College Applications: Tips to Highlight your best self

Seniors, are you starting to think about your applications? The summer is a great time to get your information together and start strategizing about how to showcase your BEST self. Here are some tips that may help with the process.

  • Use the activity section of the application to show your passion and commitment.

This is a chance for colleges to see what your life is like outside of the classroom. They want to know what kind of clubs and organizations you have been a part of during high school. More than anything though, they want to know what kind of an IMPACT you made on those clubs and organizations. Activities include arts, athletics, clubs, employment, personal commitments…anything productive that you are involved with outside of the classroom. You can list up to 10 activities on the Common App, but we believe quality over quantity is important. You should include unique activities that showcase your potential, compelling aspects of your personality or talents will help you stand above the crowd and give you an edge in the admissions process. Colleges want to see indicators of the kind of student and professional you’ll become.

  • When writing the description for activities be sure to use action words.

The way you phrase your descriptions has an impact on the way you’re perceived by admissions officers. To maximize your impact, you’ll want to describe your activities in the most engaging way possible. For example instead of writing “I tutored sixth graders in math”, you should write, “I help sixth graders master challenging math concepts.”

Also, whenever applicable, try to use quantitative descriptions instead of qualitative ones. Adding numerical values provides concrete proof of your success. For example, rather than writing, “Organized food can drive for local families”, write, “Collected over 10,000 cans and provided Thanksgiving meals for 500 families in greater Philadelphia.”

  • If you have a special circumstance, or have accomplished something that is unusual, use the additional information section to explain.

Keep the information brief and direct – it is not an additional essay. This is an OPTIONAL section and admissions committee members question students who force unnecessary responses and include redundant information in this section. Appropriate information to include would be extenuating circumstances that had an impact on grades, standardized test scores, and the ability to participate in extracurricular activities and/or factual information and brief descriptions of unusual academic courses you took or extracurricular activities you participated in.

  • Order Matters.

Your biggest accomplishments/most significant activities should go first. Activities listed earlier will be better remembered by admissions committees, so you should lead with your most impactful and meaningful ones…the ones that mean the most to YOU!

The most important thing to remember for the Common App is to highlight what makes you unique! College admissions officers are looking for diverse individuals to comprise their student body. Do not list what you think they want because likely what makes you unique and special is truly what they are looking to learn about you.

College Applications: Tips to Highlight your best self

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