Little Volunteer Work = Admissions Deal-Breaker?

Question: My daughter has worked hard throughout high school. She is at the top of her class, with almost a perfect SAT and ACT. She plays the piano and does cross country. However, because of our financial difficulties, she has had to babysit and tutor, and work summers at a farm, to pay for her own clothes, etc. Her counselor said she will not get into a decent college because she has only done a little volunteer work (working on Obama’s campaign). I explained that she has had to work 3 days a week, and this combined with taking 4 APs and helping me out with her little brother has given her little time to do much else. I feel so discouraged for my daughter. After all that she has done, it seems this is going to limit her chances. I don’t know what to think.

Your counselor sounds like an idiot. Well, okay, maybe that’s a little strong, but “The Dean” just had a second cup of coffee and probably should have stopped at one. 😮

For starters, I don’t know what the counselor means by a “decent” college. But, regardless, the minimal volunteer work on your daughter’s résumé won’t be a deal-breaker anywhere. Her paid work experiences (plus helping you at home) will look every bit as meaningful to admission committees as a volunteer job, especially when she points out that the money she earned was for necessities, not for luxuries. The summer farm gig sounds especially interesting (far less common than tutoring and babysitting) and might even be fodder for an essay.

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