Two of the most important ways in which you’ll distinguish yourself from your equally qualified peers are your extracurricular activities (including honors and awards earned) and the content of your essay(s).

In my previous blog post  Insider Tips: Getting Started on Your Common Application and College Admissions Essay  I discussed  the Common Application and the components which are required in your college application.   In part II of the series on college applications, I’ll focus on the components that provide you with an opportunity to make an impression on the admissions committee.

Extracurricular Activities   <<<<<   ???   >>>>>   Core and Supplemental Essays  

Recognize that for each college you’ll be applying to this fall, there are more students  than there are available spaces in the freshman class.  A very large percentage of students have equivalent academic credentials including the appropriate/recommended high school G.P.A., completion of challenging and relevant honors, AP and AICE classes, strong teacher recommendations and solid test scores.

With acceptance rates in the single digits in the most competitive undergraduate degree programs and your chances of acceptance at state flagship schools hovering at less than 50%, how do you make a difference and receive an acceptance letter?!    As a University Professor and  former admissions committee member I have thirty years of experience reviewing undergraduate and graduate admissions applications.  I know what it takes to get noticed!   Let me guide you to making the most clear and effective presentation of your strengths and unique accomplishments to stand out!

Prepare an Activities Resume!!

It’s extremely important to make the strongest and most clear presentation of your strengths and unique experiences.   To prepare for submitting the portion of the common application that details your extracurricular activities (leadership roles, honors and award earned), craft your “activities resume” also known as your “brag sheet”.   Not only will this document help you organize your materials for a unique and eye-catching presentation on your common application, but an activities resume is a valuable hot sheet to guide your teachers who will be writing your recommendations.  You will also provide your activities resume to the admissions or scholarship representatives if you schedule an interview.

I’ve developed proprietary and proven templates for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), liberal arts, business and performing arts students that will get you noticed!  My clients have been complimented at admissions interviews for providing resumes that answer the questions about an applicant’s strengths and unique qualities.

Using your activities resume as a baseline, together we will brainstorm and discuss your experiences both within and outside the classroom to organize your responses for both the common application core essay and any college specific supplemental essays or short answers.

What do I write about in my college admission essay?

The revised Common Application essay prompts for 2015-16 can be found here.


Before you begin crafting your common application core essay, you’ll want to identify and strategize your responses across the common application core essay and any college specific supplemental essay(s).   In Part I of our blog series you selected colleges on the college search tab.   Organize all required supplemental essays looking for similar questions and those that are unique.  You’ll very likely be writing 1-3 unique essays above and beyond the common application core essay.   STRATEGIZE!!

The admissions essay is a very critical component of your application as it allows you to distinguish yourself from your competitors and to introduce yourself to the admissions committee.  It is how to share and highlight your unique strengths and experiences in a way that your transcript and test scores cannot fully illuminate.

I tell my clients to begin by thinking of experiences that may have brought humor, happiness or even sadness into their lives.  The things you remember most are those that shape you – they make you laugh, cry, they are worth sharing because they tell a story that defines you and provides insights about where you want to go with an emphasis on what you hope to achieve during your collegiate experience.

While you will want to demonstrate “informed interest” (see our blog this summer on “Admissions Trends ”), you will want to aim to “recycle” your responses wherever possible.  For example, writing a college specific supplemental essay focused on discussing what motivated you to pursue engineering or business you’ll likely discuss your inspirational experience at FIRST robotics or DECA.  Equally important, you’ll want to include college specific information that elaborates and demonstrates your informed interest in attending a specific institution by referring to genuine thoughts about the undergraduate research opportunities, a specific research institute or some unique aspect of the undergraduate curriculum that inspires you.

Colleges are unique and it’s up to you to have a very solid reason for why you want to attend a specific institution.  Do you research as this will increase the likelihood of admissions success and also finding a college that is your best personalized fit.  This information needs to be included in your essay and woven into your discussion of the shared experiences noted on the activities portion of your common application.

I look forward to guiding you to organizing your extracurricular activities and together we can confirm your list of colleges and brainstorm topics for your core and supplemental essays.  You’ll receive expert advice and caring support in my review of multiple drafts of your essay to generate a polished essay to best position you for admissions success.

Whether you’re ready to finish your essays and application before Labor Day or just beginning to research colleges and majors, or perhaps you want to create a customized learning plan to address study habits and time management, I invite you to contact me  to schedule your complimentary consultation and learn more about the  Educational and College Admissions Consultation services available for rising seniors and all high school students.