This question is motivated by Should you list irrelevant work experience on graduate school applications?

In that question, the OP cited text from one graduate school's question about employment history:

[List] employment experience (including part-time) since secondary school

Why on earth would a graduate school admissions committee care whether a candidate worked part-time in a dry cleaning store from May to August of 2003?

Are they just trying to narrow the field by making the application process more tedious and daunting?

3 Answers 3


I think you nailed it almost exactly. I won't say that they

...just trying to narrow the field by making the application process more tedious and daunting...

but they (people, designing the forms) do not particularly care about streamlining it and making it more inclusive for mature students students from "non-typical" backgrounds.

I do not want to say that Universities as a whole do not care. At some level, they very much do. Universities often have special people or even teams dedicated to improving access for "under-represented" groups of students. However, the activities of these accessibility teams, however excellent they are, rarely affect the practices of internal departments responsible for managing the application process: Admissions and HR. I have certainly came across the HR departments using the same forms for ~20+ years, some of which are quite bizarre. My favourite was perhaps when I applied to a University Lecturer post in the UK and was asked to produce the results of my GSCE exams, which are college-level exams in the UK, which I never had because I did not grow up in the UK. The web-site of this University proudly announced their international outlook; however, the HR processes did not recognise a possibility that anyone with non-UK education may ever apply for the post.

  • They may wish to verify that one hasn't been fired, account for all time (exclude people who have been unemployed, etc), and make sure there are no security looopholes as well. Whether this is valid or not, who knows? Mar 30, 2023 at 21:28

My suspicion would be that the school with such a requirement has a very narrow age window it desires in its graduate students, or at minimum desires that the ink still be wet on their baccalaureate diplomas -- the "train them up young" approach. Listing all post-high-school jobs is not usually terribly onerous for the typical 23-year-old.

I can't speak to how appropriate this is across disciplines. I can only say that where I am we only ask for a résumé and do not specify how far into the past it need go, because we value learners of all ages.

  • 2
    During my PhD application in 2001, I was required to list all jobs held since I got my first degree, in 1970. I am not at all sure of the 21st century relevance of user interface programming based on punch cards and paper tape. Obviously, I was not a typical applicant. Nov 21, 2015 at 15:41
  • 1
    So maybe the question is a left-over artifact of days gone by? Nov 21, 2015 at 16:35
  • 1
    Could be! Sometimes it's too long before procedures are appropriately questioned.
    – D.Salo
    Nov 21, 2015 at 21:28

This is not about admissions. Forms for employment in the private sector and visa applications will also ask for complete job histories, and other tedious lists.

The information is not used for anything and there is not a reason to collect it. The cost of collecting the information is on the applicant and not the the organization, so the organization sees no problem with it.

In recent years, the information is collected through a form created by a third party software vendor. The vendor designs the form to cover all use cases (such as hiring people into security-sensitive roles). The organization collecting the information has to actively remove things from the form if they are not wanted. As a result, in most cases you get the default form.

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