Be an Extracurricular Superstar – Part III

A few weeks ago I mentioned that one way Chinese students (and all students, really) can stand out in the application process is by taking on a job during high school. Wow, I’m telling you what – that statement made a lot of people angry. Especially a few parents.

“It’s impossible for Chinese students to get jobs in high school!”

“You don’t understand Chinese culture! Studies are too important!”

“Working is a waste of time until after college!”

Unfortunately, the three students whose parents made those statements are not going to maximize their potential. Let me explain a little more about how a job can improve your chances of admission.

First off, as international students, admissions offices categorize you along with your average rich American student, as you should be categorized. In fact, if you can pay straight cash for your college tuition, then you’re filthy rich compared to most folks in the world. For admissions purposes, that’s a bad thing.

Admissions committees believe that with all that money, you should have had the best resources, the best study materials, the best schools, the best teachers and every chance in the world to be successful. So with all of those advantages, if you’re NOT the best student, if you’re only an average student, you look much lazier than a student with the same grades who came from a very poor family. See what I mean?

This is why admissions offices like students who’ve had interesting jobs. It proves that the student has good parents who understand the value of hard work. It shows that the student has learned a few good “life lessons” along the way. Even if you only work 4 hours a week at a local car repair shop on Saturday evening, it shows the admissions committee that you’re more than just one of those typical, boring Chinese students with big glasses and a head full of calculus equations.

Think about it. Who gets accepted to study Engineering at MIT? Is it the rich student ranked around 90th percentile in his school, who says that he owns a Porsche and loves watching racing? Or is it the poor student ranked 92nd who spends his free time working at a car repair shop and who indicates he will work as an engineering research assistant to pay for his tuition?

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