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What Every Senior Needs to Know About the Common App Activities Section

Updated: Mar 19, 2022

With Early Action deadlines around the corner, most high school seniors are buckling down to summarize their past 4 years, while preparing to be critiqued in a matter of minutes. What most students don’t realize is that there are sections on the Common App that are misconceived as “no brainers”, which can actually strengthen their application in more ways than one.

The most commonly overlooked part of the Common App is the Extracurricular Activities section that admissions counselors use as the quickest “go to” to get a feel of the student. It’s important for high school seniors to make sure they are describing their extracurricular activities to their fullest potential, rather than simply listing their title and the number of years involved.

Still, however, the more years involved in an activity –the more points. The higher up in leadership –the better. Was their activity at the school level, state level or national level?

Realistically, an admissions counselor isn’t looking to see if the student participated in a million things, but are instead more interested in finding a demonstrated commitment to the projects and/or causes they pursued.

If they were an athlete, were they named the team captain? If they were part of a club, were they named the president or vice-president? How many hours did they commit to an activity weekly?

Taking it one step further, did the student work while they were in high school? Almost nothing impresses a college admissions counselor more than when a student has real world, working experience.

Believe it or not, it is the simple, humbling jobs that stand out most: scooping ice cream, mowing the lawn, working at a restaurant, etc. These jobs not only teach students about the meaning of hard-work and the stretch of a dollar, but also add a touch of maturity to any application.

As always, it’s less about what you do, and more about how you word it. Use the Activities section to your advantage and remember these tips!

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