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How To Fill Out The Common App Activities Section

When you sit down to tackle the common app activities section, it's essential to understand that this part of your application is not just a list. It's a chance to paint a picture of who you are beyond the classroom. This section gives admissions officers valuable insights into what you choose to do with your time, which can tell colleges a great deal about your character, commitments, and passions.



Students filling out the common app activities section.

Understand the Purpose of the Common App Activities Section


This section of the common app is designed to provide a glimpse into your life outside of academics. It's your space to share how you've spent your time in meaningful activities, whether through sports, clubs, volunteering, research, work experience, or family responsibilities. Each entry is an opportunity to highlight not just what you did but how you engaged with these activities and what you gained from them.


Start by listing all the activities you have been involved in over the years. Once you have your list, reflect on the experiences that have contributed most to your personal development or have been most significant to you. These are the activities you want to highlight in your application.


In this section, you're not just listing; you're also explaining and reflecting. For each activity, consider what you want the admissions officer to know about it. Did you grow in a certain skill, like leadership? Did you overcome a challenge, or did you learn something new about yourself? These are the kinds of details that can help your application stand out.


You have a limited number of entries in the common app activities section, so choose the activities that mean the most to you and with which you had a significant involvement. It's better to have a few activities where you've dedicated much time and demonstrated commitment than a long list of one-time events.


For each activity you list, you'll need to provide details like the organization's name, your position or role, and the dates you were involved. You'll also have a short space to describe what you did and any accomplishments or recognition you received. When describing your activities, use strong action verbs to convey your involvement. Words like "led," "managed," "created," or "initiated" can make a big impact. Be concise but descriptive enough to give a clear understanding of your role and contributions.


Choose Meaningful and Relevant Activities


When filling out the common app activities section, it's crucial to select activities that have been meaningful to you and are relevant to your growth and aspirations. This section isn't just a record of how you've spent your time; it's an opportunity to tell colleges what you're passionate about, what has shaped you, and what skills you've developed.


Consider the activities where you've taken on a role that was challenging or where you've made a noticeable impact. Maybe you've been tutoring younger students, and you've seen their grades improve, or perhaps you've been part of a team that won a regional competition. These experiences can demonstrate commitment and the ability to work well with others.


It's also important to think about how the activities you choose align with your future goals. For example, if you're planning to study environmental science, involvement in a recycling program or an environmental advocacy group would be particularly relevant. These activities show your genuine interest in your chosen field of study and can help your application stand out.


If you have many activities to choose from, prioritize those where you've spent the most time or that you've been committed to for the longest period. Long-term commitments can be more impressive than one-off projects because they show your dedication and perseverance.


Provide a Concise Description for Each Activity


In the common app activities section, describing each activity is just as important as the activities themselves. You need to be concise due to the character limit but also descriptive enough to convey your role and the significance of the activity. This balance can be tricky, but when done right, it gives admissions officers a clear snapshot of your involvement.


For each activity you list, aim to explain it in a way that someone who knows nothing about it would understand its importance. Start with a strong action verb to catch the reader’s attention and quickly put the reader in the picture of what you did. For instance, "Led a team of volunteers in organizing the annual charity fun run, coordinating logistics and raising $5,000 for cancer research."


Include specifics that show the impact of your involvement. Rather than saying, "Participated in math club," you could say, "Collaborated with peers in math club to develop a tutoring program that improved student test scores by an average of 15%." This tells colleges not just what you did but also the result of your work.


If you had a leadership role, make sure this is clear in your description. Highlight any initiatives you spearheaded or improvements to the club or activity. For example, "As captain of the soccer team, initiated extra training sessions that helped the team win its first state championship in five years."


Remember also to reflect on what you learned from each activity and try to weave this into your description. For example, "Organizing fundraising events for the community theater enhanced my project management and public speaking skills." This not only shows what you did but also adds a personal dimension of growth and development.


Highlight Your Accomplishments and Important Roles


When you fill out the common app activities section, it's vital to spotlight your accomplishments and any leadership roles you've held. This information can set you apart from other applicants, showing colleges not only what you've done but also what you're capable of achieving.


Begin by identifying the activities where you've had the most impact. Did you help increase club membership, lead a successful project, or receive recognition for your contributions? Each of these is an accomplishment worth mentioning. For example, if you were the president of the chess club and under your leadership, the club won a regional tournament, that's a significant achievement.


Leadership roles are particularly important to highlight because they demonstrate your ability to take charge, motivate others, and drive results. Whether you were the captain of your sports team, the lead in a school play, or the student council treasurer, these positions show your willingness to accept responsibility and your trustworthiness in handling it.


When describing these roles, convey the scope of your responsibility and the outcome of your efforts. If you organized a school-wide event, share how many students participated and what the event accomplished. If you were responsible for managing funds, explain how you optimized the budget for better use.


Use Action Verbs and Provide Specific Details


Using action verbs in your descriptions can make them more dynamic and engaging. Instead of starting sentences with "I was" or "I am," use verbs that convey action and show your involvement. Words like "orchestrated," "founded," "transformed," and "championed" are powerful and illustrate your active role.


Providing specific details is also crucial. These details can include numbers, like the amount of money you raised for a charity or the number of people you managed in a project. They can also include the outcomes of your leadership, such as improvements in team performance or the success of an event you organized.


Elevate Your Application with Our College Admissions Experts


Step into your future with a standout application! Let our college admissions experts guide you through filling out the common app activities section in the best and most effective way possible. With our personalized services, we help to highlight your unique story, ensuring your application shines above the rest.

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