College Applications

How to Complete the Activities Section on Common App

The activities section on both the Common App and Coalition Application gives you a chance to distinguish yourself from thousands of other applicants to a university. Colleges want to see the diverse ways that applicants will contribute to their college community.

For a step-by-step guide to submitting the common app, check out this article from Fiveable!

Structure of the activities section

  1. Category of the activity (Internship)
  2. Your position in this activity (Ex. Member, Vice President)
  3. Organization of activity if applicable (Ex. Key Club)
  4. Description of the activity (Ex. I took meeting minutes and supervised service events)
  5. Participation Grade Levels (9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, post-12th)
  6. When you participated (during the school year, school break, or the full year)
  7. How many hours per week you committed to this activity
  8. How many weeks per year you committed to this activity
  9. Whether you would like to continue doing something similar to this activity or not

What can I include in the activities section?

Types of activities include:

  • work
  • internships
  • family responsibilities
  • hobbies
  • clubs
  • research
  • volunteering
  • sports
  • educational activities done outside of school

The bottom line is that these activities are something that you have put TIME and EFFORT into.

They are activities that are done outside of school (homework or school projects are not extracurriculars... though they take up quite a bit of time๐Ÿ˜‚)

These are activities that are meaningful to YOU๐Ÿ’—

Tips

Here are 10 tips for the 10 activities:

๐Ÿ’กREMEMBER: There are only 10 slots for activities on the Common App. Be judicious about which activities you want to include in this list. If you feel like you have more than 10, think about if any of the activities overlap in terms of their categories. If so, which one of these activities is more important to you. Or, another question you can ask yourself is: which activities have I spent more years in?

๐Ÿ’กYou DO NOT have to fill out all 10 slots of this section. Quality > Quantity. It is better to have 5 meaningful activities rather than 10 activities that you are not fully invested in.

๐Ÿ’กIt would be wise to exclude activities that you barely participate in (ex. clubs that you only attended the meetings of).

๐Ÿ’กThere may also be some short-term activities such as an important conference you attended, but it would be best to exclude these. Perhaps you can write about this type of activity in your personal statement or supplemental if it was truly meaningful to you.

๐Ÿ’กMake sure to pick the most precise category for your activity. For example, if there is an activity that could be "Science/Math" and "Academic", then choose Science/Math because it is more precise.

๐Ÿ’กYou will have to rank these activities from greatest to least importance. This doesn't necessarily mean the ones that you have spent the most time in. It means the ones that truly represent your values and what matters the most to you.

๐Ÿ’กWhen inputting the hours and weeks that you participated, be reasonable and estimate the best that you can.

๐Ÿ’กDO NOT make up an activity just for the sake of having another activity on your list. Similarly, don't join a bunch of high school clubs just to have extracurriculars. ๐Ÿ’กThere are only 150 characters for the description part of the activity, which means you must use concise wording and only include the most important details (quantifiable data if possible). For example, if it is a popular club like Key Club, don't use characters explaining that you do volunteer events. Finally, don't write about your position here (there's a section for that) and don't mention honors that you are already going to mention in the honors section.

๐Ÿ’กYou don't need to have a leadership position in all of the high school clubs that you're in. What matters is what YOU DO in those clubs.

Bonus Tip: Check out this guide to find out what colleges are looking for in students.

Good luck on your college applications!

Next, check out how to ask for letters of recommendation. For more college application advice, check out these informative Twitter threads.

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