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Create a Killer College Application

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By: Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.

Gen and Kelly Tanabe can answer your question in Expert Advice.




Rank leadership before membership.

Activities in which you were a leader or had some type of responsibility should be ranked high on your list. Maybe you were not an elected officer for a group; but if you took charge of a special event or project, that is considered leadership. For example, if you organized a fundraiser on behalf of your soccer team, helped to direct a play for church or decided to print t-shirts for the cheerleading squad, these are all examples of leadership. We’ve seen some amazing applications that display a ton of leadership by students who have never been an elected "anything" in their lives!




Highlight your contribution and the impact that you made.

Activities in which you make a contribution or impact should be listed after leadership. Contributions and impact can really be anything, but they are typically considered the "fruit of your labor". In other words, they are the result of time and effort that you invested in an activity. For example, you may list your membership in an art club because your photographs were displayed as part of an exhibit at school. You may list your involvement with your church because you volunteered four hours per week to teach Sunday school to a dozen kids. If you can cite a specific contribution you made or the impact of your involvement, that activity should be ranked high on your list.




Honors and awards are important, too.

Just like you did with activities, you also need to rank your honors and awards. But to rank an award, you need to use a slightly different guideline. Here is how to determine which awards and honors to list first.

Start with awards that carry the most weight, such as national or state recognition. After that, list awards that very few students receive or that are highly prized in your school or community. Academic awards of any kind should be high on your list, followed by awards for leadership, community service, club activities and athletics.




Include an explanation for every activity or honor.

When listing any activity, job or award, highlight its significance by adding a brief description. For an activity, you might note your leadership roles or explain a specific contribution that you made. For an award, you might include how many students received the award each year. Descriptions such as, "one awarded each year," or "one award per district" emphasize the importance of the honor. Explanations are important because some activities or awards may not be immediately recognizable. For example, "Stallion Award Recipient" could be an award for academic achievement, community service or excellence in horse breeding.


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By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
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Accepted! 50 Successful College Admission Essays

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By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
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