Sample Short Answer on Soccer

Gwen Writes About Soccer For The Short Answer, But Her Response Has Problems

Female soccer player practicing shots.

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College applications often include a short essay that asks you to elaborate on your most meaningful extracurricular activity or work experience. The Common Application used to require a short answer response of 150 words or fewer, and today many schools have retained the short answer in the supplemental essay section. The question will often ask something straight-forward like this: "Briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences."

Features of a Weak Short Answer

  • The short answer repeats similar ideas in slightly different words.
  • The essay employs vague language.
  • The response is filled with clichés and predictable language.
  • The response doesn't explain why the activity is important to the author.

"Short" should not be confused with "unimportant." When a college has holistic admissions, every piece of the application is important since the admissions folks want to get to know you as a whole person. The short answer needs to convey your passion for something you do, and it should also explain why the activity is important to you.

In this sample short answer response, Gwen writes about her passion for soccer, but she makes many common mistakes in the process.

Sample Short Answer Response by Gwen

Simply put, I love soccer. I love being part of a team of girls who go out there and give their all, heart and soul, in every game. We truly are a family in our team. I love being a part of that family and taking a leadership role, both on and off the field. Soccer has also helped me be a better leader in student organizations and class work, where I take a proactive role. Whether it is a good defensive block or scoring the winning goal, soccer is an empowering part of my life, and I would not be the person I am today without it.

Critique of Gwen's Short Answer Response

Gwen's short answer response is not terrible—the language is easy to read and Gwen's love of soccer comes across forcefully.

However, Gwen's response does have several problems:

  • The language is repetitive. Gwen says "I love" three times, and she repeats the ideas of family and leadership twice.
  • The languge is vague. What does Gwen mean when she says she takes "a proactive role"? What is her "leadership role"? What exactly does she mean when she says soccer made her "the person I am today"?
  • Some language is cliché. Phrases like "heart and soul" and "scoring the winning goal" appear in far too many essays about sports.
  • The response is short and doesn't say much. The typical 150-word limit isn't much space in which to elaborate on an activity, yet Gwen's response is just 540 characters/108 words (and, as noted, those words are repetitive and vague). Gwen hasn't used the short answer to her advantage.

Gwen does sound like a perfectly pleasant and enthusiastic student who works well with a team, but her response could be so much stronger. We finish her short answer response without a clear sense of the type of leader she is or what leadership roles she has assumed. There's nothing concrete here to illustrate how soccer has made her a stronger person and better student.

A Final Word on Short Answer Responses

To see what a stronger short answer response looks like, be sure to check out Christie's essay on running and Joel's response on his job at Burger King. Christie's response shows how an athletic activity can be presented more effectively than Gwen does, and Joel shows how a relatively unenjoyable activity—a fast food job—can still prove meaningful and valuable.

Don't be misled by the word "short." You should put plenty of time and care into this type of little essay. Work to follow the guidelines for a winning short answer, and be sure to steer clear of common short answer mistakes.