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Articles / Applying to College / Activities Vs. Honors? Uploading a Resume? Check 3 Common App FAQs

Oct. 8, 2020

Activities Vs. Honors? Uploading a Resume? Check 3 Common App FAQs

Activities Vs. Honors? Uploading a Resume? Check 3 Common App FAQs

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I just started filling out my Common App and I have a few questions. First, one of my schools gives an option in Common App of uploading an "optional" resume. Is that important to do or is it okay to skip? Also, how do I list my honors/awards? Would an honor be serving as president of NHS? Because I already put that on my Activities list. And finally, should I self-report tests in the Common App (like SATs) or should I have official scores sent from College Board?


It's fine to skip the resume. But if you've already created one, review it to see if there's any information on it that won't be included in your application and that shows a side of you that the rest of your application might not. Typical teenager resumes usually don't offer enlightening additional details that would be a plus at application time. However, when I've advised students in the past who are involved in unusual endeavors, I suggest that they submit what I call an "Annotated Activities List" which offers a brief explanatory sentence or two after some of their entries, as needed. This can be a good way to introduce admissions staff to unfamiliar clubs and organizations, to clarify uncommon roles in common ones, and even to add a judicious touch of humor to a potentially deadly-dull process. So if you think that an Annotated Activities List could provide insights that the college folks won't get elsewhere, you can add it to your Common App when invited to do so, or email it separately to admission offices. But your transcript, Common App activities roster and essays may easily be sufficient so don't feel at all that a resume is a must.

As for the Activities versus Honors, those lines can be blurry. So don't worry at all about where you end up putting your assorted achievements and accolades. While I would definitely call your NHS presidency an "Activity" and not an "Honor," no college would penalize a candidate for putting it in that latter category. And also don't worry if you have no "Honors" to add at all. Admission officials realize that some high schools hand these out liberally while, at other schools, they are rare — even for tip-top students.

Finally, if you expect colleges to use your test scores (even if they're test-optional), then you should put them on your Common App. Then you need to check individual college websites to see if confirmation from the College Board is required as well. Many institutions are now allowing candidates to self-report their scores and will only expect the official ones from the testing agency for students who intend to enroll. But even if your target colleges do demand official scores from all applicants, it will be helpful to admission staff for you to self-report them, too.

Hope this helps. Applying to college can be a confusing process, so don't hesitate to continue to ask questions as they arise. Good luck!

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean please email us at editorial@collegeconfidential.com.

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Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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