Students are generally under the impression that college essays matter, so a lot of care is typically given to them. We’d agree with that – solid college essays are essential for strong applications! However, the Activities and Awards sections are really important too. Many students assume they don’t matter much, and treat them like an afterthought – something to put off to the last minute on applications.
The Awards & Activity sections serves as a “resume” of sorts, allowing students to show their personal involvement with anything they spend time on, demonstrating their “larger story,” and providing context.
Here are the most common misconceptions about these VERY important sections:
1) Some categories are more important than others ie. In-school activities are more important than family responsibilities (WRONG –anything a student spends time on is important, and the UC’s do not assign greater weight to any one section)
2) “The UC’s Admissions folks don’t read it anyway” (WRONG – admissions pay a lot of attention to this section and read it along with the academics & essay sections)
3) I MUST write these sections in complete sentences. (WRONG – the UC’s appreciate concise and detailed phrases so the student can really describe what their role has been in a certain activity)
4) Students assume that all activities are known everywhere by acronyms (WRONG – they usually aren’t known at all, so use the complete name of what organization you are talking about – no acronyms, unless repeated in description)
5) Students should spend a lot of time describing what an activity is, that is the most important part (WRONG – what the student DID is what matters—concise descriptions that show a student’s consistency over time, progression in activity, and leadership )
6) Students can NEVER list an activity that started before high school (WRONG – if you have a high school activity, for example dance, and you started dancing at age 5, it’s absolutely FINE to mention that in a description – just stick to the high school experience to provide the rest of the vivid details)
7) Students should be humble and not fully describe an activity for fear of bragging (WRONG – if there ever was a time to fully talk about everything you have done and what you care about, college applications are the place to do it!)
So don’t wait until the last minute to fill out your activity sections – get busy NOW!