What to Leave Off Your College Application Activity List
Many college-bound students struggle with what or how much to put on their college application activity list. Often, many students will add a number of extra activities in order to make it look like they’ve done a lot more initiatives in high school, but this resume padding can actually hurt more than it helps.
When evaluating applicants’ activity lists, colleges are looking for students with defined interests that have participated in a handful of activities that relate to those interests or passions. It’s not uncommon for students to think they need to look more “impressive” to admissions officers by listing a large number of extracurricular activities on their applications or resumes. However, students should be mindful when completing their activity list, and know when to omit certain activities or experiences. Here are some activities that students should consider leaving off their college application activity lists.
Middle School Activities
You’d be surprised how often students include activities from middle school in their college applications. Colleges want to see sustained involvement in activities during all four years of high school – just high school. If you were in the middle school band, honor society, or science club, leave it off your activity list. However, if you continued to pursue those same activities in high school, only mention the responsibilities you had or impact you made when participating during high school. If a college asks you to write about your favorite activity as part of their supplement, and it’s something you also participated in while in middle school, you might be able to incorporate a mention of your middle school experience (i.e. When I started playing the flute in 7th grade…), but don’t dwell on experiences from five or six years ago. Instead, focus on the impact you made while in high school.
Helping to build a house as part of a community service project can be an extremely rewarding experience, but if you only did it once, leave it off your activity list. Again, colleges want to see sustained involvement in activities that relate to students’ core interests over all four years of high school, and a long list of one-off activities that send up a red flag to admissions officers. Instead, focus on a few core activities that you participated in over two, three, or four years. One-off activities can take up valuable space that could be more suited for other activities worth mentioning.
Activities You Didn’t Participate in Past 9th or 10th Grade
If you joined the swim team in 9th grade but dropped the activity after the first season, or joined the robotics club in 10th grade but only participated in one meeting, it’s best to leave these off your activity list. High school students should use freshman or sophomore year to explore activities of interest, so it’s normal to try a few activities and drop them after a year or two because either you didn’t like it, your interests changed, or you had too much going on and needed to focus on a fewer number of activities. Colleges understand that students are trying to figure out who they are and what interests them, so it’s okay to pick up an activity early on in high school and drop it. However, these kinds of activities won’t add much to your application, and, like the one-off projects mentioned above, can send up red flags. Instead, focus on highlighting activities you’ve carried through to senior year that you really enjoy and relate to your academic interests and goals.
It’s tempting to try to use all of the space available for the activity list when applying to college, but it’s important to remember that quality is more compelling than quantity. When completing your college application activity list this fall, be mindful of the story you’re presenting to the admissions office through the activities you choose to highlight.
Need help completing your college applications this fall? Want a second opinion on your already completed application before submitting? At IvyWise, our team of expert counselors are former deans and directors of admission from top colleges and universities in the US, and they can help you refine your application, including the activity list, on order to submit the most compelling application possible to your top-choice colleges. Contact us today for more information on our college counseling services for high school seniors, including the Application Boot Camp and Application Review.