Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tips for the Activities Section

I thought I'd take a few minutes to post some tips for the Activities section of the application for those of you who are still working on your second deadline applications. (And I'm sure these tips will apply for all of your college applications, so I hope they'll be helpful.)

The most important thing is to make your list scannable and easy to read quickly. If you've ever created a resume, you've learned the importance of organizing and prioritizing the information so that the parts that you most want to communicate jump off the page. That should be your goal with your activities list as well. Keep in mind that, as with a resume, your reader isn't going to spend an hour reading your activities list--they're likely to start out by scanning, and then return to the most interesting bits to read more in-depth.

Prioritize. What is the most significant activity you've been involved in--the one you've spent the most time on or you feel has been most important to you? That is the one that should be listed first. The next most important next, and so on. Don't worry about what you think will impress the Admissions Committee most. If lacrosse is your thing, put lacrosse first. Don't list that one Saturday you spent in the soup kitchen first just because you think it looks good.

Clump activities together. A LONGER LIST IS NOT A BETTER LIST. In fact, very long lists are extremely difficult to read, and your reader will likely give up before he has reached the end. Oftentimes, students list every single community service activity as a separate entry. I would recommend listing "Community Service" as one activity and adding up all the hours that you have spent on community service for the hours section. Then use the description area below to concisely describe the different ways you've gotten involved in service. This applies to other activities as well, such as music, drama, journalism, etc.

They don't have to be "official" activities. List whatever you've spent a significant amount of time doing, not just the official, school-related activities. I read an application once where a student simply listed "Reading" because she loved reading and spent many hours a week enjoying science fiction novels. Maybe you've been teaching yourself guitar or you are constantly sketching in your journal. Let us know about those things too.

PROOFREAD. I would say 8 out of 10 applications I read have typos in the activities list. (I'm making that up, but you get my drift.) Unfortunately, because you are typing directly into your web browser, you don't have the luxury of the spell-checker. So do it the old-fashioned way: read and re-read (and re-read), use your dictionary, and get someone to read behind you to check for typos.

Hope this helps, post a comment if you have questions or if you have any other tips to share.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Not even a mouse (or a snowflake!)

It hasn't actually snowed here yet, but we've got our fingers crossed for at least a dusting before the New Year. (The photo is from our archive--some mythical year before my arrival in North Carolina. My colleagues tell me it does snow here. It didn't last year, but I have great hopes for this year.) It is cold though, and the campus seems hunkered down and hibernating for its brief winter sleep. The line "not a creature was stirring" is apt. Almost all of the students are gone, enjoying the winter break and the holidays with their families.

Our office is also quieter, as we finish up our work of reading and re-reading applications and finalize the decisions that we will send out in mid-January. For those of you who applied for our first deadline, you can expect to see your decisions posted online no later than January 15 and your official letters to arrive soon after. In past years, we have been able to post decisions a little earlier than our official January 15 notification date, but since we received quite a few more applications this year for our first deadline, you can probably expect to hear from us right around the 15th. I will post an entry here on the blog the moment we post decisions, so if you don't want to be constantly hitting that "refresh" button in hopes of seeing a decision appear, subscribe to this blog (see the box at right to get it in your email) so that you'll know when decisions are up.

For those of you applying for our second deadline, best of luck with your applications over winter break. (January 15 is coming right up!) Please post a comment if you have any questions at all about your application and we'll be sure to get back to you quickly.

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season, and hoping you have a peaceful and restful break.

Updated to add: Turns out that Feedburner, the service that delivers our blog posts to your email if you subscribe, only sends out those emails once a day (at some point overnight). So if you subscribe, you will not immediately receive an email but will receive it that night. Sorry about that. Hope it's still helpful for some of you. I'm sure there are other ways of getting this blog's feed--maybe subscribing through an RSS reader, such as Google Reader. If anyone knows of how to do it, please share!


Friday, December 12, 2008

Celebrating Exams

I know I'm biased, but I think we have the greatest and friendliest students in the world, and the most spirited. If you need evidence of the latter, take a look at this clip of how our students came together this week to blow off a little steam during exams.

You don't have to be able to dance to be a Tar Heel. But it helps to love life--and to be willing to love your classmates.

--Stephen Farmer