Short Answer Response on Working at Burger King

Joel Describes the Surprising Rewards of a High School Work Experience

Burger King Sign
A job at Burger King can lead to a successful short answer essay. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Many colleges and universities ask an applicant to write a brief essay that elaborates on a high school extracurricular activity or work experience. This might be a supplement for the Common Application or a part of the school's own application. The majority of students choose to focus on extracurricular activities, but Joel makes the unusual decision to focus on a rather unglamorous job, working at Burger King.

Joel's Short Essay on His Work Experience

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 (often wrongly) 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 833 characters/150 words — the maximum limit for Joel's essay prompt. With extremely short essays like this, the recommended essay length should be close to the upper limit. You have so little space to say something meaningful that you should take advantage of the space you have. Had Joel's essay had a 250-word limit, he could have provided some more details about the people with whom he worked, and expand upon the lesson he learned from the experience.

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. That said, work experience strengthens college applications, and schools recognize that not all students have the luxury of participating in lots of extracurricular activities when their situation demands they earn money.

What Joel reveals 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. He is also someone who is willing to work hard for his goals. These are qualities that will be attractive to a college.

A Final Word on Short Answer Essays

Don't underestimate the importance of the shorter essays a college or university requires as part of their application. While the main Common Application essay is certainly important, it is "common" — you're submitting that same essay for every school that uses the Common Application. The supplemental essays address specific issues of interest to the specific college. If you fail to follow the best practices for these short essays, you will likely fail to convince the college that your interest is sincere. Work hard to avoid common short answer mistakes.

For another example of a good short answer, Christie does a good job in her essay on her love of running. Doug's essay on a business he started, on the other hand, strikes the wrong tone and could end up hurting his application.

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Grove, Allen. "Short Answer Response on Working at Burger King." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Grove, Allen. (2023, April 5). Short Answer Response on Working at Burger King. Retrieved from Grove, Allen. "Short Answer Response on Working at Burger King." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).