Activities Vs. Honors? Uploading a Resume? Check 3 Common App FAQs


I just started filling out my Common App and I have a few questions. First, one of my schools gives an option in Common App of uploading an "optional" resume. Is that important to do or is it okay to skip? Also, how do I list my honors/awards? Would an honor be serving as president of NHS? Because I already put that on my Activities list. And finally, should I self-report tests in the Common App (like SATs) or should I have official scores sent from College Board?

It's fine to skip the resume. But if you've already created one, review it to see if there's any information on it that won't be included in your application and that shows a side of you that the rest of your application might not. Typical teenager resumes usually don't offer enlightening additional details that would be a plus at application time. However, when I've advised students in the past who are involved in unusual endeavors, I suggest that they submit what I call an "Annotated Activities List" which offers a brief explanatory sentence or two after some of their entries, as needed. This can be a good way to introduce admissions staff to unfamiliar clubs and organizations, to clarify uncommon roles in common ones, and even to add a judicious touch of humor to a potentially deadly-dull process. So if you think that an Annotated Activities List could provide insights that the college folks won't get elsewhere, you can add it to your Common App when invited to do so, or email it separately to admission offices. But your transcript, Common App activities roster and essays may easily be sufficient so don't feel at all that a resume is a must.

As for the Activities versus Honors, those lines can be blurry. So don't worry at all about where you end up putting your assorted achievements and accolades. While I would definitely call your NHS presidency an "Activity" and not an "Honor," no college would penalize a candidate for putting it in that latter category. And also don't worry if you have no "Honors" to add at all. Admission officials realize that some high schools hand these out liberally while, at other schools, they are rare — even for tip-top students.

Finally, if you expect colleges to use your test scores (even if they're test-optional), then you should put them on your Common App. Then you need to check individual college websites to see if confirmation from the College Board is required as well. Many institutions are now allowing candidates to self-report their scores and will only expect the official ones from the testing agency for students who intend to enroll. But even if your target colleges do demand official scores from all applicants, it will be helpful to admission staff for you to self-report them, too.

Hope this helps. Applying to college can be a confusing process, so don't hesitate to continue to ask questions as they arise. Good luck!

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean please email us at

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