Application Nation - Class of 2025 is now open!  BECOME A MEMBER

How to Fill Out the Extracurricular Activities Section of the Application Like a Pro

The extracurricular activities section on a college application is a lot like a resume. If you don't use it to your advantage, the college won't have an accurate picture of what you do outside of the regular school day. This list is your most prized possession. You have the power to list the things that are important to you. How you list and describe each activity can have an impact on how you are perceived by the colleges.

Here Are The Most Powerful Ways To Show Off What You Do: 

  1. If you're using the Common App, you only have space to list ten activities. Choose them wisely. A summer experience in 9th grade or a club that meets irregularly may not be as important to list as something you did last summer or that you do every single day.
  2. Activities are defined in a very broad way. They include school clubs, jobs, internships, summer experiences, caring for a family member, an independent hobby, sports, service work, religious organizations, scouting, and the list goes on. If you are doing anything productive and meaningful in your day, make sure to list it. It matters. 

  3. The order matters too. Make sure you list your activities from most important to least important. Activities that you only did for one year may not have the same impact as something you have been doing since 9th grade. You can move the order of your activities very easily on the Common App by using the up and down arrows.

  4. Take your time. You need to come up with the appropriate and accurate language to describe the title/position you have and the organization it involves. This is really important. For example, if you are a blogger for a website, list your title and the website clearly: Blogger for 

  5. Describe what you do. Include anything of note. Don't be shy. This is your time to brag a bit. Keep in mind that most online applications have a character limit. For the Common App, you only have 150 characters to describe what you do. Be judicious about those 150 characters. Here is an example of a description: I write a weekly blog for an online site about getting into college. My blogs have been featured in The Huffington Post and local papers.

    "Your #collegeapplication should include anything you do that's meaningful and productive" TWEET THIS

  6. Be consistent with punctuation and capitalization. Just like a resume, you want everything to match up. If you capitalize the title and organization of your first activity (and please do!), make sure to do this throughout. If you use semi-colons or periods in the description to separate the different things you do or a period at the end of the description, use the same punctuation throughout.

  7. Be honest about the time you spend on each activity. If it looks like you are over-exaggerating the time commitment, you may lose credibility in the eyes of the colleges.

  8. Take credit. If you received a special award or acknowledgment for an activity, you should list it in the description as the "honors" section of most applications is just for academic honors. If you went to the state championship for tennis, make sure you mention it!
  9. It's about quality, not quantity. You don't have to use all the spaces that are available. It doesn't matter how many things you list; it matters how much impact you have made on each activity.
  10. Be your own best advocate. If you don't have a big title, like being president or captain, don't fear. Instead, think carefully about the role you play, how you list it, and how you describe what you do. There are leaders "in title," and then there are doers "in action." You choose how you want to describe yourself. Don't sell yourself short.  

And a bonus tip for those of you who read the whole blog:

Use the list on the application first and foremost instead of relying on a resume. Most colleges prefer to read activities off the list provided as they are accustomed to the template. Resumes slow them down in the reading process and are not always as well-organized. Resumes should only be used if the college prefers it. Otherwise, use it to apply to jobs, not colleges.