Does This Count?! Figuring Out What to Include in Your College Apps

CollegeXpress Student Writer

Mar   2017



During my college application process, I found myself repeatedly asking a handful of questions: Should I mention this experience? Is it relevant to what the school is asking about? Does this count?! My questions always boiled down to me wondering what was and was not important to include on my college applications.

The short answer, I learned, is almost always “yes, it counts!” Here’s the long answer…

Like a lot of high school students, I had a couple high school clubs under my belt and a handful of extracurricular activities, which were all obvious additions to my college applications. But I couldn’t say the same for the little pieces of community service I had done, and I struggled to find places to fit in the summer program I had attended. It was also difficult to decide if I should count things like “Student of the Month” and other seemingly insubstantial titles as “Honors.”

I feared colleges would reject me because I left out a crucial piece of information—but I also feared rejection due to a surplus of irrelevant, time-wasting details! Ultimately, what I learned was that you should never sell yourself short on your college applications.

Related: The 10 Most Important Factors in College Admissions

Whether I was talking about a summer program or the campus fly-ins that I did, I learned it was better to include everything on my college applications and just keep the explanations concise. This was especially important whenever it came to my community service information.

I had times where I had only done a few hours of community service because they were simply short projects, but these little things matter on your college applications. When filling out the Common App especially, every hour needs to be documented, because it shows how much time you’re dedicating to programs and projects greater than yourself, whether they’re community service or other extracurriculars. This shows admission officers how much free time you donate and how invested you are in programs. It also gives them some insight into your character, which can be hard to capture throughout the rest of the application.

Including all of the groups I associate with on my college applications was important too, because they also represent my values and passions. I learned admission officers not only want students who can compete academically but students who can add to the campus community by joining or kick-starting clubs. Because college becomes students’ home away from home, they focus on building a lively and diverse community; showing you can add to that community can be extremely beneficial when applying to college.

But the most important thing all students need to know about the college application process is that you’re more accomplished and well rounded than you probably give yourself credit for. That was the greatest thing I learned about myself—that I had a lot to offer colleges and could be admitted to a top-tier university such as Stanford even when I doubted my extracurricular involvements and thought of myself as a mediocre candidate.

So be thorough in what you choose to include in your college applications. It will only help your admission chances, and you never know where it will lead.

Do you have any questions about which activities “count” on your college applications? Leave a comment or get in touch another way.

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About Alexess Sosa

Hi! I'm Alexess. I am a senior at Big Spring High School. I come from a small town in west Texas. I am a QuestBridge College Prep Scholar and an admit to Stanford University's class of 2021. I look forward to writing about how others can follow my path, as I am valedictorian now and will attend a prestigious university in the fall after coming from a socioeconomically disadvantaged background. I believe everybody can succeed if they put in the work and search for the resources they need but may not immediately have. My goal is to spread that to students who don't have that mindset.