College Essay Work Experience

Writing about work experience

29 July 2016

If your child has been fortunate enough to gain relevant work experience or voluntary work then they should mention this in their personal statement.

Work experience can really help to demonstrate passion and enthusiasm for an academic subject, and can help to show that the applicant is driven and hard working.

While for some programmes work experience is not essential, for others, it is absolutely key to securing an offer.  It is important for your child to research their course choices to find out how much emphasis the university places on work experience when assessing applications.

Less is more

A personal statement is limited to 4,000 characters (or 47 lines of text), so your child will need to be concise when writing about work experience.

They should aim to write a brief but insightful summary of their work experience placement, and it may help to write, read and then to re-write their account several times.

When writing about work experience, the most important points to cover are:

  • which duties, tasks and responsibilities were undertaken during the placement?
  • what was gained or learnt from these experiences?

What and where

The first thing to mention when writing about work experience is where the experience was gained, and what the key responsibilities of the role were.

Providing some brief background information on the organisation will help admissions officers to understand the type of experience that your child has gained. Even if the company is known to the admissions tutor, a little extra information can help to give your child’s account of work experience additional credibility.

Once your child has briefly introduced where the work experience has been gained then they will need to briefly describe the responsibilities that they were given.

It is important that, rather than just stating a generic job title (which could mean different things to different people), your child provides a clear summary of their key responsibilities so that the admissions officer understands the specific experiences that your child has gained during the work placement.

To demonstrate the above, compare these two accounts of the same placement:

" During July of this year I completed a two week work placement with Bruce and Carry Ltd as an Accounting Assistant"

" During July of this year I completed a two week work placement with Bruce and Carry Ltd, a national insurance company with an annual turnover of £24 million, as an Accounting Assistant where I was given responsibility for financial reporting and for assisting the senior credit controller by sending invoices to debtors"

While these accounts summarise the same work placement, the second account provides a much better understanding of the type of organisation where the applicant carried out the work placement and the specific experience that has been gained.

Admissions officers read a large volume of applications each year, many of which include references to very similar types of work experience, so the more specific that your child can be in detailing their experience then the more interested the admissions officer is likely to be.

Learning from work experience

The most important part of their account will be writing about what has been gained or learnt from the work experience. The account needs to be brief so your child should focus on the parts of the placement that they found to be particularly enjoyable or beneficial.

Here are a few examples of the types of detail that your child may wish to include:

  • how the placement has further inspired them to study the subject
  • what the placement has taught them about the subject that they have applied to study (this could be specific knowledge or more general insight)
  • how the placement has helped to demonstrate in practice what they have learnt previously (or alternatively how the placement has made them question what has previously been learnt!)
  • how the placement has further inspired them to seek a long-term career within the subject
  • how their abilities or previous experience fit with the demands of a career related to the subject.

Here are two examples of how your child may wish to articulate the above:

"I gained experience of double entry book keeping, which is something I really enjoyed. The realisation that this type of work fits well with my methodical and analytical nature has further inspired me to study a degree in accounting"

" By being able to interact with panic disorder patients, I was able to see first-hand how SSRI’s and other antidepressants can be used to effectively manage severe anxiety, and seeing the effect of such treatments on the quality of life of patients has made me even more motivated to pursue a career within clinical psychology"

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