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5 Recommendations for Completing the Activities Section on College Applications

After logging 100s of hours on in rehearsals and on stage, or on the practice field and in games, students get the opportunity to share the importance of their art, sport, or other extracurricular activity with their prospective colleges through the activity section of the admission application. But how in the world do you condense an expansive experience which required a tremendous level of commitment from the student into just a few characters?

I have a few ideas that will help students complete this important component of the college application.

1. Use active verbs

When telling what the student did for a particular extracurricular activity, they need to use active verbs. The description should include any responsibilities that demonstrate leadership skills.

For example, rather than say: I played in my school’s wind symphony a stronger entry will include far more detail highlighting what the student did on a day-to-day basis. The better description might say: Responsible for leading wind symphony rehearsals, planning band team-building events, organizing travel to competitions.

Insider Tip: find a list of power verbs from university career services websites to help you aim for verb variety. Here is an example from the University of Northern Iowa.

2. Include problems student solved

Extracurricular activities go beyond simply showing Admissions Officers what the student did when they weren’t in class, studying, or sleeping. They are an opportunity to share the student’s problem-solving skills – something that is necessary to succeed at the college level.

The student should ask “Did I solve any internal problems or personal challenges through participating in this activity? Did I solve any external problems for my family, friends, school, or community? Maybe the student was tackling a much larger problem, something of a state, national, even global scale.

For example, a student might have collected recycling to raise money for a cause that is important to them. Maybe that grew into an extensive, organized venture over time. In that case, the activity might read as:

Raised $20,000 over 7 yrs for Juvenile Diabetes Foundation through on-going, community-wide recycling collection program I founded.


Admissions officers are looking for what skills, qualities, interests, and values student are bringing with them to the college community. Students can show admission’s readers by including Lessons Learned, Skills Gained, and Values Demonstrated through their activities.

For example, instead of saying: I posted information on Instagram for my local Boys & Girls Club.

Try this:

  • Lessons Learned: include soft skills developed like creativity, communication, patience, accepting feedback.

  • Skills Gained: specific software such as Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or applications such as Canva, Sked Social, Hootsuite.

  • Values: Grew social media audience for local chapter of Boys & Girls Club I’ve participate in since 3rd grade while parents at work.

4. Numbers and narrative

Students should use numbers to show the impact they had on their school, community, and/or organization. It’s important to share tangible, measurable impact.

Notice for example, the “Raised $20,000” inclusion above.

Ask “Whom did my activity help? “How many people? “How much money did I raise?”

5. Apply it

To take their activity lists to the next level, students should answer questions such as “How did I apply lessons from this activity beyond the activity itself? “What skills did I develop, and lessons did I learn that will make me a better [debater, social media coordinator, mentor, advocate, etc.]? “How might I continue this activity during college and beyond?”

For example: Applied mastery of ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, contemporary to multiple dance classes & performances at OCSA. Dance 4 Joy Ministries-performing ballet, tap, modern for low-income communities that don’t have resources to attend dance performances

Students shouldn’t wait until senior year to begin working on their activities list. Eliminate forgetting things and reduce stress by following these tips and about them during each school year.


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This blog was written Janice Royal, MA. She is the Founder and CEO of Royal College Consulting.

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