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Think of your application this way: if it's a portrait, your essay is the face.The transcript, SATs, recommendation letters: those are the pose, the background, the positioning of your arms.And I absolutely love it when I flip from your personal essay to your Extracurricular Activity essay, and continue to be blown away.
Cats have soft pads under their feet; so they can walk without making any sound.
Small children are fond of pet cats, and they like to pat it.
If it's done right, the short extracurricular activity essay becomes the color.
So here's my advice: write a vivid short answer, and compel me to look deep into the heart of your application.
Ideally, the short answer will illuminate something that pops up on your list of extracurriculars.
Or maybe you'll use it to highlight an independent project you're undertaking, something that doesn't really fit into any of the boxes the Common App offers you.Use the short answer to highlight something new about you, something you haven't already detailed in your personal essay or Oberlin essay.We want to see as many facets of you as possible in the spaces allotted to you.If nothing else, they might spur some ideas or reinforce some of the things you've already been thinking.They might reassure you that you're writing from a solid place, or that the topic you chose isn't so off-the-wall and unreadable after all.Show us how unique you are, where you put your energy, what you spend your time on.These are the things that help us get a sense of you as an individual and as a potential member of our larger Oberlin community.The thing is, we read your application as a holistic portrait of you.Each piece of your application contributes to the portrait, from the Oberlin-specific essay through your SAT/ACT scores, the recommendation letter from your AP US History teacher, the personal essay, and the Extracurricular Activity essay. And it kills me when I get to that answer, and you've wasted it. You want your application to come across as coherent, but also to present us with the fullest portrait of you that you can provide.It's one of the few parts of the Common Application that is entirely yours to construct and build, sort of the final frontier of your application.By the time you sit down to fill out the Common App, your classes have already been taken, your SATs or ACTs scored, and your teachers already know you. Admissions officers across the US will tell you that the personal essay is your chance to tell us who you are, what you stand for, and what is most important to you.