Do I love the new Common App? Absolutely.
Do I hate that they took away the “upload a resume” option? Holy. Crap. Yes.
The new activities section has streamlined the process, but it has also taken away your ability to fluff up your activities and cram everything in. Yes, your options have been reduced to your top 10 activities. So before I start telling you how to cut that laundry list down, here’s a few reminders:
- Just because you have 10 slots doesn’t mean you have to have 10 activities. It’s about the depth of your commitment, not about how many commitments you have.
- Don’t fluff up activities or make things up in order to fill all the slots. They can see right through that.
So while many of you have only a few high-commitment activities, many, many more have a huge list that makes reducing to 10 a daunting task.
Here’s how you do it:
1. First of all, notice how you don’t put the name of the activity? Now you just put the “type” of activity. This is great for combining different but similar things.
For example, if you play in the honors orchestra and the general orchestra, just combine that into one thing and put “member of honors orchestra, section leader of regular orchestra” in your “Leadership” section.
2. If you have more than 10 activities, chances are some of them aren’t all that important to you. Choose only the ones that actually matter.
There’s no option to pad your resume anymore; colleges only want the highlights. This is a good thing and it evens the playing field between those who like to do everysinglething and those who pick one or two things but spend all of their time participating in them. If you couldn’t write an essay about how that activity taught you things and changed you as a person, if it was short term, or if it was negligible (like babysitting), just leave it off.
3. If it was before high school, leave if off.
Yep. I don’t care if you were president of your middle school Chess Club. It was over 4 years ago, it’s not important to you as a college student. You want your activities to show off how great you are now.
4. Don’t confuse an award or honor with an activity.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: NHS IS NOT AN ACTIVITY. Being a member of National Honors Society is an award, even if you have to volunteer or tutor to maintain membership. Put it with your awards. AP Scholars, National Merit, Tri-M, ITS, or any other honors society is an award. Don’t waste space in your activities when there is a better place to put it.
5. Use action words and be brief.
Your resume isn’t supposed to be an essay of every little thing that you’ve ever done in your whole life. It’s supposed to highlight what you’ve done and what skills you have. So even though you have a place to describe what you did, be brief. Use action words “Organized and budgeted monthly social events” not “I was the social chair so I planned parties for the club, collected the money, and made sure everything was running smoothly.” Be professional. This isn’t an essay, this is a glorified list.
Remember, your activities are only a small part of your application. They’re important and you want to make them look as nice as possible, but they’re not the only thing that factors in. So spend time making sure your activities show off the best of you.