Choosing an Order
Before you do anything else, you have to actually enter the activities. How do we do this?
October 20, 2020
There are a few different aspects to be aware of when entering your list, so I’ll give you all of them and you can incorporate them into your list however you like.
Don’t Just Input Activities, Order from “Most Important” to “Least Important”
While I wholeheartedly believe you should put in all the extracurriculars you can, until you either run out of activities or space, I won’t lie to you and say Admissions will always look at all of these. You’ll need to analyze what you have, and order it based on importance to you.
I say “importance to you” not just because this is another chance for readers to get to know you better. If something is important to you, you’re going to spend time on it, and stay involved in it. These are the type of activities that will paint you in the best light to Admissions.
Admissions officers look at the years you’ve spent, the time put in a week, and the weeks spent per year. So be wary of putting things at the top that you aren’t consistent with, but also be wary of overcompensating.
These people have read enough applications to know when something doesn’t seem right. If you spend ten hours a week on six different activities, all at the same time… that’s 60 hours a week. How do you make time for that, as well as school?
Family/Work Responsibilities (if eligible)
I wanted to include this beforehand, so no one gets discouraged if they don’t have the activities below! Admissions officers completely understand if you have siblings to take care of, or if you need to work to support yourself or your family.
Quite frankly, I’d personally equate the responsibilities you learn from these experiences to that of a club president anyways. If you qualify for this, you definitely want to add it in your activities, at the top.
If you take care of your siblings, make sure you include ALL responsibilities, even things like cooking dinner and ensuring they take their showers.
If you work, a great way to elevate the effectiveness of your activity is to not only include what you do, but the skills you acquired through doing it. I’ll talk about this later in the article.
Following Basic Principles (if eligible)
Out of the ten activities (max) you can enter into your Common App, oftentimes admissions officers won’t look at all of them. Because of this, we have to make sure whatever they do see is worthwhile.
Most schools have three basic principles: Academics/Career, Leadership, and Service. So, it only makes sense to show that you embody these at the top.
If you were in any leadership positions, for any category of extracurriculars, you should put them first. If you did some huge missionary trip with your church, that should be in the up there too. If you were in Mathletes all four years and worked your way up to Captain, or went to State/Nationals for DECA, definitely make sure officers see it.
If you can, it would do you good to include one of each these three principles for your top three extracurriculars.
However, not everyone has all three. Some only qualify for one of these, or maybe two, and that’s okay! You’ll still be fine, just make sure the officers see what you have done.
What Counts as Academics/Career?
I put both of these as one because we all have different strengths. Not every person is super adept at academic-related extracurriculars, so they won’t just go be a Mathlete for no reason.
Many people prefer to use their talents in CTSOs, or Career & Technical Student Organizations. This includes DECA, FCCLA, HOSA, and several more.
On the flip side, some people are amazing at Math, Science, Social Studies, even Latin, and choose to show that talent to the world. Either way, it’s fantastic and I’m proud of you!
Include either/both, please.
What Counts as Leadership?
This one’s pretty obvious, but I’m going to elaborate anyways.
Board member of a club/organization, community-service acts that you played a large role in organizing, a student advisory board for an organization… you get me?
What Counts as Service?
Service is actually much more than volunteering with Lunches of Love, or going on missionary trips. Service is going to tutor students at your local elementary/middle school/jr high. It’s putting on an educational program for Hispanic Heritage Month, or Black History Month, etc.. It’s being involved in planning for the annual Winter Wonderland your school puts on for elementary school kids.
The only thing I’ll say is, if it’s a random act it won’t be worth as much as something you’re committed to. If you tutor every single week, that’s great. If you do this educational program every year, that’s fantastic. If you volunteer every year to help put together Winter Wonderland, let them know.