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Amilucky

Optimizing short character limits on application?

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Hi everyone,

I'm jumping the gun a bit as I know the current cycle isn't finished, but I've been thinking about the upcoming application cycle (lots of idle time!) and been struggling with the UofA application. I've never applied at UofA, but from what I remember from friends who have applied, the character limits are extremely short (350 characters?). How did you best utilize that space? Did you list your largest accomplishments resume style, or take a more reflective approach? I presume UofA has a preferred style/things they look for on the application, and I am unsure whether focusing on self-growth/lessons learned or measurable accomplishments is the better way to go. Any insight would help! 

 

 

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If I remember correctly, in addition to the EC descriptions with their short character limit, there was a essay in which they asked you to describe your top 5 life experiences. The word limit was ?1000 words/characters.

If you're concerned about descriptive vs telling a story, you do have the option of keeping the EC descriptions "resume" style (and sneak in some "This is what I learnt and how it changed me as a person" if you have the space), then leaving the top 5 experience essay as the more reflective approach style? But I can't advise you on the best approach, because it's probably something that depends on you and your ECs.

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18 minutes ago, pnpclear said:

If you're concerned about descriptive vs telling a story, you do have the option of keeping the EC descriptions "resume" style (and sneak in some "This is what I learnt and how it changed me as a person" if you have the space), then leaving the top 5 experience essay as the more reflective approach style?

For what its worth OP this is what I did and got into UofA (also rejected from UofC).

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10 minutes ago, ballsortahard said:

For what its worth OP this is what I did and got into UofA (also rejected from UofC).

30 minutes ago, pnpclear said:

If I remember correctly, in addition to the EC descriptions with their short character limit, there was a essay in which they asked you to describe your top 5 life experiences. The word limit was ?1000 words/characters.

If you're concerned about descriptive vs telling a story, you do have the option of keeping the EC descriptions "resume" style (and sneak in some "This is what I learnt and how it changed me as a person" if you have the space), then leaving the top 5 experience essay as the more reflective approach style? But I can't advise you on the best approach, because it's probably something that depends on you and your ECs.

I appreciate you guys replying! Yes, that was what I was thinking of doing (keeping the EC descriptions mostly "hard evidence" and adding a soft lessons if I have space) but I've just been so worried about it because alot of the advice I've heard (mostly from UofC students since I go to school here) is to be as reflective/vulnerable as possible on med apps. It got me waitlisted at Calgary, so I don't think it was necessary bad advice (wont be eligible at Alberta til this cycle) but I was nervous about accomplishing this to the same extent on the UofA app. 

So in terms of the EC descriptions, you would write like  "I planned x event, contributed to for y growth, worked well within a team, accomplished z task" type of thing right? I just feel like if I was the one reading it that would be so boring and mechanical, but obviously I'm not the one reading it, and frankly I don't know how else I would write it haha. 

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3 minutes ago, Amilucky said:

I appreciate you guys replying! Yes, that was what I was thinking of doing (keeping the EC descriptions mostly "hard evidence" and adding a soft lessons if I have space) but I've just been so worried about it because alot of the advice I've heard (mostly from UofC students since I go to school here) is to be as reflective/vulnerable as possible on med apps. It got me waitlisted at Calgary, so I don't think it was necessary bad advice (wont be eligible at Alberta til this cycle) but I was nervous about accomplishing this to the same extent on the UofA app. 

So in terms of the EC descriptions, you would write like  "I planned x event, contributed to for y growth, worked well within a team, accomplished z task" type of thing right? I just feel like if I was the one reading it that would be so boring and mechanical, but obviously I'm not the one reading it, and frankly I don't know how else I would write it haha. 

It might be dry, but if I was the executive of a club with an obscure and non-descriptive name, I will have to spend some time explaining what exactly this club is about and what my roles were. Since 350 characters/words is pretty short, most of the time I stuck with: 1 sentence explaining what the club/organization was, 1 sentence explaining my roles and responsibilities, and 1 sentence explaining what I learnt from it.

Personally, I feel that the reflective/vulnerability will come out better in the essay portion, because you'll have longer to expand and create a narrative. 

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Someone correct me if I am wrong here, but isn't the life highlights (not life experiences) section not actually factored into your EC score but instead used at interviews should you attain one? This would change things as you would effectively only be assessed based on achievements/duties pre-interview should you choose not to put in any lessons/reflections into your EC descriptions.  

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From the U of A website: "Personal Highlights: Please list and describe your top five personal experiences or achievements. These can be either academic or nonacademic. Applicants are not required to reveal anything that is considered protected under human rights legislation. Please note that this section is not scored."

Also keep in mind that what they ask for in this section seems to change from year to year. 

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3 hours ago, Mal said:

From the U of A website: "Personal Highlights: Please list and describe your top five personal experiences or achievements. These can be either academic or nonacademic. Applicants are not required to reveal anything that is considered protected under human rights legislation. Please note that this section is not scored."

Also keep in mind that what they ask for in this section seems to change from year to year. 

In that case, since the personal section is not scored, how would you recommend structuring the EC descriptions? 

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51 minutes ago, Amilucky said:

In that case, since the personal section is not scored, how would you recommend structuring the EC descriptions? 

I tried to write my descriptions in a way that made my duties clear, while highlighting lessons/skills. Instead of just listing my duties and then listing the skills this experience provided me, I wrote something like "I led a team of x number of people to accomplish y and z." Trust that the reviewer can read between the lines - if you led a team that accomplished certain tasks, you clearly have leadership skills. This will obviously depend on the nature of the EC you are discussing. For some of my more personal ones, I really just focused on the impact it had on me. 

That's just how I did it though, I'm sure a lot of other successful applicants wrote theirs differently!

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One more question - did anyone repeat entries between different sections (i.e. leadership and employment), or did you only put a certain activity in one category? I know it would probably be common sense to avoid doing this, but my dilemma is whether it would be better to 1) use a big leadership job I had in the employment section and put a club exec position as my 4th leadership entry even though I didn't accomplish nearly as impressive things or 2) use my leadership job in both the employment and leadership section.

basically, quality or quantity? 

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2 hours ago, Amilucky said:

One more question - did anyone repeat entries between different sections (i.e. leadership and employment), or did you only put a certain activity in one category? I know it would probably be common sense to avoid doing this, but my dilemma is whether it would be better to 1) use a big leadership job I had in the employment section and put a club exec position as my 4th leadership entry even though I didn't accomplish nearly as impressive things or 2) use my leadership job in both the employment and leadership section.

basically, quality or quantity? 

I don't think it would be wise to reuse the exact same entry for multiple categories. If you put identical entries across multiple categories, I think this would come off as trying to fill out as many entries as possible while not having the activities to fill each entry if this makes sense. Moreover, reviewers can also read through the lines- if you had a significant leadership role in an employment position for example, this doesn't need to be placed under the leadership category for reviewers to recognize that leadership was required through that role.

I would go with the second option you listed. Not every entry will be equally as strong, and I think showing diversity and commitment elsewhere will look better. 

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