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I have a huge issue with the character limit on the common app

Uniquee1Uniquee1 10 replies8 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
In high school, I spent the majority of time dedicated on building (1) my nonprofit helping underfunded students and (2) my LLC business as a freelance writer. I must have spent a solid 800-1,000 hours on these activities over high school and especially during junior year.

Naturally, to describe the essence of what I did in such a long time within 150 characters is just impossible for me.

I was wondering if I can split these two large activities into four activities? That way I would have 300 characters to describe. For example: for my LLC business, I’ve earned revenue from clients paying me to write and have been published on **** and Forbes, but I also have my own blog where I write almost daily. I want to split the paid-to-write part of my business to one activity and the blogging part to another.

Or should I just attach a separate resume?

I know AOs don’t like descriptions that are verbose or repetitive but for my case I can’t possibly see how I’m going to stuff 800 hours of experience/activity into 150 characters.

If this info is needed: I am applying to HYPSM and some other T10 schools + safeties.
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Replies to: I have a huge issue with the character limit on the common app

  • AboutTheSameAboutTheSame 3095 replies47 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I'm actually wondering what your resume will look like in 4 years. Most employers do not want to read 10 pages. That's a semi-joke, but only semi. Yes. You need to learn to fit what you have to say into the space provided. You will face this issue ever and anon. If that is not enough here, go ahead and try your work-arounds ... but there is no guarantee that you will not irritate some admissions officer. I would suggest something along the lines of "I would be delighted to provide additional details."
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  • blossomblossom 9757 replies9 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    If you are a professional writer, you will know how to summarize your experience to fit the character limit. The number of hours you spend on an activity is completely irrelevant to how you write about it.... And the distinction between the various business lines is really not that important in the context of admissions- you get paid to write. You write well. Prove it.
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  • collegemom3717collegemom3717 6567 replies54 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Remember the purpose of the essay(s): they are your opportunity to convince AOs that their university will be the better for having you there. What does your ability to write in your public diary every day have to do with that?

    Look at all your pieces- your national prizes, your published paper, your summer research job, your LLC, your non-profit*, etc. etc. as a whole: what is the narrative arc? what sort of portrait of you does the resulting mosaic show? Then use your 150 characters *carefully* to fill in the connections. Remember that an AO is going to sit down, pick up your folder and scan straight through it- the first bit will be all the quantitative stuff, then the qualitative stuff. What words do you need to add so that the two together make sense, and give that an AO the idea that you will be the right addition to that specific class.

    The discipline of space limits is actually your friend, even if it seems hard now: it will make you focus focus focus on the *core* message.

    *btw, how do you square your massive time on your non-profit with you post elsewhere that says 'I wasn't that into volunteering'? are you paying yourself from your non-profit?
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  • Uniquee1Uniquee1 10 replies8 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thanks for the advice.

    As to your question, I wasn't big no volunteering meaning like Key Club or just the generic type of volunteering. I didn't really think working for my own nonprofit as actually "volunteering". Would it be considered so?
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  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn 38084 replies2086 threadsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    This is one of my favorite quotes (it's not clear who originally wrote it): "If I had had more time, I would have written a shorter speech." It's very important to learn how to condense your thoughts into fewer characters. :)
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  • Uniquee1Uniquee1 10 replies8 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thanks for all the responses guys.
    I had another question while going through the responses: can I attach a piece of my writing/my writer's website or whatever when I send in my application?
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  • Techno13Techno13 96 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    This advice is all spot on. Learn to be concise. My resume of 20+ years is still only 1 and 1/2 pages.
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  • lookingforwardlookingforward 33430 replies363 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    One of the assets a top college looks for is the ability to self edit. Lol, it means knowing what matters and only conveying just enough, the essential bit. Clear, concise thinking and writing.

    One of the things they don't want is a line by line, detailed full run through of every single bit of info. They have neither the time nor the need for this excess.

    It's not going to get you into top college to press on about some non profit and freelance writing. Nor to add a resume. Lots of kids blog or are published somewhere, lots of kids form non profits.

    You should be able to get this in under the word limit. Some CC posters suggest learning to summarize in under 25 words, as a start. Vital skill.

    You need a better, balanced view of what these schools do want. Unless they ask for a writing sample, they likely won't read it.

    Your choice. But why not try to learn what they are impressed by.
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  • rickle1rickle1 1864 replies16 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Be brief
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  • rickle1rickle1 1864 replies16 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Older brother is an outstanding writer, been recognized on a national level, etc. He told me writing is easy, editing is hard! Takes him 4x - 5x the time to edit as it does to write. His favorite phrase, "Don't be afraid to shoot your darlings!"

    Get editing!
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  • suzyQ7suzyQ7 3955 replies55 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    The activities section IS awfully short. I think it makes sense to break it up into multiple activities if the breaks make sense.

    A resume as an optional attachment would not hurt.
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  • LindagafLindagaf 9131 replies492 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I agree with all comments above.

    If there are very distinct areas of involvement in your activities, I don’t have a problem with you listing them separately, as long as they aren’t forcing you to cut something that makes you a little more interesting. On the other hand, unless it’s really necessary to split things up, avoid it.

    I also don’t have a problem with you adding a SHORT resumé, but it may not even be looked at. The app will be completely reviewed in about fifteen minutes, tops. It isn’t very likely they are going to read writing samples and view websites, but they might. The saying goes “the thicker the file, the thicker the kid.”

    Editing is your friend. Use it.
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