This post about summarizing your activities on the Common Application is part of a series of posts written to help you complete the 2012 Common Application supplement for Ivy League schools.
You’ll find the activities chart just above the essay questions on the Common Application. It looks straightforward, and in some ways, it is. However, given the differences between communities, high schools and your individual passions, it is important to give some thought to the way you represent your extracurricular time.
The Common Application specifically asks you to list your activities in the order of importance to you. (They bold it in their instructions too.) The activity that you believe sounds most impressive may not be your most personally significant activity, and unless you’ve demonstrated an unusual level of commitment to it in other parts of the application you’ve just lost some legitimacy with the application reviewer.
- Carefully explain your activity and your role in it. The Common Application allows limited space for this, so choose your words carefully. Remember, the name of the club alone does little to clarify your passions for the admission committee.
- Likewise, don’t assume that the college wants to see any specific activity listed as most important. Listing your community service requirement first doesn’t speak to your passions. Colleges want all sorts of students on their campus. They want tuba players and tennis players, presidents and prose writers. Be yourself.
- While many of your activities might take place within the context of your high school, think about all of your time. Do you devote significant amounts of time to a hobby or special interest. Are you particularly involved with a church or religious group? One year, our committee had a student who had spent a great deal of time baking. She took the time to explain her commitment to the croissant. Did we find her compelling? Absolutely. Had she explained that her interest went well beyond baking a batch of cookies for the track team bake sale? Yes.
- Resist the temptation to exaggerate. Many activities fluctuate in their time commitment. You might spend 12 hours a day in preparation for a debate tournament, or a week on a mission trip. When your individual club commitments add up to more than 100 hours in a week, it becomes difficult to gauge your true commitments and the reader is more likely to become skeptical of your application.
Put together a first draft of your activities, then rethink your roles and time commitments from the past few years. If you need help jogging your memory, flip through your old yearbooks.
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