Organizing Your Activities in Prep for College Apps

5 Steps for Organizing Your Activities

(in prep for college applications)

Step 1: Sit down with your mom, dad, or someone who knows you well and start brainstorming/remembering everything you have done since 9th grade.  You can include anything and everything you do beyond homework, playing video games, watching TV, sleeping. . . you get the idea.

*We understand you might be super proud of something you did in middle school, but unfortunately those things will not have a place on your college applications (i.e. there are only check-boxes for grades 9-12)

Step 2: Note the following for everything on your list!

  1. Positions/Roles/Leadership

  2. Awards (if any)

  3. Years you participated (by grade-level)

  4. Duration of participation (# hours/week and weeks/year - it’s okay to guesstimate!)

*Plop all this into a spreadsheet and save it!

Step 3: Organize your list into a Top 10, placing your most important activity first and go down from there.

SAVE THIS FORMAT!!! Make another file if you have to. This will save you loads of time down the road.

Quick Check: Did you include volunteering?  Something you are involved in at school? Community involvement?  Job?

Step 4: Format your activities into a more formal resume (click here for a sample)

Step 5: Keep updating both your spreadsheet and resume throughout the year.

Essay Prompts for the Class of 2017

In addition to a whole new SAT, there’s a mix of new (and old) application essay prompts for the class of 2017! 

Let’s start with something that’s staying the same…the prompts for the Common Application.  In 650 words or less (choose 1 prompt):

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.  What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again? 
  4. Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. 
  5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family. 

Now for something a little different . . . the prompts for the NEW Coalition Application (this includes UW!).  In about 500-550 words (choose 1 prompt):

  1. Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it.
  2. Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution.
  3. Has there been a time when you’ve had a long-cherished or accepted belief challenged? How did you respond? How did the challenge affect your beliefs?
  4. What is the hardest part of being a teenager now? What’s the best part? What advice would you give a younger sibling or friend (assuming they would listen to you)?
  5. Submit an essay on a topic of your choice.

Finally, the University of California (UC) system is shaking it up this year with a new approach to the writing section of their application.  Now called Personal Insight questions, the UC application will ask you to choose 4 of the following 8 prompts to answer in a maximum of 350 words:

  1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time.
  2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side. 
  3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? 
  4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced.
  5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement?
  6. Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you.
  7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place?
  8. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California?