Dec   2014



Learn from My College Application Mistakes: Student Activities

Editor-in-Chief, Carnegie Communications

Hindsight is 20/20, and this is your opportunity to benefit from one college grad’s near-perfect vision as she looks back at her college application process. Keep these tips and stories in the back of your mind as you fill out your college apps, and you might just sidestep a potential misstep!

When it comes to the activities section of your college application, it can sometimes be tricky figuring out what to include. I’m here to tell you, learn from my mistake: be prudent about listing your activities and accomplishments, even those that might not seem so important at the time.

Case in point, I started an a capella group in high school. (I was super cool, I know.) Anyway, I did it just because it seemed fun. Since I was a novice instructor (I had laughable piano-playing and sight-reading abilities), we really only reached share-with-the-public level with one song, which we performed at a school concert. And that was fine. It was a fun excuse to hang out with my other choir-geek friends once a week, and it taught me a lot about managing people, expectations, events, etc.

The thing is, when it came time to apply for college, I didn’t think it counted as a “real” activity because we were just novices, friends having fun, and I was still very green at “conducting” the group, if you could even call it that. I mean, we didn’t compete anywhere, let alone win anything. Why would colleges care about my little hobby? Which is why I didn’t even mention it on my college application . . .


Starting a group from the ground up? Working on things that really challenged me, like playing and teaching music? Organizing rehearsals, ordering music, and leading performances? Sure, it’s not going to sweep an admission counselor off his or her feet, but it is the kind of activity they like to see. It exhibited passion, initiative, leadership, and a host of other good things. Colleges and universities want the kind of students who start extracurricular groups where there are none. They’re the same students who go on to win awards and found successful companies and otherwise make their alma maters look good.

Now, this is not about artificially injecting your application with activities, embellishing your responsibilities so that picking up muffins for the soccer team one time becomes “official soccer team breakfast liaison.” But don’t discount your interests, even those hobbies that seem insignificant. If it’s significant to you, it’s significant enough. (At the very least, it could make a good application essay topic!)

This is yet another great reason to review your college applications with people you trust. The people who know you well can point out places where you might be selling yourself short (or misrepresenting the truth).

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About Jessica Tomer

Jessica Tomer

Jessica Tomer is the Web Content Manager at New England Law | Boston. You can follow her on Twitter @JessicaTomer

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