concerning international, national, and local events. Like a google only your fingers got “inky”. Delivering papers was a great job as it taught me responsibility and gave me independence.
I worked at a Christmas tree farm planting trees. I borrowed $100 from my dad and bought a Honda trail bike. Back then I could ride trails almost all the way to work. They let us ride around on the farm after work. Learned how to take abuse from older kids. But it didn’t stop me from borrowing their MX bikes and hitting jumps that I shouldn’t. Crashed once but they didn’t get mad. I think they thought I was crazy because I was younger but would go bigger than them lol. Learned perseverance and how to pay back my first loan.
I worked at the Bronx Zoo…Totally learned about customer service….we also were taught patience because we had to feed animals and there was a process for safety.
After babysitting, I worked at the service desk at J. C. Penney. Learned about customer service and how to deal with obnoxious people. About 6+ months into the job I came in early on Saturday mornings to clear out the cash registers all over the store so the people in the “money room” could calculate the previous day’s sales. Those were the days when a computer filled an entire room.
High school juniors can find summer jobs doing deliveries, as office assistants, as writers for local news outlets and social media, as instructors and tutors, as outdoor laborers, even as artists and musicians. Some can start their own businesses, non-profits or social media outlets. They can also serve their community as volunteers. All it takes is some imagination, maybe a resume, or even a LinkedIn profile. It also takes a willingness to ask people if they need help. And, as you see from these stories, they can learn a lot!
Summer jobs might not sound as exciting as summer programs at colleges. But they will give a high school junior, soon to be a rising senior, some advantages in the college admissions process. These are:
Rising seniors should pay attention to that last bullet. During this upcoming admissions cycle, this will be an optional question on the Common Application:
Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces.
• Do you wish to share anything on this topic? Y/N
• Please use this space to describe how these events have impacted you.
For rising and soon-to-be seniors the story of your summer job, paid or unpaid, how you found it, and what you learned strengthens your case for admissions. Make the most of the experience, don’t complain, write in your own voice and make the reader smile. An applicant’s chances for admissions are better when they put a smile on an admissions officer’s face.
Need help in planning your summer for the journey to college? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 609-406-0062.
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