How to fill the Activities Page on the Common App

The activities section is one of the most important parts of your application, particularly if you are applying to very selective colleges. Many students who apply to these schools have top GPAs and test scores, so extracurricular activities are one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from the rest of the applicant pool and make yourself stand out as an exceptional candidate.

Colleges want to know what your life is like outside of the classroom. Have you developed strong interests over time? Are you a leader? They are looking for students who are potential pioneers in their future fields. While college is certainly a place to explore new interests, admissions committees want to see that you have an idea of the kinds of activities about which you are curious and at which might excel, so that college will nurture these talents and push you to succeed further.

You should spend some time considering what to include in the activities section of the Common Application. There are certain limits, so it is essential to be selective and concise. Unlike your education and testing, you have control over what to include and how to describe your activities, so you should put some thought into it.

The Common Application offers a drop-down menu with the following activities from which to select:

Screen Shot 2017-09-30 at 9.52.05 AM.png

For each activity you include on your application, choose the appropriate category. If you find that a particular extracurricular activity fits into multiple categories, choose the more specific one (e.g. “Math Club” would go into “Science/Math as opposed to Academic”). If the activity fits into two equally specific categories, choose the more relevant one. You will have the opportunity to expand in the description if you need to do so.

Since the list is fairly broad, you will probably find that your activity fits into at least one of the sections available. If not, select “Other Club/Activity” and identify it in the “Position/Leadership” description and organization name section. In this case, unless the position and organization names are fairly self-explanatory or very recognizable, you will need to be a bit more specific in your description. 

Colleges do want to see that you are specialized, but you probably don’t want to choose the same category for every activity. If it seems like you are choosing one category for everything, try to diversify a bit and think about how activities can be related without being exactly the same thing.

For example, if you are the secretary in student government and participated in a leadership program over the summer, select “Student Government/Politics” for the secretary position, and “Career-Oriented” for the leadership program. Both categories indicate that you are a driven leader, but they present different facets of your personality. Things like Model UN would be considered “Debate/ Speech” and if you hold a position on the executive board, also select the “other” option and list it as a position of leadership. 

This is it for this edition of filling out the common app activities. Keep a lot out on other entries on selecting what activities to include and how to write the description for each activity! Can’t wait for the blogs? Come meet us for coffee!