The Common App activities section can be quite confusing! If your wondering which activities to include, how many you need, what’s considered an activity, and which section you should put your achievements in, this guide will answer all of your questions!
What do I write in the activities section of Common App?
You should write anything meaningful that you do outside of school hours in the activities section! The most common things to put in the activities section are the sports, clubs, jobs, and organizations you participate in. You can also write other significant things that you do in your free time. Have you started a business? Do you paint murals? Have you competed in a baking show? Do you help raise your two younger brothers? The activities that you write do not have to be part of established organizations.
When writing your activities section, try to think about how you want colleges to see you. If you are majoring in business, what business related activities do you do outside of school? If you are majoring in engineering, what engineering related activities do you do outside of school? Remember that thousands of high school students have great stats. Use your activities section as an opportunity to stand out and to create an image of yourself.
What activities looks the best for colleges?
The activities that look “best for colleges” are the activities that you are genuinely passionate about. Colleges can sense when you are doing an activity just to do it, vs when you actually are interested in the activity. With that being said, here are some of the best activities:
1) Leadership positions in a club/organization/sport – Leadership positions show that you are dedicated to your activity and have the skills needed to lead a group of people.
2) Starting your own club/business/fundraiser – Starting your own activity shows your passion and your ability to organize and lead.
3) Something unique – Remember that colleges read thousands of applications every year. Doing a unique activity that not many others have done will make you stand out and catch the college admission officer’s attention.
4) Activities relating to your major – Activities relating to your intended major show that you are genuinely interested in learning more in the field. They also show that you are talented in your intended major and are finding opportunities to participate in it.
For more on the best activities for college, check out Best Extracurriculars For College.
Should I fill out all 10 activities on Common App?
If you have 10 activities, absolutely fill out all spots! If you don’t have 10 activities, don’t fill out spots! Fill out however many activities that you actually take time to participate in. Don’t make up activities or add a random club you attended once – colleges can see through that! Also, if you lie there is always a small chance that a college could find out and revoke your admission. Colleges would rather see 3 quality activities than 10 random activities that you don’t actually care about. Don’t worry about the quantity of activities, focus on the quality!
What order should activities be on Common App?
There are different strategies for ordering your activities, but generally it is recommended to put your most impressive activities on the top and least impressive on the bottom. College admissions officers may only read the top few activities and then glance over the rest. Choose to put the activities that you are most involved in and most proud of on top. Generally these “most impressive” activities include leadership positions, starting a club/organization/business, participating in Varsity sports, and unique activities.
Should you put hobbies on Common App activities?
Yes! If there is a hobby that you spend a lot of time doing and feel will add value to your application, definitely include it! Only add the hobby if it is specific and is important in the admission officer understanding who you are. For instance, if you spend multiple hours weightlifting every day, include that. If you have a cooking blog where you share your recipes, write that. If you enjoy reading and listening to music, don’t write that.
How many Common App activities are enough?
Generally, around 5 activities (including clubs, sports, jobs, organizations, volunteering, hobbies, etc.) is enough. Remember, colleges care more about the quality of your activities than the quantity of them. If you have a few quality activities, then that is enough. It is important to note that if you are applying to selective colleges, you may want to opt for more activities. Add as many quality activities as you have, but don’t just add random clubs you’ve went to once.
What activities should I NOT include?
Do not include vague hobbies, chores, and clubs that you have only attended once. For instance, do not add that you enjoy reading and listening to music. Do not add that you sweep the house every Friday (only add chores if it is a significant part of your home life due to special circumstances). Do not add that you attend Medical Club when you’ve only went that one Tuesday Freshman year.
Should I put awards in the Honors or Activities section?
Generally, put awards in the honors section. If you have an activity that you have gotten awards in, you can include it in both sections. For instance if you are the debate captain and you’ve won debate state, then put being debate captain in the activities section and your debate awards in the honors section.
Where should I put National Honor Society on Common App?
You can list National Honor Society in either the activities or honors section. Generally, if you have room, the activities section is best. If you’ve won any special awards from NHS, then you can also list it under honors.
Common App activities examples
You want to make sure that you are wording your activities to be clear, concise, and sound impressive. Here are some examples:
Club Leader Common App Activities Section Description
Vice President of Membership, Student Mentor –
Planned meetings, created member retention plan, marketed the club, organized events, managed members, mentored new students, collaborated with staff
Volunteering Common App Activities Section Description
Mentored Underprivileged Children in New York –
Provided support to underprivileged 4th-7th graders struggling academically, created care packages, facilitated student relationships post-Covid
Playing piano for nursing homes –
Played piano weekly at the Treewood Nursing Home.
Feed My Starving Children –
Packed meals, created packages, organized events.
Sports Common App Activities Section Description
Lakeville Varsity Tennis Team Member –
Played competitive tennis, placed 3rd in doubles regionals, facilitated team events, took tennis classes year-round outside sport season
Creating Business Common App Activities Section Description
Content Creator and Owner of Coolshoes.com –
Developed my own website, create and publish original content, market on social media, analyze marketing data, perform search engine optimization
Choir Common App Activities Section Description
Choir/Extra-Curricular Show Choir –
Learned and performed vocal pieces, danced as part of show choir, and performed at various school venues including an annual variety show.
Camp Counselor / Babysitting Common App Activities Section Description
Camp Counselor –
Managed a group of 10 campers, collaborated with other camp employees to create daily plans, led activities for children in sports, cooking, reading
Babysat children from infants to elementary school age. I was responsible for playing with them, feeding them dinner, putting them to bed
General Club Member Common App Activities Section Description
Member of Leadership Club –
Group of student leaders who work on developing leadership skills, organize school events, market clubs
FCCLA Member/Competitor –
Currently creating a project with plans at competing in Regionals and State in the Pastries event.