I feel like an insurance commercial right now. To bundle or not? That is the question, at least if you are a student working on your activities list right now.
There are ten available slots on the Common App activities list. That is too much room for some students and not enough for others.
For the students who have more than ten activities to report, what should they do? Should they "bundle" a few activities together or is it better to leave a few activities off the list?
To be honest, I rarely recommend that a student bundle activities together in one listing in order to squeeze in more things. What ends up happening is the student's best intentions appear convoluted to the admissions officers reading their application. There is often no way for someone unfamiliar with the student to understand what is being bundled. Admissions officers review the activities list in warp speed. When things are not clear, they simply skip over them because they do not have time to do anything more.
Take for example, the student who wants to bundle their high school sport and club sport together in one listing. First, these two sports have two different classifications in Common App. A high school sport is identified as "Athletics: JV/Varsity" and a club team is supposed to be listed as "Athletics: Club." Second, many times students play different positions or have different roles on each team. If the student plays "Forward" and is the "Captain" for their high school soccer team but "Sweeper" for their club team, there are not enough characters in the leadership/position line to indicate which roles were done for each team. Third, the description line only provides room for 150 characters. Explaining the achievements and impact of two different teams in 150 characters is like seeing Jon Hamm in a 30-second insurance commercial for the first time. It is hard to make sense of it all.
The only time bundling makes sense is when the student has the exact same role in more than one club, and the clubs have a similar purpose. For example, if a student is a volunteer at a food pantry and a shelter in their community, the classification will be the same on Common App, "Community Service (Volunteer)." The leadership/position line will be the same too. The names of the food pantry and shelter will easily fit in the organization line. And, because the experience will have overlapping themes, the student should have enough room in the description line to write a short sentence for each.
If bundling does not work, some students resort to a resume. But I wouldn't do that. Admissions officers barely have enough time to review the required sections of an application let alone something extra. The activities list is typically required; the resume gets pushed aside.
So should a student leave some activities off their list if they run out of room? Yes. Believe it or not, the activities list is not meant to cover every last thing students do in high school. It is about highlighting and celebrating the most meaningful things they do. Time is limited for admissions officers. The activities list is like a 30-second commercial. But instead of having to sell insurance, students need to buy into themselves.