How to Arrange Your Activities List on the Common App

15/11/20238 minute read
How to Arrange Your Activities List on the Common App

The activities section of the Common App is a dedicated space where high school students provide information about their extracurricular involvement, achievements, and leadership experiences. This section is a crucial component of the college application process, allowing you to go beyond academic achievements and standardized test scores to showcase your interests, passions, and contributions outside the classroom.

Deciding how to organize your activities list on the Common App can be challenging. With only ten slots available, you need to condense all your experiences into a concise list that grabs attention. It's not only about selecting activities, but also about arranging them in a way that makes a strong impression. Deciding the order involves considering your:

  • strengths
  • passions
  • contributions
  • leadership roles
  • significant projects
  • personal growth

As you strive to showcase your true self to colleges, the arrangement of your activities list becomes crucial—it's a significant factor in leaving a positive impression on the people who decide college admissions. Keep reading to explore effective strategies for optimizing the order of your activities list and maximizing its impact.

Understanding the Significance of the Activities Section

The Common App's activities section is more than a checklist of accomplishments; it’s a narrative that highlights your journey beyond academic excellence. Understanding that this section is an opportunity to showcase your unique strengths, passions, and contributions is the first step in crafting a compelling application.

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Quality Over Quantity

One common misconception is that more is always better. However, admissions officers value depth over breadth. Instead of listing every activity you've been a part of, focus on those that have had a significant impact on your personal growth and on the community around you. This approach ensures that each entry contributes meaningfully to the narrative you're constructing.

The Power of Chronological Order

While there's no one-size-fits-all approach, starting your activities list in chronological order can provide a natural flow to your narrative. This format allows admissions officers to witness the evolution of your interests and commitments over time. However, the chronological approach should not overshadow the significance of each entry; it should complement the overall story you're telling.

Emphasizing Leadership Roles

Leadership is a quality highly valued by the Ivy League and other top universities. If you've held leadership positions in any of your activities, strategically place these entries at the beginning of your list. Whether it's being the president of a club, captain of a sports team, or leading a community service project, showcasing your ability to lead and inspire is a key aspect of presenting yourself as a dynamic and engaged individual.

Balancing Academics and Extracurriculars

Top universities are renowned for seeking well-rounded individuals. As such, your activities list should strike a balance between academic achievements and non-academic pursuits. Highlight any academic honors or projects that showcase your intellectual curiosity and commitment to scholarly pursuits. This balance reinforces the idea that you're not only a high achiever in the classroom but also a dynamic contributor to the broader community.

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Tailoring for Each University

While the Common App is a universal application, each institution has its own unique culture and values. Tailoring your activities list for each university can involve emphasizing certain activities that align with the specific characteristics and priorities of that institution. This tailored approach demonstrates your genuine interest in and understanding of each university, further boosting your application's appeal.

Showcasing Impact and Reflection

Beyond listing responsibilities and titles, the activities section is an opportunity to showcase the impact you've had. Use concrete examples and quantify your achievements wherever possible. Additionally, utilize the description box for each activity to reflect on what you've learned, how you've grown, and why each experience holds personal significance. This reflective approach adds depth and authenticity to your narrative.

Addressing Gaps and Unconventional Paths

Not every student follows a conventional path, and that's okay, especially considering the unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have gaps in your activities or have pursued unconventional interests, address them openly. Admissions officers appreciate authenticity and a willingness to take risks. Use the additional information section to explain any deviations from the norm and highlight the unique qualities that make you stand out.

Seek Feedback and Revise

Crafting the perfect activities list is a complex process. Seek feedback from teachers, mentors, or college counselors who can provide valuable insights. Use their feedback to refine and polish your list. Consider the narrative flow, the diversity of experiences, and the overall impression you want to leave on the admissions officers.

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Listing your activities on the Common App in an effective order requires thoughtful reflection and strategic planning. It’s important to remember that each entry in your activities list contributes to a broader narrative – a narrative that showcases your passions, your growth, and your potential contributions to the academic and social fabric of the university you aspire to join. Be sure to remain authentic and let your personality shine through the curation of your Common App activities list. 

Having great academics are an undeniable advantage, but they’re no longer enough to guarantee acceptance to a top college. At Crimson, we help students maximize every aspect of their application, including the Activities section, making sure they stand out above the tens of thousands of qualified applicants.

How Crimson can Help

Crimson students are over 4.5x more likely to gain admission to the Ivy League, Stanford, Duke, UChicago and other top 10 schools — with 100% of our students gaining admission to at least one of their target schools.

For assistance in crafting the perfect application, speak with one of our Enrollment Advisors

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