As the Early Action/Early Decision deadlines come closer, I’ve been looking at the activities section of the Common Application. It looks straightforward. You name your activity, select the closest category match from the list, add awards or leadership and move on to the next one. But so often, I find that students sell themselves short in their first draft. Once you have made a list of your activities, spend some time on the explanations
Yes, this year the Common App is giving applicants more space to list their activities, but you are still constrained by the single line devoted to explaining your role in a particular activity. While it is possible to attach a longer, more detailed resume, application review works in part by the reader knowing exactly where to find specific information. Use the format provided, but make the most of it.
As you face that line, think about your activity from the perspective of the admissions officer who will evaluate your application. That reader is looking determine the breadth and depth of your involvements, and honestly, to do so rather quickly. With each extracurricular, make sure that the nature of your activity is clear to someone unfamiliar with your high school or community. Use generic terms like “tutoring program”, rather than a specific name. Is this an annual mission trip or a weekly club meeting? Did you found the organization or make a truly notable accomplishment? Emphasize your leadership role or roles, and indicate the grade in which you held them. Finally, if your participation was based on a selection process, say so. For example, “1 of 10 students countywide…”
Spending the extra time on this portion of the application can help you to stand out among your peers during the review.
Whitney is offering free mini-consultations during our College Admissions Telethon on October 13. During this event, she will be available to answer your most important college admissions questions. You can ask her about strategy, the Common Application, or whether you have a chance at your dream school. Register today for the College Admissions Telethon!
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