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    How to Complete the Common App Activities Section

    By Zach Skillings

    Zach Skillings is the Scholarships360 Newsletter Editor. He specializes in college admissions and strives to answer important questions about higher education. When he’s not contributing to Scholarships360, Zach writes about travel, music, film, and culture. His work has been published in Our State Magazine, Ladygunn Magazine, The Nocturnal Times, and The Lexington Dispatch. Zach graduated from Elon University with a degree in Cinema and Television Arts.

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    Learn about our editorial policies

    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Updated: February 6th, 2024
    How to Complete the Common App Activities Section

    The activities section of the Common Application is your chance to show colleges what you’re involved in outside of the classroom. You’ll be required to list and describe the extracurricular activities you’ve participated in during your high school years. This is an important component of your application, so we’re giving you some tips and a common app activities section example!

    Also read: When should I apply for college?

    What is the Common App Activities Section?

    Before we jump into our tips and tricks section, let’s make sure we have a clear understanding of the Common App activities section. As we’ve mentioned, this is a chance for colleges to see what your life is like outside of the classroom. They want to know what kind of clubs and organizations you’ve been a part of during high school. More than anything, though, they want to know what kind of impact you made on those clubs and organizations. 

    According to the Common App, activities include arts, athletics, clubs, employment, personal commitments, and other pursuits. In other words, nearly anything productive that you’re involved in outside of the classroom can be counted as an activity. You’re allowed to list up to 10 activities, but you’re certainly not required to fill all 10 slots. 

    The Common App sets the following character limits for each activity: 

    • 50 characters – Position/Leadership description
    • 100 characters – Organization name
    • 150 characters – Activity details, honors won, and accomplishments

    Now that you have a solid understanding of the activities section, let’s go over some key tips that’ll help you out when describing your activities. We’ll follow up each tip with an example for your Common App Activities Section.

    1. Use phrases instead of sentences

    To make the most of your allotted 150 characters, you’ll need to get straight to the point without sacrificing important details. To do this, you should use short phrases instead of full sentences. Here’s an example: 

    Don’t do this:

    Vice President, Art Club

    For three years I was a member of my high school’s art club. I attended meetings and assisted with group projects my first two years, then was elected vice president during my final year. As vice president, I sent newsletters to members and organized a fundraising campaign. 

    (274 characters)

    Do this instead:

    Vice President, Art Club

    Organized fundraising campaign, wrote and distributed newsletters, contributed to group projects, member for 3 years and vice president final year. 

    (147 characters)

    Also see: How to write an essay about yourself

    2. Use strong verbs

    The way you phrase your descriptions has an impact on the way you’re perceived by admissions officers. To maximize your impact, you’ll want to describe your activities in the most engaging way possible. This means using verbs that are more specific. Here’s an example: 

    Don’t do this:

    Counselor, Boys & Girls Club

    Looked after campers, thought of new group activities, was in charge of counselor meetings, developed friendships with campers.

    Do this instead:

    Counselor, Boys & Girls Club

    Supervised 25+ campers at a time, brainstormed new group activities, oversaw counselor meetings, mentored and encouraged campers. 

    3. Use quantitative descriptions 

    Whenever applicable, try to use quantitative descriptions instead of qualitative ones. Adding numerical values provides concrete proof of your success and clearly demonstrates your impact. Here’s an example: 

    Don’t do this:

    President, Yearbook Club

    Dedicated several hours a week, recruited countless new members, organized a fundraiser that collected hundreds of dollars.

    Do this instead:

    President, Yearbook Club

    Dedicated 10+ hours a week, recruited 6 new members, organized a fundraiser that collected $475. 

    4. Don’t repeat yourself

    You only have a limited amount of space to describe your activities, so it’s important that you’re not being redundant. This means that you should avoid repeating words from your position description in your activity description. Here’s an example: 

    Don’t do this:

    Team Captain, Cross Country

    As team captain of the cross country team, I helped my coach organize practices, recruited new runners, organized team bonding sessions, and lifted team morale. 

    Do this instead:

    Team Captain, Cross Country

    Helped organize practices, recruited 4 new runners, organized team bonding sessions, and lifted team morale.  

    5. Keep order in mind

    Finally, it’s important to be mindful of order when you’re filling out the activities section. The first activities on your list should be the ones that you were most involved with. If you held any high-ranking positions, be sure to give those the highest priority when ordering your activities.

    Do’s and don’ts

    Do’s  Don’ts 
    Short phrases Full sentences
    Quantitative descriptions Vague descriptions
    Be concise, but detailed Repeat yourself
    Use strong, specific verbs Use general verbs
    List your most impressive activities first Forget to be mindful of order

    Also see: How to complete the Common App Honors Section

    How does the Common App Activities section work?

    Types of activities

    The Common App provides a drop-down menu with a wide variety of activities that you can select. We’ve listed some of the most popular ones below:

    • Academic
    • Art
    • Athletics: Club
    • Athletics: JV/Varsity
    • Career-Oriented
    • Community Service (Volunteer)
    • Computer/Technology
    • Debate/Speech
    • Environmental
    • Journalism/Publication
    • Junior R.O.T.C.
    • Music
    • Research
    • Science/Math
    • Student Govt./Politics
    • Theater/Drama
    • Work (paid)
    • Other Club/Activity

    See also: Free summer programs for high school students

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • The Common App Activities Section asks students what kinds of clubs and organizations they are involved in and what kind of impact they have made
    • Students may list up to 10 activities of interest
    • There is 150 word limit per activity description 
    • Short phrases, action verbs, and quantitative descriptions go a long way when describing activities
    • Students should be careful about not being repetitive
    • Activities should be listed in order of importance to the student
    • The Common App provides a drop-down menu with a wide variety of activities as well as the option to add your own activity if not listed

    Related: Should you submit the FAFSA before or after acceptance?

    Frequently asked questions about the Common App activities section

    Does the order of activities on Common App matter?

    Since the Common App asks applicants to list their activities in order of importance, it does matter. Just be honest about what activities are most important to you, and you will be golden!

    Do you need to fill out all 10 activities on the Common App?

    Students have the option to list “up to” ten activities, but are not expected to list ten activities.

    Do colleges see your Common App activities?

    Colleges do see the list of activities that students share on the Common App activities section. 

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