Parents of high school students who are eyeing competitive colleges, listen up. College admissions advisers recommend your teenage kid spend these next few months doing this: a non-resume building, minimum wage, run-of-the-mill summer job.
No, not an internship downtown or a cushy office admin job attained by dad pulling a few strings.
"Teens should have summer jobs, the less glamorous the better," Quartz recommends. Quartz spoke to a Harvard education lecturer and college admissions officers about the merits of scooping ice cream and flipping burgers for teenagers. It turns out their bright future might depend on it.
1. Broaden their horizons.
Teenagers who work in a service-oriented job engage with a wide variety of people. Customers might be rude to them. They won't receive special treatment from their supervisor. They'll work with others who come from different backgrounds or education levels. In other words, they'll learn about the entire world that exists outside of their own little bubble.
This experience is crucial for learning empathy and emotional intelligence, important leadership skills that might not be taught at swanky internships -- when people are tiptoeing on eggshells around the boss's best friend's teenage son.
2. Learn the value of their own money.
You could give your teenagers an allowance, and then encourage them to spend their free time on academically enriching extracurriculars. But don't underestimate the valuable money lessons teenagers can learn by working.
Financial journalist Jean Chatzky says the best way for kids to learn how to manage and spend money is by making their own -- lessons that they will keep with them for life.
"When they've earned their money, it's going to hold a greater value, and they'll be more reluctant to spend it, which is a good lesson in and of itself," Chatzky says on the topic of raising money-smart kids. "I firmly believe that teenagers should spend at least part of their summers working, because as you know, no money is as valuable as the money you've earned yourself."
3. Stand out to colleges.
There's a misconception that there's something magical teenagers should do to stand out, says Irena Smith, who was a former Stanford admissions officer. She now runs her own college consultancy, a growing industry The Atlantic covered in a piece about college hopefuls.
Smith says it's not necessary to have a summer that seems enriching on paper. In fact, she remembers a student who wrote an essay about her summer working in fast food. The student was accepted to several Ivy League schools. Of course, the student wasn't accepted to these colleges because she worked in fast food. But it's likely this student had a more compelling story to share in her essay because of her unique experience--one that few privileged Ivy League applicants will ever share.