Far too many people give up too quickly or fatigue without putting in serious effort. Deadlines. I did appreciate music as a diversion to round out my academic focus. I didn't get to know the letter writer super well, so he commented mainly on my academic qualifications and comments from my mentor. I mean, come on. He said that I had a strong focus in my work, and my research moved along more reliably than that of other students. Remember, the horse leads the cart. Even though the life experiences I'd had weren't distinctive in themselves, I thought I could package them from an interesting perspective. I still appreciate that he wrote my letter, and it was probably more effective than a generic counselor letter. I could have deleted the sentence and wrapped up the essay more cleanly. 80+ Extracurricular Activity Examples for the Common Application. You can write about a topic of your choice or about any of the suggestions. I think it accomplished my major goals and showed the humorous, irreverent side of my personality well. More than 70 examples of impactful Extracurricular Activities 18 June 2020. This is the first of many marks the admissions officer made on my application. Let's go to the final recommendation, from the school counselor. I probably also didn't stand out as much as I did to my Chemistry teacher—most of my achievement was in science (which she wasn't closely connected to), and I had talented classmates. Having read books like 50 Successful Harvard Application Essays, I was frightened. I still think it was a net positive. If you stepped into an elevator with Yale's Dean of Admissions and you had ten seconds to describe yourself and why you're interesting, what would you say? Remember, there are thousands of orchestras and bands in the country, each with their own concertmasters, drum majors, and section 1st chairs. They can corroborate your entire Personal Narrative as an outside observer. In today's Common Application, all of these Ratings are retained, aside from "Potential for Growth." This is what schools like Stanford and Yale want to see—a diversity in the student population! It used to start with: "Please write whatever you think is important about this student. The letter here is very strong for a multitude of reasons. ", "I was wandering through the fog in search of a lighthouse, finally setting foot on a dock pervaded by white light.". From my advice, you should be able to go through similar thinking and apply the concepts to your own situation. As I noted earlier, RSI was (and likely still is) the most prestigious research program for high school students in the country, with an admission rate of less than 5%. Think about the 20,000+ high schools in the country housing 4 million+ high school students—how many people fit in the top 5% bucket? Despite all that, this essay was WAY overdramatic and overwrought. Filling out the college application: Common application walkthrough. If you're hoping to see an acceptance letter like this in your academic future, I highly recommend you read this entire article. Do you also think it doesn’t make a difference? This letter validates my participation in RSI and incorporates the feedback from my research mentor, David Simon. Replies to: Examples of Common Application Activities- Family Responsibilty and Religious? Your job now is to package your 3 years of work into a cohesive, compelling application. The purpose of the recommendation has shifted to the specific: colleges probably found that one counselor was serving hundreds of students, so the letters started getting mushy and indistinguishable from each other. He represented passion for the violin—I represented my academic priorities. The most effective recommendation letters speak both to your academic strengths and to your personality. Boy, oh boy, did I fuss over this one. I'll talk more about this below, when I share the Principal's recommendation. So overall, I believe the essay accomplishes my goals and the main points of what I wanted to convey about myself. For the most part, I assume that whatever he underlines or circles is especially important and noteworthy—points that he'll bring up later in committee discussions. College Admissions, So it seems higher numbers are given for less prestigious educations by your parents. With just 650 words, I could have made the essay more cohesive by keeping the same theme from beginning to end. by Elyse Krantz, former admissions officer at Barnard College. As much as I wish I could say it was trivial for me, it wasn't. There are a few explanations for this. Still, it doesn't hurt to aim for a stronger application. Then we'll go into the Harvard supplemental application. It signals insincerity, actually, which is bad. The way I saw it, the personal statement was a vehicle to convey my personality and my interests. I'd expect that if both my parents went to schools like Caltech and Dartmouth, there would be even lower numbers here. In today's Common Application, you have 50 characters to describe "Position/Leadership description and organization name" and 150 characters for "Please describe this activity, including what you accomplished and any recognition you received, etc.". You can see how she's really checking off all the qualities colleges care about. I'm flattered and grateful to have received this support. In retrospect, in the context of MY application, the personal statement really wasn't what got me into Harvard. In contrast, if you're well-rounded, all your activities hold equal weight—which likely means none of them are really that impressive (unless you're a combination of Olympic athlete, internationally-ranked science researcher, and New York Times bestselling author, but then I'd call you unicorn because you don't exist). You might chalk this up to my not being as standout of a student in her mind, or her getting inundated with recommendation letter requests after over a decade of teaching. She had a kind personality and was universally well liked by her students, even if they weren't doing so well. Earning this kind of honor was nearly a golden ticket to getting into schools like Harvard, because you literally are the best in the world at what you care about. 3) I was open to admitting weaknesses, which I think is refreshing among people taking college applications too seriously and trying too hard to impress. What makes for a super strong recommendation letter is the same. By far, the biggest academic honor I had was competing in the US National Chemistry Olympiad, where I ranked #6 in the country in junior year, out of roughly 11,000 students who took the first round test. These examples should help you write a great Common App activities list: DECA Executive Vice President. Download it for free now: As co-founder and head of product design at PrepScholar, Allen has guided thousands of students to success in SAT/ACT prep and college admissions. One last thing before we dive in—I'm going to anticipate some common concerns beforehand and talk through important disclaimers so that you'll get the most out of this guide. There are great resources for this type of training, like. This is a straightforward section where you list your basic information. As an applicant, you're tempted to try so hard to impress your reader. By pointing this out and showing how my interest took on a life of its own, I wanted to distance myself from that stereotype. See how other students and parents are navigating high school, college, and the college admissions process. Reading this guide from beginning to end will be well worth your time—you might completely change your college application strategy as a result. List only important activities. Here are the next two pages of the Harvard supplemental form. The earlier you are in high school, the more time you have to prepare and implement the right strategies to build a strong, distinctive application. Having two test scores is completely unnecessary—you get pretty much zero additional credit. Navigate your entire college application journey with Common App. Now let's look at this essay's weaknesses. As the Common Application simply puts: “Reporting activities can help a college better understand your life outside of the classroom. The application that got me admitted everywhere is the subject of this guide. 2 of my WHAT I PUT ON MY COMMON APP video, and I focus on the top 10 activities that Common App makes you list on your application. I also felt a need to be distinctive and thought that a free essay topic might give me more freedom. There's likely a standard code for different types of occupations and schools. You want to do something so important that everything else you do pales in comparison to it. In 2005, I applied to college and got into every school I applied to, including Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and MIT. Again, you have so few chances in the overall application to convey your personal voice—an extra 500 words gives you a huge opportunity. (After getting into Harvard early, I decided not to apply to Yale, Columbia, UChicago, UPenn, and other Ivy League-level schools, since I already knew I would rather go to Harvard.). Because RSI was so important and was such a big Spike, all my other extracurriculars paled in importance. At once I acknowledge my Chinese heritage but also make light of the situation. Want to build the best possible college application? Back then, we didn't have as much space per activity, and instead had a short answer question. Overall, Miss Vorak's letter perfectly supports my Personal Narrative—my love for science, my overall academic performance, and my personality. If you are nationally or internationally ranked for something meaningful, you really stand out in the reader's mind, because most applicants only have regional and state honors, if even that. ACT 36 Series: English | Math | Reading | Science—Learn how to get a perfect 36 on each section of the ACT. Next lesson. This 1 tip is exactly 149 characters long. ", Now, it starts with: "Please provide comments that will help us differentiate this student from others.". Between the SAT and ACT, the SAT was my primary focus, but I decided to take the ACT for fun. But this doesn't give you an excuse to avoid showing a preference. She was enthusiastic, very caring, and spent a lot of time helping struggling students. So when I suggest devoting a lot of time to developing your Spike, it's not necessarily the Spike in itself—it's also spending time on foundational work leading up to what will be your major achievement. Activity type: Community Service (Volunteer) Position/Leadership description and organization name, if applicable: Key Club: Club President; Kiwanis Coordinator (1) Details, honors won, and accomplishments: High school community service organization which I helped coordinate as Club President. The reason for this is the prestige of RSI. You really want to make sure you're one of the best in your school class, if not one of the best the teacher has ever encountered. Who really honestly feels this way? Our school had nearly 1,000 students per grade, and only 1 counselor per grade. So there we have it—my entire college application. Letters of Recommendation, In my application and in the Common Application, there's an Additional Information section, where you can write about anything else. What you see in this guide is NOT what YOU need to do to get into Harvard, especially if you don't match my interests and personality at all. The most important point here: it is important to be ranked "One of the top few encountered in my career" for as many ratings as possible. Again, it's a numbers game. I didn't strategize to have him write a letter for me years in advance. Now, it took a lot of prior work to even get into RSI because it's so selective. If your Other Recommenders don't fulfill one or more of these categories, do NOT ask for supplementary letters. I'm also irreverent and have a strong, direct personality. Ask questions; get answers. Are you struggling with your SAT/ACT scores? Finally, in the demographic section there is a big red A, possibly for Asian American. This guide tells a story about one person and presents one archetype of a strong applicant. The reason was that I was actually pretty mediocre at violin and was nowhere near national-ranked. Starting from sophomore year, I started thinking about whom I connected better with and chose to engage with those teachers more deeply. For most applicants, your Extracurriculars and your Academic Honors will be where you develop your Spike and where your Personal Narrative shines through. If you're in top 10%, and someone else with the SAME teacher recommender is being rated as "One of the top ever," it's really hard for the admissions officer to vouch for you over the other student. If you're part of a big school, this is CRITICAL to distinguish yourself from other students. It could also be that the reader got bored and just started highlighting things, but I doubt this. Come senior year I might have talked to him about my difficulty in reaching counselors and asked that he write my recommendation. We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Here are the biggest questions for you to answer: At PrepScholar, we've published the best guides available anywhere to help you succeed in high school and college admissions. This was definitely advantageous—remember how, way up top in Educational Data, the reader circled the "Principal." At the end of the day, I believe the safest, surefire strategy is to develop a Spike so big that the importance of the Personal Essay pales in comparison to your achievements. As a Hail Mary if you're a senior and can't improve your application further, this might work. The admissions officer at Princeton or MIT probably didn't care at all that I volunteered at a hospital or founded a high school club. (This is only the beginning of my cringe-y writing—wait until you get to my Personal Essays. There are now two more prompts that weren't previously there: "What you would want your future college roommate to know about you" and "How you hope to use your college education.". Don't be afraid to show who you really are, rather than your perception of what they want. They'll dilute your application without adding substantively to it. You should get a very strong flavor of who I am, which is the hallmark of a memorable, effective application. You're going to see everything that the admissions officers saw. You do NOT need perfect scores to get into Harvard, Princeton, Yale or other top schools. October 2014 edited October 2014. Plan essays Don't worry if you're taking a different number of AP courses or have lower test scores or do different extracurriculars or write totally different personal statements. The theme of the essay—battling an alarm clock—shows this well, in comparison to the gravitas of the typical student essay. The question will often ask something straight-forward like this: "Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences." I wanted to show I'd broken out of that mold. You can see right away that her remarks are terser. ), Now known as: Writing --> Additional Information. He talked about my work in leading a research group and placing a high degree of trust in me. The frank admission of a realistic lazy habit—pushing the Snooze button—served as a nice foil to my academic honors and shows that I can be down-to-earth. For some students, the 10 spaces for Common App activities are just not … This makes me think that the less prepared your family is, the more points you get, and this might give your application an extra boost. I took AP Chemistry in 10th grade and had Miss Cherryl Vorak (now Mynster). Get the latest articles and test prep tips! Even though the specific details of what you'll do are different from what I did, the principles are the same. (It's also entirely possible that it's a formality to circle email addresses, so I don't want to read too much into it, but I think I'm right.). Academic honors and awards are a great, quantifiable way to show that. If I were to guess, I assign the following weights to how much each activity contributed to the strength of my activities section: In other words, participating in the Research Science Institute (RSI) was far more important than all of my other extracurriculars, combined. ", "controversial positions often being the spark that set off the entire class", "ability to take the quiet and shy student and actively engage"…"went out of my way to partner him with other students who needed", "strength of conviction"…"raw, unbridled passion"…"He will argue on any topic that has touched a nerve.". The average teacher sees thousands of students through a career, and so he or she is very well equipped to position you relative to all other students. But as I point out below, a lot is conveyed about you through just a few questions. But once again, let's focus on the positive first. This is why I say a big Spike makes you stand out clearly among a bin of well-rounded applicants. As you'll see, I had a huge academic focus, especially in science (this was my Spike). Your PERSONAL NARRATIVE is what they will latch onto. October 22, 2018. Unlike some of my very accomplished classmates, I hadn't ranked nationally in prestigious competitions like ISEF and Siemens. Teacher recommendations are incredibly important to your application. The more experienced and trustworthy the teacher, the more meaningful this is. There's not much to say here, other than the fact that my Principal wrote my recommendation for me, which we'll get into next. 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