The short answer essay prompt on the Common Application asks a question such as this: "Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences."
Joel's short answer response focuses on a rather surprising topic -- his not-so-impressive job working in the kitchen at Burger King:
For the past year I have worked part-time at Burger King. It's a job I picked up to help pay for my class trip to Germany. The job is what you'd expect -- I'm on my feet the whole time assembling burgers, squirting ketchup, and cooking fries. The pace can be frantic at times, and the pay is low. My friends who come into the restaurant make fun of me. The job is neither strengthening my calculus skills nor improving my writing ability. However, I have been surprised by the relationships I've developed with my coworkers. Some are high school students like me, but others are twice my age working full time and struggling to support their families. When I applied to Burger King I simply wanted a paycheck, but I now am grateful for the opportunities I've had to build friendships with and learn from people very different from me.
Critique of Joel's Short Answer Response
Joel takes a risk in his short answer response because he describes a job that isn't something most people would want to highlight. However, Joel makes a couple moves in his response to make it effective.
First, he manages to slip in his reason for taking this job -- he wants to travel to Germany. The fact that he is willing to work hard to have this travel experience shows a level of motivation and global interest that should impress the admissions officers.
The writing itself is clear and free of errors, and the essay comes in at 834 characters/150 words -- right around my recommended short answer length.
When it comes to Joel's job, he doesn't try to present it as something it isn't. In a somewhat humorous way, he describes the nature of his Burger King employment. Joel is clearly not trying to impress the admissions folks with the job itself.
What Joel does reveal, however, is that even the most mundane job can have its own rewards, and that a job is often defined by coworkers more than by the duties of the job itself. Joel doesn't have space in the short answer to explain exactly what he has learned from his coworkers, but we leave his response with the feeling that Joel is someone who is open-minded and can get along with and learn from people different from himself. These are qualities that will be attractive to a college.
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