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Listing self-taught skills on applications?

novaboymomnovaboymom 6 replies5 threads New Member
I never imagined that we would be applying to schools during a time of social distancing. As a result, this has had an effect on my son's list of extracurricular activities. I know that we are not the only ones! For example, he plays baseball only in the spring. Now that the entire spring baseball season has been canceled, he will not be able to list this as a current activity. Also, almost all of his summer activities have been canceled, including one volunteer position. We take comfort in knowing that all applicants are in the same situation. Here's my question...

My son has a number of self-taught skills. Can he list these on an application even though they are not official or school sponsored activities? Did your child list any self-taught skills on his/her application? How did he/she substantiate these?

Thank you in advance for any advice that you can offer me!
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Replies to: Listing self-taught skills on applications?

  • CateCAParentCateCAParent 596 replies7 threads Member
    I feel for your son! Kiddo is a baseball player, and it stinks not being able to play. His summer job got cancelled, too - but at least he isn’t applying to schools this year (it will be another story next year when he has to worry about college apps).

    You are right though - your son is not alone, and the AOs will be sympathetic. My guess is that they will be interested in knowing what the various applicants did in these stressful circumstances. People will have a lot to write about - some kids have a lot of added responsibility, some have had to deal with sick family members, and everyone has had to adapt on the fly. There is a lot of adversity and disappointment going on, but also opportunity and growth.

    I would think that if your son has a passion that has led to skills, that would be a great thing to highlight. If he is a musician and picked up instruments on his own, really into politics and developed programming skills, stuff like that. If your kid is passionate about it, it will come through and substantiate itself. The applications are self-reporting, so not much substantiation to begin with. People report self-taught skills all the time. Kiddo took private piano lessons, for example - no way the schools could or would check to confirm he really did.
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  • CalliemomofgirlsCalliemomofgirls 412 replies16 threads Member
    Just a quick thought on "not being able to list baseball" (or other spring activities)...this is true for everyone, and I can't imagine that he doesn't still consider himself still a baseball player. Is he still doing training at home, and learning about the sport in other ways and cross-training? I guess what I'm saying is: schools still need baseball players. And no one is playing baseball this spring. But being a baseball player (or whatever -- fill in the blank) is an identity to extends far beyond a few months of a season. I would reconsider letting quarantine change the fundamental narrative. Yes, tweak, add, show layers.
    Anyway -- just a thought that may or may not feel applicable to your situation.
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  • DustyfeathersDustyfeathers 3638 replies85 threads Senior Member
    So .... one way to show the self-taught skills it to include a resume with your application. The common app, depending on the school, either will or will not allow one to be uploaded. Clearly if there's a way to upload additional info, you'd do it there. If there isn't, it's possible to email a resume to about 99% of schools. It may not help but it will not hurt IMHO. They may not look at the resume but usually in my limited experience any contact with Admissions Admins makes it into the file. Why? Because emails and other info can give them information they may require to make the decision, for good or ill.
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  • CaliMexCaliMex 2248 replies35 threads Senior Member
    A kid who had the agency and discipline to teach themselves something is far more impressive than the kid whose parents signed them up for multiple online classes and programs.

    Extracurriculars are anything you did outside the classroom. If you spent your free time taking care of younger siblings, working, reading, baking, gardening, or teaching yourself a particular skill -- it all counts!

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  • DroidsLookingForDroidsLookingFor 110 replies0 threads Junior Member
    I think AOs will absolutely be interested to hear how kids handled this time, including what if anything they taught themselves. However, I'd make sure to contextualize and be honest about the proficiency level. My DD taught herself some Korean and Japanese (pre-Covid era) but made sure never to exaggerate her proficiency.
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  • Groundwork2022Groundwork2022 3438 replies78 threads Senior Member
    Colleges always did judge applicants on their reactions to opportunities available to them, not on the opportunities themselves, if that makes sense. I think they're going to want to see you persevered, came up with something useful to do with your time - even if it wasn't originally what you planned to do. This is an opportunity to show adaptability, grit, creativity, and more, and the students who don't squander it or let the opportunity pass them by are going to stand out.

    Many colleges allow students to submit supplements... videos, creative writing samples, newspaper articles, whatever. So if this crisis has you going in a new direction or simply on a tangent of your old one, those are some of many ways you can and should show it on applications. Show, not just tell. Make it relevant in the total self-portrait that your application paints.
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