5 Myths About Activities and College Applications

When it comes to completing college applications, things have changed a lot over the years (and we don’t just mean in terms of no longer having to use a typewriter to complete them!). Today, completing an application is a holistic process; in an ideal world, a student’s essays, application and academic record will all paint a picture of a student that give a clear idea of what type of person he or she is, and what she plans to do in college and beyond.

To help you navigate this piece of the admissions process, we’ve debunked a few application myths and misconceptions.

  1. Stellar activities can mask low test scores or grades. Nope. Your grades and the rigor of coursework is the most important factor in college admissions, followed by test scores (in most cases).
  2. More is more. Nope again. These days, less is more. Meaning that students are engaged in fewer activities, but have developed deep skills or expertise in those narrower interests. Being well rounded is no longer the goal—being angularly focused is.
  3. My service hours will tilt the scales in my favor. Generally, this is not the case. Even if you have an impressive number of hours, schools do not weigh this heavily when evaluating your application (unless service itself is your angle/focus). Service for its own sake is fantastic, but If you have to choose between getting in some service hours or doing an internship that relates to your major, the choice is easy--skip the service!
  4. Activities should appear in chronological order on the resume and application. A resounding no! The most important, salient elements in a student’s story need to go at the top of the application and/or resume. If you are hoping to head for UT engineering, you should list relevant items first on the application. Likewise, you should strategically group every single activities/internship/summer program related to that major under a clear heading at the top of the resume.
  5. Include everything you have ever done. Yes, that award in 6th grade might have been impressive, but colleges don’t care. Really. There is a way to weave long-term involvement into relevant sections on the resume but the applications will only provide spaces for activities from 9th grade onward. One thing you can sneak onto both ApplyTexas and Common App: anything done during the summer just prior to 9th grade (since summer activities are linked to the rising grade level, not the previous year).