Imagine this: it’s the summer before your senior year. You’ve made your Common App account and are filling out the form. You get to the high school Activities section. Pause. Where to even begin?

My colleague Liam previously wrote a stunning article on how to make the most of your Activities section.  And you’re heeding his advice and ranking your high school activities in order of importance. But does it look “well-rounded”? What does that even mean?

Sure, we appreciate seeing students who are Renaissance men and women and can do a bit of everything. But you’re not disadvantaged if you are only involved in a certain area or type of activity! These students are what we like to consider “lopsided”– heavily leaning toward one or two interests or activities rather than spread out among several. Truthfully, both types of students are competitive in our admissions pool. I hear all too much that students must be “well-rounded” to seem competitive.

Here’s why it’s okay to be lopsided:

It Shows Your Passion

We admissions counselors LOVE to see what you care about! What do you look forward to during the day? Maybe you’re a budding scientist or entrepreneur. Or you could be a quadruple sports player (that idea is making my head spin…). You’re the de facto leader of your grade or high school. Perhaps you’re state champion of Quiz Bowl. Or your time is committed to your faith on a weekly basis. What ever it may be, we want to know what you’re jazzed about. We also enjoy seeing clubs and other high school activities that we were once a part of too (we totally relate, fellow band geeks and yearbook editors)! And let’s be real: we were once teenagers too, and know that it’s difficult to give equal dedication to each and all your activities.


It Shows What You're Into Outside the Classroom

You dedicate so much of the Common Application to your academics, which of course makes sense. We want to know the rigor of your schedule, and what impact you’ve made in the classroom. But no need to reiterate your GPA or the many APs you’re taking; we get all that from reviewing the transcript. We want to know you beyond the classroom.

Maybe you aren’t as involved in school activities because you’re caring for family members. Perhaps you work 30 hours a week at a part-time job. Or swim practice is life, since you’ve been swimming since before you could walk. All of these and more are completely valid and important aspects of your life and your application; don’t leave it out! This is your chance to show us who you are beyond the classroom. That brings me to my final point.

It Shows What Kind of Community Member You'd Be at NYU

Ultimately, we’re admitting a class of amazing students who will take NYU by storm. But also: we’re bringing in new members to our NYU community. We’re looking for a variety of interests represented here. And with more than 400 clubs and organizations on campus, you’re likely to find your niche. It’s fun as we’re reading your application to imagine what clubs or activities you’ll get involved with based on your application. That’ll never impact the review process, but it’s a way for us to bring your application alive.

In reality, you’re not going to be in as many clubs here as you were in high school. Time really escapes you as a college student, and you want to devote your time to what you care about. So really think about which way you lean in terms of activities, and don’t be ashamed to let us know!


Good luck forming your Activities section! Remember: We’re here if you have any admissions or application questions at [email protected] or 212-998-4500.

Phoebe Kingsak is senior assistant director at Undergraduate Admissions. She is a proud alum of CAS (Journalism/Cinema Studies FTW) and is working on her second master’s—this time from NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. She enjoys hosting trivia, keeping Pokemon Go in business, and trying to make “Po-Mo” (portrait mode) a thing. She is a displaced Texan currently residing in Brooklyn with her dog, Betty.