Empowering students and guiding families

Commonapp activities- a necessary evil?

The activities section of the Commonapp might be more important than you think. Why do colleges care about your activities? It’s simple, really. They want to know what you are up to when you aren’t in the classroom. Why? Because colleges want students who will get involved in their college community. They also want to make sure that you aren’t spending all your time playing video games!

So, back to the activities section  of the Commonapp. There is room to list up to ten activities. Whether you have two activities or ten, you should prioritize them in order of importance to you. If you have more than ten that are really important then you might want to attach a resume, but that’s another blog.

After you prioritize them you can fill out the section like this:

  • There will be two drop down boxes-these are self-explanatory
  • Position/Leadership line-this is limited to 50 characters. If your activity is a club then you will name the club. If you hold an office you will name that office. Get as much info into these 50 characters as possible.
  • The next box asks you to describe the activity. Here you have 150 characters. Yes, I wrote characters and not words, but you need to write words so choose them carefully.
  • Next is which grades that you participated in this activity. If it’s in the summer that will be added to the year following that summer.
  • Timing of participation is a dropdown and your choices are during the school year, break or all year.
  • The next line is hours/week. If it’s a sport count practice time and games.
  • Next is weeks/year. Do your best here. Don’t forget pre-season or any summer camps where you are involved with that activity.
  • Do you intend to participate in this activity in college? It’s OK if you don’t!
  • Lather, rinse, repeat and move on to the next activity.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lather,_rinse,_repeat

So what goes into the activities section? Here are some options:

  • Clubs
  • Sports
  • Drama
  • Band or youth orchestra
  • Volunteering
  • Summer job
  • School year job
  • Babysitting younger siblings
  • Religious involvement other than just attending service
  • Hobbies

Some things to think about as you prioritize:

  • A sport that you played varsity in 9th grade and never continued probably isn’t as important as one that you played for four years-even if you never started!
  • Paid volunteer (one time) humanitarian trips are fine, but they really just show colleges that your parents can afford to send you. This alone does not show that you are passionate about saving the world!
  • Not having a lot of activities because you either work to contribute to the family income or babysit younger sibs so parents can work is a very worthy use of your time.
  • Working a part-time job so that you can have gas money and pay for car insurance shows maturity and money skills and there may be an opportunity to show leadership depending on the job.
  • Did you start a dog walking business?  There is so much good stuff here…
  • Rebuilding an antique car? Think of all you’ve learned during this process.
  • Helping elderly neighbors rake leaves every year? One time is probably not enough-especially if your parents made you do it.
  • Do you write songs? Draw  caricatures? Colleges want to know.

The activities section is definitely a way to differentiate yourself from others so spend some quality time here.


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