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Tackling the Common Application Activities Section

Each element of your college application (your personal statement, your activities, your supplemental essays, your course selection, and your interview) shows a different aspect of your profile. The Common App Personal Statement explains who you are; the activities section explains what you’ve done – and why! Both tools work together to reveal different elements of your profile in terms of your motivation and aptitude as well as how you apply your skills and passions to improve your community or the area of study that means the most to you.

One way to think about the application process is like a job interview. When interviewing for a new job, candidates highlight specific skills, experiences, or personal attributes that make them particularly well-suited to the role and the organization. With university admissions, students are doing the same thing!

In order to produce a successful application, try to understand who you are, what motivates you, and how you intend to apply your skills, experiences, and enthusiasm in the future. This is why the values exercise is at the heart of all aspects of your university application. Too many students try to craft the“perfect”college application. Indeed, these students are excellent in so many areas of their portfolio, yet they are often passed over as an “average excellent student” because they are not using the different elements of their application to tell their story in a focused way. Successful applicants are mindful of what they want to communicate and how they will do so.

Begin by carrying out your values exercise. Understand the top 5, 3 and 1 values that define who you are and what you care about. How have you demonstrated these values in the activities or courses you have pursued or in your home life?

After reflecting on your values, the next stage is to consider the skills needed to be successful in your chosen field and in university in general. If you want to study law, for example, you will need strong written and verbal communication skills. You should also enjoy strategy and considering different points of view. Debate, negotiation, and the ability to advocate for others are also particularly useful. Once you have a list of core skills needed to succeed, review your high school experiences. In what classes, activities, work, or research experiences have you had an opportunity to develop these skills? Sports, art, music, and even paid work can also demonstrate valuable attributes such as team work,

perseverance, and commitment. When writing your common app activity descriptions, be sure to demonstrate your values and subject-specific skills with specific and quantitative detail. Not sure how to do this? Your Ivy Options Counselor will be delighted to help you.

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