10 Tips for the Activities Section of College Applications

Jordyn Banks
Edited by Aanya Choudhary
Published on
July 28, 2023

Every college application will have a section where you list all the activities you completed during high school. Each may vary slightly with things like format and word count. However, there are simple rules you should follow to successfully convey your achievements in a way that will be appealing to admissions officers. The activities section of college applications takes longer than many expect, and is something that you need to spend time on. 

  • Try to stick to things you did in high school because that's what really matters. However, if there is something substantial you completed before high school that would really help your application or show your impact, feel free to add it. For example, I am adding some national competitions I competed in from the sixth-eighth grade. 
  • If you feel like you have not done anything extraordinary, that's ok! Dig deep, and you will find something. You can sit down with your parents and brainstorm what you've done because you may forget something important. Activities include summer programs, community service, sports, jobs, clubs, competitions, among many other things.
  • Order your activities by importance to your major or how dedicated you were to these activities. Try not to list activities that you were rarely involved in, because those are of less significance.
  • Format each activity in the same way. College admissions advisors are looking through hundreds of applications a day, and if your activities are all formatted nicely, they can read it easier and faster.
  • If you have a limited word count, as most college applications do, try not to use complete sentences; try to fit all the essential information you can. Treat it more like bullet points.
  • Quantify your activities to show your impact. If you won a competition, how many people were competing? If you started a website, how many people viewed it per month? If you did community service, what was your impact?
  • Colleges can tell if you are trying to cram all your activities into senior year to add things to your resumé. Try to list activities that you did all your years of high school and things you were very dedicated to. 
  • Be specific, especially with your impact. Do not abbreviate words that colleges may not know; try and spell them out if you can. Rephrase your activities to emphasize your role. 
  • Use strong verbs to demonstrate your achievements. For example, words like “lead or organize” are examples of strong verbs. Strong verbs will benefit your list because they demonstrate your role. 
  • Do not exaggerate how many hours you dedicate to each activity. This is one of the biggest ways that students get caught lying on their college applications. Other than that, it is just morally wrong. 

Here is another helpful source for formatting each activity: https://www.collegeessayguy.com/blog/guide-college-activities-list-common-app-example-application

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