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Four Tips For Approaching Your College Application Activities List

Stephen Friedfeld, Ph.D.

College admissions is a holistic process – when evaluating your application, admissions officers consider many factors, such as GPA, standardized test scores, essays, recommendation letters and extracurricular activities.

But which activities should you include?

Maybe you’ve been involved in a variety of activities throughout your four years of high school. Whether you’ve been a JV athlete, photographer for the school newspaper or volunteer at a local senior citizen center, admissions officers want to know about it – and why it was meaningful to you.

Most applications limit the number of extracurricular activities that you can provide and then ask that you list them in order of importance to you. How can you position yourself in the best possible light? Here are four quick pointers:

• Understand what “meaningful” means. An activity can be meaningful depending on how long you have been involved, whether you currently (or previously) held a leadership position or if it can be tied to an academic area of interest.

• Don’t list every activity you’ve ever been involved with. Activities that you haven’t committed to for very long, or those that you participated in only during ninth or tenth grade, probably should not be included.

• Think beyond school when considering activities to list. Colleges want to see how you’ve spent your time both in and out of the classroom. Maybe you ran two miles a day or babysat a cousin or gave tuba lessons to your neighbor. Tell colleges!

• Consider hobbies. It’s okay (and, in fact, encouraged) to list less formal activities (within reason, of course). Are you a yo-yo enthusiast or an aspiring stand-up comedian? Unless you tell admissions officers, they will never know!

Use your activities list in the same way that you use other parts of the application: to give colleges a better sense of who you are – and why you’re the type of student they should want on their campus.

Stephen is the co-founder of EqualApp (www.EqualApp.com) and a former admissions officer at Cornell University and Princeton University. EqualApp connects families of high school students with former college admissions officers who provide 1-on-1 guidance that improves applicants’ chances of getting admitted. Lokvani readers get a free initial 30-minute phone consultation with a former admissions officer. (http://learnmore.equalapp.com/free-counseling-session)

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