What should my Brag Sheet look like? It has to be so short!
One of the hardest things about the Common App is cutting down your long list of achievements into a tiny 500-character brag sheet. It’s almost infuriating that Ivy League Schools expect to get to know you in such short a space!
Cramming your resume into such a small space is actually a pretty good exercise in picking out the extremely important from the merely significant.
Here’s my three-step process that can help you organize your brag sheet in a way that will look impressive to Ivy League Schools.
1. Categorize your achievements. List out all your awards, leadership positions, membership/volunteer positions, and any miscellaneous items.
2. Further break down these groups by interest, whether they be school-related, community service, job-related, athletic, artistic, etc.
3. Finally, pick the best item from each category to use in your brag sheet.
Never repeat yourself in your application; if you have a great SAT score, you should let your Ivy League hear about it from the College Board. Same goes for your 4.0– it should be apparent from your transcript, so don’t waste space mentioning it in your brag sheet.
My brag sheet just fit the required length, and I started out with a three-page resume.
IB (6 SL Calculus/7 SL Chemistry), AP (all 5’s), AP Scholar with Distinction, National Merit Semifinalist, Philosophy Club President/Junior Representative, 7th Public Forum Nationals 2007, Radio Show Co-Host, NFL Academic All-American, Quarterfinals Nationals Extemp Com, 4th ASU USX (US Extemporaneous), State Champion Public Forum, State 2nd USX, NHS Treasurer, 3 year Varsity Softball Letterman, Team Captain, Scholar Athlete, Two Time Qualifier NFL Nationals, Outstanding HS Junior Mathematics 2006, Varsity Quiz Regional Champions 2005
I put my important academic items first and made sure they covered different aspects of my education. The goal here was to show that I did well on a tests that had national standards. College admissions officers will recognize IB (International Baccalaureate) and AP (Advanced Placement), so use their acronyms to save space. I scored well on both tests so I listed both, but if you only did well on one of them, focus on that one.
Next section I dedicated to extra-curricular activities that demonstrate leadership (Philosophy Club President and Junior Representative) and national awards such as NFL (National All-American).
I had actually won quite a few awards, especially for speech-and-debate, so it was hard to leave most of them out. The ones that made it into my brag sheet were the national tournament awards and the state tournament awards. Similarly, you should prioritize your awards, with international being a must-list, then national, state, and finally local.
The last section of the brag sheet, I listed things that look great but weren’t all that significant to me personally. This is a good area to put awards and activities that you don’t plan to talk about elsewhere (for me, Varsity Quiz and co-hosting a radio show).
The hardest thing is deciding what to cut out. For me, this included being a member of IB Honor Society, Statistics Club, Mu Alpha Theta. I didn’t stand out as a leader in any of those. I also decided not to mention my success at local speaking competitions through Rotary International, and the club I started to get people to vote (the «Caucus Club»), since those were more obscure items that would take more effort to explain than was allotted. Lastly, I omitted my National Music Teacher Association Tests. I practiced piano and took the tests up to Level 8, but I knew this wouldn’t be an outstanding achievement since I had several friends applying who had all passed Level 10, and had even competed nationally in piano.
On your brag sheet, remember to list your most impressive accomplishments that don’t get enough coverage in the rest of your application. That way the Ivy League admissions board will get a more complete picture of you.
You can find more information about writing your brag sheet and more at ivyleagueadmissions.org
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