The College Series Pt. 3: Application Questions

Image credit: University of Rochester

Image credit: University of Rochester

Daevan Mangalmurti, Editor

Don’t worry- this one’s a short one. If you read last week’s article (which provides some very, very, very helpful context for this week’s), you know all about the applications you could use to apply to college. You also know that while every application is different, they mostly require the same basic information about your circumstances, academics, and activities in addition to a possible essay. You know the story of your life. You know your grades and test scores. You know what you spend your time doing. What you may not know in the last case is how to talk about them. 

The big applications all have limits on the number of activities you can disclose: for UC it’s 5, for the Coalition App it’s 8, and for the Common App it’s 10. You don’t have to fill all the slots, but you should think about the order you enter them in and how you describe them. All of the applications have word limits on how you can talk about your activities. When describing them, using active verbs, stress what you did, and share any leadership roles. If you’re doing a lot within your extracurriculars, focus on the most important aspects of what you do in a certain role. Activities can include everything from taking care of younger siblings to playing in the band to working multiple jobs; what colleges are interested in is how you’re spending your time and what you’re getting out of what you’re doing during that time. 

The other major challenge of filling out your applications is the essays. Trust me- I know the struggle. Figuring out what to say in your application personal statement is a pretty personal matter. I can’t claim to give great advice here. What I can say is that a quick Google search will yield lots of advice, some of it helpful and some of it not. My personal favorite site is, which has examples of great essays and basic rules that are helpful no matter how you’re approaching your essays. Whatever advice you end up listening to, make sure it results in an essay that is authentically you– colleges stress that they want to be able to tell who you actually are from your essays enough that they probably mean it. Your essays don’t have to be perfect. But they should capture something you think is special about yourself.

Saddened by how short this article is? I get it- which is why we’ve got a second article coming out in less than 48 hours discussing how to decide when you’ll send in your college applications. See you soon!