Students studying in Adirondak chairs surrounded by fall foliage

As the holiday season approaches, we’re looking forward to an opportunity to recharge and share a meal with loved ones. While the holidays are a great time to focus on what we’re most grateful for, it can also be a time to reflect on your identity and what’s most important to you.

An added bonus: A firm understanding of yourself and what you care about can help you craft a strong college application.

Think of your application like your holiday meal. In the same way sauce and sides enhance the main dish, each section of your application can complement the others.

Each part of the application is designed for you to share different pieces of your identity. These include:

  • Personal statement
  • Supplemental essay
  • Activities list
  • Additional information
  • Community disruption

As you work through each portion, consider: What do I want the admissions committee to know about me? How can I use each piece of the application to truly tell my story? How can I show my values and goals align with those of the institution?

The strongest applications take full advantage of each space, making sure the information provided complements, rather than repeats, other sections.

For example, let’s say playing on your school’s soccer team is a significant part of your high school experience. You’ll certainly want to add it to your activities list, including any leadership roles you’ve held (formal or informal).

Mentioning soccer in this section doesn’t mean you can’t bring it up elsewhere. If you choose to discuss your soccer experience in your personal statement as well, it should provide new and helpful information the admissions committee hasn’t already learned about you.

Rather than re-stating your involvement in the activity, take some time to reflect on why it’s been important to you. Share things like: What have you gained from the experience? How has it altered your perspective? Has it helped you connect with others in a meaningful way? The narrative pieces like the essays provide an opportunity to use your voice and reveal your most authentic self.

If there’s something you want to tell the admissions committee that doesn’t fit in the essays or activities list, you’re welcome to include it in the additional information or community disruption sections. These spaces can also be used to elaborate on anything you’ve communicated in other parts of the application.

As you work on your application, here are some additional resources to consider:

Don’t forget—everyone’s holiday meal is going to look different! In the same vein, don’t worry about what you think your application should be like, or what you think the admissions committee wants to hear. To put your best foot forward, be your authentic self and include what is most important to you.