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5 Ways to Strengthen Your Common App Activity List

When applying for college, many times the emphasis is on the Common App essay and supplemental essays. While the essays are important and your place to showcase your personality, the Common App extracurricular activity list is more crucial than you may realize. It includes all the awards you’ve won, activities you’ve participated in, and leadership roles you’ve held during high school. Admissions officers will only know so much about your participation and achievements as you describe in detail. Follow these five tips to strengthen your activity list.

Use action verbs

When describing your activities and leadership roles, it can be tempting to format them the same way, especially if they’re similar. However, you don’t want to begin every single one with the same verb because it can become repetitive. With a quick Google search, you can easily find lists of colorful, strong action verbs to use instead of the same old crutch. Some great examples to replace “I led…” include “I chaired,” “I coordinated,” or “I produced.”

Include numbers

Numbers and amounts help contextualize the impact of any activity or experience you include on the Common App. For instance, if you raised money for a particular charity, you should include how much money you raised, not just say that you donated “considerable funds.” Another example to include numbers is with teaching or tutoring because there is a difference between tutoring one student and 20 students.

Avoid plural pronouns

Since you’re an individual applying to college, admissions officers want to know what you did to contribute to an activity or experience, not what your peers or advisors did. When discussing your role, don’t use “we” or “our” and instead use “I” or “my.” It will help underscore the significance of your participation and leadership in the activity.

Keep a consistent tense

Just like when you’re writing an essay, you should keep consistent verb tense throughout. Since the majority of activities you discuss in the list happened in the past, you should use the simple past tense (i.e. “I started a club”). Avoid using passive voice or complex verb pairings because it takes up additional character count and makes your writing more confusing than it should be.

Be specific

With the small space you have to describe your activities and experiences, you need to be specific and include the most important details to help you stand out among other applicants. For example, if you played on a soccer team for four years, you need to go beyond saying that you played. What position did you play? Did you set any records or win big games? What tangible skills did you learn? Remember, there are many students who have similar experiences as you.

If you’d like guidance in crafting your Common App activity list or resume, sign up for a 1-hour consultation.

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