College admission officials are typically big fans of gap years. They often find that taking time off after high school can make students more focused and, of course, more mature than they were at 18. As you embark on your gap year experience, ideally you would find a job that is related to your prospective major or career goal. This might bolster your admission chances by demonstrating interest in your future plans. But, with only a high school diploma on your bedroom wall, you may discover that your choices are limited. For instance, if your aim is for medical school or law school, you won’t be able to land a spot as a brain surgeon or litigator without a lot more education. Even entry-level jobs (e.g., receptionists) in such fields are often reserved for those with a college degree or at least some education beyond high school. On the other hand, there are certainly plenty of careers that require a college degree and yet also offer opportunities for those without one (e.g., food service and hospitality, retail and merchandising, and many more). So, depending on what you expect to study, you might be wise to seek out a related job.
But even if your long-term goals don’t mesh well with a short-term, ground-floor position, fear not. The college folks also love to see applicants who aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty by tackling minimum-wage work. So just about any job you can find (supermarket cashier, ice-cream scooper, hotel maid, fast-food clerk) will “look good” on an application. When it comes to impressing admission committees, the only jobs you may want to avoid are those where your boss is obviously a parent or other close relative. Babysitting jobs for family friends also may not be as eye-catching as those that require you to interact with strangers and to go to an actual workplace each day that isn’t the next-door neighbor’s sandbox. 😉