It's Not Just What Activities You Do for College Applications, It's How You Describe Them

If you follow my Instagram Story, you know that I post a schedule every day. You get a glimpse of my crazy life of being a working mom of three. But you also get insight into what your child should be doing right now based on what I'm doing with my Application Nation families and private clients.

Over the past week, I did a call with my Application Nation families about filling out the application. I also had a Facebook Live on Saturday on the same subject matter. And I have met with dozens of private clients to help them fill out the activities list on their applications over the past seven days.
 
I spend so much time on the activities list because it is arguably one of the most defining pieces of the application. 
 
So what should your kid be doing right now? You guessed it, filling out the application, including the all-important activities list!
Most students approach the activities list in a very perfunctory way. They think in terms of the most basic way to describe themselves and what they do in each activity. I often tell my Application Nation families and private clients that admissions officers read the same generic titles/activities all day long. Give them something different for the position line and the description line. It not only will showcase the specific contribution you make, but it gives an admissions officer a sense of how differently you see the world. 


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For example, a student who just starts playing a sport in high school and never makes it to the varsity team could describe themselves as a "JV Player, Suburban High School Girls' Basketball." It's accurate, but kind of boring, right? 
 
What if the student went from being a beginner to a starter on the JV team in a short amount of time due to the fact that they rapidly improved, or their team was frankly less competitive and that allowed more playing time? Either way, have fun with it. Focus on something that no one else will write in the position line, like this:
 
"Beginner to Starter in a Flash, JV Basketball"
 
And what if the student described this activity in more "real" terms in the description line?
 
"I never thought I would call myself an athlete, but here I am 4 years later starting as the point guard at 5'1''! It may only be JV, but it's my team."
 
For students who don't have traditional achievements like being the top scorer on the soccer team or winning first place in a writing competition, I encourage them to look much deeper than mere awards. If they see themselves differently and offering something unique, then admissions officers will too. 
 
Remember, though, you have limited space. The Common Application only allows for 50 characters for the position line and 150 characters for the description line of each activity. However, it's not how much room you have to describe yourself, it's what you do with the space provided. The more clever you can be, the more you can stand out.
 
With everything I do in my life I like to show my very distinctive personality and approach, from what I wear, to how I write, to how I describe myself. Standing out is how I got this far. Students need to see themselves differently than everyone else around them. That's how you stand out in the admissions process and in life!


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