Question: My local newspaper wrote an article last week about my community service project. Should I send news clips of that article to all the colleges I apply to next fall?
Start by reading application instructions on each college's Web site. A few schools will insist that you send NO clippings or similar supplementary materials, but most will allow them. Yet, just because it's permissible, is it appropriate? Here, “The Dean" must provide one of her most frequent—but least favorite—answers: IT DEPENDS.
When you say “my community service project," do you mean that you initiated it? And are doing it alone or are you one of multiple students involved? If you weren't the founder and if you're doing it with others, don't send the news article unless …
- It is primarily about you
- It gives admission committees information that a listing + a brief description on your application or on your resume wouldn't provide.
Even if you ARE the only one involved –or you're the major mover and shaker—be sure that any accomplishments the article highlights truly show you in a positive light. For example, if your key role was as a fundraiser, did you do something noteworthy to acquire the money or did you hit up your parents and their friends? A news clip about the latter won't score you points in admission offices.
Likewise, if the project is a common-place undertaking (e.g., peer tutoring, hospital volunteering) and there's no unique angle to it, the news clip won't help either. The same is true of one-time or short-term commitments (e.g., serving a holiday meal at a soup kitchen) unless there's something unusual about your approach.
Occasionally, newspaper articles include details and, especially, quotations that show a side of you that the rest of the application probably won't, and which may offer compliments about you that you're too modest to include yourself. But if the quotes included are merely platitudes, admission officials probably won't appreciate the extra reading.
“The Fairlawn Community Center clean-up is an annual event but it was only under Esther Shapiro's spirited direction this fall that participants weren't only high school students but also hailed from three generations of center members who used eco-friendly solvents that Esther created herself."
NOT worth sending:
“Members of the Fairlawn Community Center are grateful to organizer Esther Shapiro and her classmates for another successful clean-up event." Each year seniors from Fairlawn High spend a Saturday morning helping to get the Center ready for the busy winter season."
Also not worth sending are articles about activities that took place before high school unless your accomplishments were exceptional and, as noted above, you can't summarize them in an application listing. Even significant achievements like winning a national spelling or geography bee don't require a newspaper article to convince admission officials that they indeed occurred.
If you do decide to send a newspaper article and you expect to snail-mail it to admission offices, make sure that it is clearly marked with your name, your home town, your school name and your applicant ID number, if you have one. Some colleges' Web sites include instructions on how to send extra materials, so look for these before you dispatch your clips.
Again, admission folks have plenty to read without such supplementary materials, so if you're not sure if yours are worth sending, the answer is probably no.