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Tips for the Activities Section in the Common App!

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During the college application process, it is important to try to make yourself stand out amongst the thousands of other applicants. Although your previous GPA and test scores give college admissions office knowledge on your academic abilities, it does not give insight into who you are as an individual outside of school. The college essay is a really good way to personalize your application but on top of that, filling out activities you were, or currently are, a part of is another fantastic way to differentiate yourself. Here are some tips when filling out the activities section on the Common App!

Choosing your Activities

On the Common App, you have ten available activity slots to fill, but this does not mean you have to use all of them. When it comes to figuring out which activities you want to include in your application, you want to be sure to include some that exemplify leadership, self-development, and hard work. When I applied to colleges, I made sure to include my involvement with Key Club, which is a nonprofit high school service organization that volunteers for various events throughout the year. I genuinely enjoyed being a part of that club and was one of the leaders for the last couple of years. Finding activities in your life like this example will show your qualities that could potentially be translated to the college where you are applying. Activities that show your societal contribution, whether that be your high school or community, will give admissions offices a sense of your skills and interests.

Don't forget that activities don't just include things at school, but can also include hobbies, jobs, and family responsibilities (like taking care of younger siblings or an older relative even). Be sure to list the activities in order of importance, with the first one being the most important!

Describing your Activities 

Perhaps one of the most difficult things about the activities section in the Common App is writing the description to whatever activity you choose. The online application profile only allows you to use 150 characters to describe the activity, and any accomplishment or recognition that you received while in it. Using a mere 150 characters to describe all of that is near impossible, so it is vital you choose your words carefully. When writing them, the most important thing to keep in mind is to use action words. Try to include very detailed and powerful words that really show how impactful the activity was on your life, and how you excelled within it. 

Time Spent and Continuing in College

The final two sections you will need to fill out are the amount of time you have spent doing this activity, and also if you intend to continue with it in college. When it comes to the time spent, you want to make sure you put down an accurate amount. The Common App asks for hours per week, and weeks per year. Make sure you give a good representation of what you actually do. Lastly, the application asks if you intend to continue with the activity, or participate in something similar, in college. No one is going to require you to to be part of the activity in college, but it’s good to click “Yes” when you have genuine interest or passion about said activity. Colleges want to know you will be engaged with their community, and be involved as a student. Choosing activities that you intend to continue will make your application shine. 

Overall, the activities portion of the Common App is another chance at personalizing your application. Outside of standard school work, you have an opportunity to prove to college admissions offices that you have the qualities and traits to be a good fit at the school.


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