After-school job vs High School sports


5-Year Member
Nov 28, 2017
My son (a junior) is faced with a dilemma: continue on with wrestling (varsity and letter opportunity) or wrestle JV and keep his after-school job. His after-school job (which he's had for about 5 months) is working at a Park rec center supervising elementary school kids in an after-school program (games, tutoring, etc). He's apparently pretty good at it as his supervisor has told him he is the best employee she's ever supervised. He was working 3-6 pm, five days a week but has dropped down to 2 days per week (with the permission of his supervisor) in order to be on the wrestling team. This is his first year wrestling and it turns out he's pretty good at this, too. His coach told him that if he fully commits, he could wrestle varsity and likely letter but they have a strict formula for the number of practices/meets they can miss and still letter and be varsity. If he keeps his job, he won't letter - that was made clear. And that's okay with him in the sense that he can use it to stay in shape/get in better shape for CFA and participate as JV. He's concerned, however, that it may show lack of commitment both to sports and to his job (for purposes of SA application). He'd like to do both. Come spring, he will be taking a hiatus from the job for baseball (which he has played all through HS, will be varsity, and will letter). They've told him at his job that they would like him back full-time in the summer but cannot make any guarantees if he has a break in service.

So, he asked me my thoughts - stay the course (and keep his job 2x per week), commit full time to wrestling, or commit full time to the after-school job (at least until March). In part, the reason he is asking is that we have a policy in our family that our sons (we have four and two are in college now) have to work in HS to defer the cost of college (particularly fees, books, and spending money). This applied to his two older brothers and now to him. Nobody (so far) has obtained a significant scholarship. So, my first reaction is "No exceptions - job before sports." He asked if this policy could be relaxed and wonders if he should drop the job, commit to wrestling, and possibly letter (to improve his chances for SAs). He is concerned that SAs will (1) place low value on JV and (2) not place high value on the job (i.e. equivalent with varsity sports). It would be hard to make the case that he "really" has to work to help out with the family finances but, as with many larger families, things are always tight. There is also the factor that he may not get in or otherwise go SA route and will need the money even more. Even if he goes SA, it seems he will need $$ for various expenses, travel home, etc. When he visited USNA in October, he specifically asked about after-school jobs as a factor in SA selection and they told him only a small percentage (something like <10%) of accepted candidates had part time jobs in HS (which seems really low to me), but that has raised his level of concern.

This is a long-winded way of asking, "How do SAs value after-school job experience - especially compared to sports?" We would love to have some insight into this.
Why would the employer give him a hiatus for baseball but not for wrestling? Isn't that a break in service, also?

30% worked 10 hours a week or more.
92% were varsity athletes.
74% of those athletes were captains.

I imagine the 8% who were not varsity athletes had truly extraordinary files in some other way. I suppose you could measure your son's "statistics" against this framework.

It looks like your son is a varsity athlete - baseball. So - it really is simply job vs varsity wrestling.

Good luck dad.
The 8% are usually those who were required to work in order to assist the family household financially. This hardship situation is also listed on the 2021 stats. (hardship or adverse life situation: 13%)
Tough call...the numbers are what they are. The good news is with baseball, DS has the Varsity Athlete box checked. (Nowadays, with specialization, I don't know how many are multi-sport athletes). The problem with after school jobs is the range the gamut from sacking groceries to great leadership and learning experiences. If DS sticks with the job, I would recommend that he turns it into a positive -- make sure he tell his BGO about it (and the dilemna he had) or perhaps write about his experience in his personal statement .
Why would the employer give him a hiatus for baseball but not for wrestling? Isn't that a break in service, also?


To clarify - they'll keep him employed for two days a week but it comes at the expense of having varsity wrestling status. Baseball is his main sport and he'll have to commit to every week day when it starts (i.e. no way to be varsity baseball player and fit in this job). He has batting cage time and mound time all year round, plus legion ball in the summer, but it's always been that way since he was nine and in traveling ball. (I'm always grateful I didn't push hockey - we live in Minnesota and that would be just nuts).

Thanks for clarification on percentage of those who work more than 10 hours a week - 30% sounds much more likely.

This SA prep stuff is all new to my wife and I (and my son, of course) - seems like so much more to consider in terms of preparation in high school. What used to seem like "regular" choices for him now seem to carry more consequence. My wife thinks my son and I are "overthinking" this but I think this pursuit requires more deliberate planning. I have some friends and relatives who have sent children to SAs or went themselves and they've been trying to coach us - all basically said you have to start with a smart, well-rounded, highly motivated teen and build from there but there is no substitute for "highly motivated teen".
The best advice I can give as an academy student is to allow your DS to do what he's passionate about, this will carry much more weight than the checks in boxes that are often coveted by candidates. In my opinion, if DS goes into his interviews able to speak with passion about his experiences in wrestling or work, and how he's grown as a person because of them, it will be much more impactful than if he did one or the other to check a box.