Acing the Activities List on the Common and Coalition App
The activity list is one of the most important parts of the application. Get tips and tricks on how to create a strong list with CollegeAdvisor.com.
Admissions expert Maria Acosta Robayo will share her insider knowledge on how to write and edit your activity list during a 60-minute webinar and Q&A session.
In this webinar, you’ll have all your questions answered, including:
- What activities should I include?
- How do I write a strong description in only 150 characters?
-Is there anything I should avoid including?
Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-10-18 – Acing the Activities List on the Common/Coalition App
Good evening everyone. My name is Lonnie Webb and welcome to CollegeAdvisors Acing the Activity List on the Common/Coalition Apps. To orient everyone with the webinar timing we’ll start off with a presentation, then answer your questions in a live Q&A. On the sidebar, you can dial on our slides and you can start submitting questions in the Q&A tab.
Now let’s meet our panelists. Hi everyone. My name is Maria Acosta Robayo and I am a Harvard alumni class of 2020 where I studied, uh, sociology and global health policy and where I was also on the, uh, pre-med path or the pre-med track. Nice, Nice. Well, before Maria dives into her content for this evening, you wanna first get a sense of what grade you are in.
So let us know. Maria, how was your experience at Harvard? I know it kind of was in the middle of the. Pandemic maybe, but, or was it not? Uh, I got the, the beginning of it, so I got, um, my senior year, uh, we left March of 2020, so it was actually, I got a pretty full academic experience at Harvard. And then what was supposed to be the senior spring, a little bit more laid back.
Um, that part was mostly at spent at. Oh, okay. Well thank you for, thanks for sharing with everyone. So we have 71% of our attendees are in the 12th grade, 22% 11th grade, 8% 10th grade. So we have majority, uh, 12th graders for your presentation. So I’ll turn it over to you. Great. Um, so we’re gonna kick off with just a pretty fundamental question of like, what is the activities list?
Just in case, like you’re wondering like, what is this about? We’re talking about a section of the Common App, so your Common App, um, or also on your, um, or Coalition App. You’ll see like, um, a portion that allows you to list up to 10 extracurricular activities. So this will be where you’re able to show, um, a little bit more of like how you spend your time outside of class.
Um, so, um, why is this important or an important part of your application? Um, well, one, it’s a place where you can, uh, showcase the activity you most enjoy, the activities you most enjoy, you spend time doing or have shaped your goals. It gives a little bit more context for. Why, um, you’re pursuing potentially the path you’re pursuing, um, for your career or the major that you want.
It allows you to also have a little bit more of, um, a more diverse application, right? If a, if schools were only seeing what you did in your classes, they wouldn’t be able to see how you spend your time, um, in different clubs. Even back home. Um, so it allows you to give a little bit more of qualitative information as well, because these aren’t like test scores or really statistics, Rather, it’s an opportunity to put.
Like a description and a role of like something you are part of. And usually in that role, we’ll go into this a little bit more like how to write an effective Common App description. But it gives, it gives you an opportunity to talk about a little bit of your personality, a little bit of like the things that mattered to you.
Um, and then it gives you a space to highlight things you might not have a chance to do in your essays. Um, if you. In the essay writing part of your application, you’ve probably realized that it’s really hard to meet the work count, and sometimes you might not be able to talk about something that was a big part of your life, but you can delegate that over to, um, writing about it in your Common App, uh, com.
Uh, the Common App activities list. So actually counts as an activity. Um, an activity is really anything that you spend your time on outside of your academic responsibilities. So anytime you’re not in school, um, like what are some of the things that you’re doing? Obviously you don’t wanna put like sleeping necessarily or like eating unless like maybe you’re like a food critic or you do something that’s a little bit more, um, not just like the natural things of all humans have to do.
So it’s an opportunity to showcase how you specifically spend time outside of your academic responsibilities in a way that either, um, highlights your passions, highlights, um, some interests or a way that you give back to the community. So some of the official examples of that can, and this is what’s like listed on your Common App, is like arts or music, different clubs, um, community engagement.
So if you work for like a local nonprofit or a community organization, family responsibilities. So this is actually like a really big one where students might not think that taking care of siblings counts as an extracurricular, as an activity, but it totally does. It’s something that is requiring your time.
outside of school that you could be using for a different activity. Um, so admissions officers went to account for, um, something that’s taking like time and a place where you might be investing in others’ lives. Um, hobbies. So that can be like something that’s really informal. It could be something you just picked up, but something that you can, um, like effectively describe like why you’re interested.
Uh, sports that could be in school, like varsity sports, or it could be club or jv, um, work or volunteering. This can be paid or unpaid work, um, and other experiences that are meaningful to you. So it really opens up the definition is really any activity that you don’t do in your, like, for classes that is meaningful to you.
Um, so how many activities can you actually list on the Common App? So, um, you are not required to list all 10, but you have 10 slots that you can fill up and keep in mind that you can include other extracurricular activities in your essays if you run out of space.
Um, so with these 10 activities, how do you actually choose which ones make it on the activities list? Um, and so I usually say you should prioritize based on the depth of involvement, leadership level that you had years of experience and evidence of diversity and interest. So what I mean by that is you sh choose something that you can demonstrate that you were really involved with.
So for example, if I just went to my first basketball practice yesterday, but I’m writing my Common App today, I probably wouldn’t put basketball as an activity that I do. Um, but if I did something where, uh, or actually that’s years of experience, but so depth of involvement does involve some time, like a time component.
And so I would say like depth of involvement would maybe be like if you are, let’s say part of your basketball team, but you really only go to a couple games, you aren’t really committed to. But if maybe you go to cooking classes every single week, you make dinner parties for your friends, you love to learn about cooking, right?
And more orthodox is usually like, okay, the sport. But if you’re not actually as involved, you might not be able to write as many hours that you dedicated to it. You might not be able to give as much examples in like meet to the actual description. And so I would say in that case, like choose the activity that has, uh, more of your time and investment in.
Leadership level. So if you’re really like stuck between okay, two different com uh, activities, and again, to just like take a step back, the reason we’re talking about this is not because you have to choose, like if you have eight activities, you’re not really having to choose one. It’s more like if you have 10 more than 10 activities and you’re having to choose, okay, which one do I wanna keep?
These criteria can help you decide, but it’s all, you have to take something off because it doesn’t fit. A ton of depth of involvement or a ton of leadership. It’s more when it comes down to the wire and you have to choose, this is a good, like, um, some good considerations to choose one over the other. Um, so with that in mind, the second point here is leadership level.
So if you’re really choosing between two activities where maybe one you were like high in leadership or you co-founded it versus one. You’ve like been part of it for a while, but you didn’t really rise in leadership. It might be a good opportunity to talk to, to use the one where you had more leadership.
One, because usually if you had more leadership, you probably had more responsibilities that you could talk about in your description. And two, it just showcases that it’s an opportunity that you took to really, um, not just be part of an activity, but be like more in the decision making, um, shoes of how to.
Either organize this club or a team or, um, you have to channel those leadership skills into the club. Um, and so it’s a good thing to show to admissions officers. Third is years of experience, so that’s a little bit more like the first example I gave where like if you just joined something like this week or this semester versus something you might have joined two years ago, that’s an opportunity That’s really one where like you can probably err on the side of like something you spent two years doing will have more, um, Just more, more things to talk about.
Um, some exceptions are, like for example, if you were part of like a week conference that was really special, you learned a lot. Maybe you presented like there’s a lot of need to talk about that and maybe you have a lot of other things that have a lot of years of experience. I would say that’s like a, an exception.
Um, and I would say like, these are important exceptions because like if you have a lot of. If you have a lot of activities that have like a lot of years poured into it, and maybe you have this one off experience at a conference or at like a summit that you attended where again you did something like really special, like presenting on a publication, like that’s something you should highlight and not necessarily, um, have to take away only because it wasn’t as long of a duration.
And then the last point here is evidence of diversity and. So again, you have 10 slots. Um, and if a lot of them are all about like, um, sports, you might want to include or on the side of including a couple more that show a diversity and interest like music or, um, something that’s academic related but not part of your class.
Um, so these are all good things to keep in mind if you’re having to decide on which one, which activity do you not include? If you have more than.
Okay, we’re gonna take a short pause because we wanna get a sense of where you are in the application process. So we heard that a good percentage of you all are in the 12th grade, so let us know where you are. Maybe you haven’t started. Um, That’s okay. Perhaps you’re not at the place yet where you’re doing your applications.
Maybe you’re researching. Are working on your essays, getting your application material together, or you might be almost done, which is an early celebration.
Okay, so we have the poll results in, um, we have 32% of our attendees are working on their essays. Uh, 22% are getting their application material together, followed by that. We have about 20% are researching schools. Um, a few haven’t started, and then we have 5%. Are almost done, and congratulations on being almost done, and congratulations to everyone who’s just getting that early start on their application.
I’ll turn it back over to you, Maria. Thank you. Great. So, um, the next thing I wanna talk about here is, um, what if you are, you know, you have more than 10 activities, but you really don’t have, like, a lot of them are very similar and it’s not like you have to like, choose one over the. , there’s another strategy which is grouping activities together.
Um, I wouldn’t recommend this all the time, like, uh, I’ll give an example of like, we’re not to do this, but if you are gonna do this, I would say think about the activities that share common themes or that would fit under an umbrella activity. So, for example, if you love to cook and you cook meals for your family, you host dinner parties, you teach cooking lessons, you might wanna group all of those into like a broader position, like there.
um, the way it’s phrased in the Common App, it’s like you have like your role and position and then you have like a description and so you might wanna put like amateur chef and then in the description, write all those things. , like your passion for cooking led you to like invest in taking like, um, cooking lessons that then involved into you actually instructing others.
You also give back to your community by cooking meals, not just for family, but also by other community members through your hosting, um, through your dinner parties. Um, right. All of this is about cooking, but I didn’t just put like, um, cooking student. Cook or like all those into like different activities.
I really chose one umbrella term to bring all, all those together where I’d say, um, Don’t do this or like an example to knock group would be if there’s, um, if you’re trying to group activities that actually highlight different leadership positions or different skill sets that you have, like, you don’t wanna bury those too much.
You wanna give a lot of room to talk about like actually really special activities that might have its own, uh, set of descriptions. So, for example, if you sang for an acapella group and you went to Nationals and you made some of their musical. One, this would fit under the music vocal category. Cause you have to hit a dropdown.
So one, it fits into a, a specific category. Um, and you did pretty special things in that you don’t necessarily wanna group that together with maybe doing Christmas caroling at a chris, at a nursing home, which is equally like a really important activity. But that would fall under community service as a category.
And it’s something that even though you’re still singing, it’s not really the same type of activity. One is more like a skill um, activity where you’re working with a group, you arranged music, um, you like competed. Another is like you’re really giving back to the community. And, um, you were doing this like in a specific season.
And so I would say that’s an example where you wouldn’t wanna group that together.
So what makes for a good activity description? So we just talked about like the different types of activities, ways that like you should think about how to choose one activity over another. But once you’ve chosen your 10, how do you write a good description? Um, I think the first thing you should think about just what’s the bottom line up front.
Um, a lot of times students think like, you know, everybody knows what it’s like to play basketball. Like you go and like play this sport and you. But actually like what makes this special for you? What activity are you specifically engaged in? So especially for some activities that might be a little bit out of the norm, like the examples I gave with like being an amateur chef, if you just put amateur chef and you put.
Cook for myself and others like that doesn’t give much detail. Whereas like if you are actually saying like, Okay, I’m an amateur chef, that can mean a lot of things. I don’t just put cook meals. I like, I described a like pretty detailed, um, like role for what that actually means. That’s gonna give you a lot more, this could give your admissions, uh, officer a lot more clarity over how you spend your.
So before you dive into some of that detail, you might wanna just be upfront about like, these are the activities I do. Then after that you could give some quantitative highlights. So after you’ve described, Okay, this is the activity, then you can talk about like, okay, I did this for X number of people. I maybe went to like this number of competitions.
Um, this were especially like, for example, um, some activities that are like, you know, I started a non. . Okay. Not if you started the nonprofit. Maybe your admissions officer doesn’t know what that non-profit does. So bottom line up front would be started a, a non-profit that does X, Y, and Z through, Over the past few years, we’ve donated X number of items and, um, x number of people have participated in the like donation drives.
And we sent this to, uh, nine countries all over the world. Right? That gives. What the mission of the, of the nonprofit was to some specific quantitative, um, like impact of what the, uh, of what the nonprofit did. And also just gave a little bit more of like, specifics on that could serve a little bit more as evidence for like, oh, this really did happen.
Um, and lastly, if you’re able to fit it with the word count, maybe a last little like snippet of like the. , um, that your activity had. So whether that’s something from a sport to music to taking care of somebody else, or the nonprofit, like you can add a snippet. Um, we’ll use sports as an example. Like maybe like with sports is very logistic, right?
You go to a certain number of practices, you made it to X or Y competitions. But try to add something like, um, you know, as part of. A role in this community. Like, uh, I made a space for like young women to talk about like the difficulties of being a student athlete or what it was like to pursue like, um, a career in like athleticism.
I don’t know, something that gives a little bit more of what impact you had, not just what you achieved through that activity. So again, that’s kind of like a cherry on top that you can put at. Um, so what are some common mistakes that students have when writing, uh, these activity descriptions? So one, which I alluded to before, is just assuming that the admissions officer knows as much as you do.
Um, A lot of times some students like dive into some very specific details about their activity, but they don’t really talk about like what the activity was. And that can be kind of difficult for admissions officers to play the guessing game. So, um, I always recommend having a friend or a family member just read your description and check for flow and for content.
If they’re lost and they know you, um, imagine how much more lost admissions officer. And then the second mistake, um, to be wary of is being too vague. Um, so specifically you’d want to make this all about highlighting the things that you did. So for example, if you played on a sport, it’s not just like, you know, played soccer where I like train, um, where like there was training and there was competitions involved.
It’s like I attended over 50 practices this season, uh, allowing our, and like, um, was part, uh, I was like a co-captain, um, leading our team to through nationals and. I don’t know, like was involved in X, Y, or Z in this activity. And so that makes it a lot more, a lot less about soccer and a lot more about what you did in soccer.
Um, so always try to ask yourself like, can, can the admissions officers tell specifically what I did and how will they be able to differentiate, differentiate that from so another student who’s also writing about their involvement in soccer. Um, so that’s just something to keep in mind. Um, So how can the activities list be used in conjunction with other parts of your application?
So when you’re thinking about common, the activities list and your essays, some ways that that can work hand in hand is in your essays, you should really tie in how your activities reflect more of your identity and your character and your goals. And so it’s not really like a resume as the activity list kind of.
The activity list is pretty much a resume of the activities you do. You don’t want your essays to sound that way. You want that to be more, Again, you use your activities as a bit of like mile markers to talk about like your own reflections, your own character, your own identity. And so, um, you don’t necessarily wanna get into too much of the weeds of that.
Whereas, um, and the reason that you don’t have to do that is because if you also list those activities in your, in your Common App list, then instead of having to go into the weeds in the essay, you can write like the number of hours, the number of weeks, all those things that are like required of you in the Common App section of the activities list.
You now don’t have to like, worry about like, well, how will the admission. Officer know whether I like played this for whether I looked at this all year versus just in this season where I’m writing it in my essay. And so if you have that Common App list, you don’t have to worry about that because the Common App list will ask you how many weeks per year, how many hours per week, how many like.
It, do you just do it during the summer? And so you don’t have to worry about that level of specificity in your essays, which is, um, a big like word count saver and also just helps you to be able to focus more on these overarching concepts in your essay. Um, and then the way that this list is using conduction with your academics is that the activities in your Common App open like broader windows of the interests that you have outside of the classroom.
So if you didn’t have this, it would really be like your transcript, which just shows like how you did it in your academic classes and then your essays, which you probably won’t be able, Like it wouldn’t. It would read as a resume list if you tried to do that, which would make for a bad essay. And so this list allows you the freedom to write about all the things that are not in your transcripts, that you don’t have to.
Write in your essay. And so, um, it’s really helpful to supplement your academics. Um, and a way that that, that this is helpful is also because your academics might list just like your academic interests, but you might have a lot of interest that supplement that. So for example, you might be taking an anatomy and physiology class, but you’re also part of HOSA or, uh, Science Olympia or this club that allows you to put some of that learning and some.
um, academic interest from your transcript, from your school into an application like an, like a competition or a way to serve the community. And so it gives a broader picture of how you’re using your academics to grow individually and also to help others.
Um, so some last advice I would give you all before we transition over to Q&A is to make sure that in your activities list you’re writing about the things that you’re really passionate about or the highlight a character trait that you want to share. So, um, . I know it’s hard to think about, like, okay, so like what will, a lot of times, and this is true for like all students going, um, applying to colleges, like, what gives me the better chance to get into a college?
And the truth is like all the activities that you are listing that you spend a lot of time in or that you really care about, like are all important data points about your student profile. And so you don’t know like what the, what cohort you’re applying with. Like you can, you have control over what you write in your, in your, uh, Common App, but you don’t know if there’s gonna be a lot of students that just for that particular year there was a ton of music students or a ton of athletes, or a ton of like chess masters or, um, , all these like different activities that you might have done, like you don’t have much control over how many other people are doing something similar, and so it’s hard to pick and choose like, Oh, what is the most unique or what will make me stand out?
I think the best strategy here is right about the things that you’re most passionate about, that you care the most about, that you’ve been a leader in or you’ve spent the most time. because that will really allow your, your application to shine. And then honestly, it’s very random, like who the other people in your cohort are.
Um, and then two is think through all the ways you use your time outside of school. A lot of times students just go to like, Okay, what are the typical, um, like, you know, playing sports, doing school, um, competing in clubs, Um, Art, music and like, those are like very good. You should include those. But think about maybe ways that are a little less official that you spend your time doing.
Um, for example, like taking care of siblings or loved ones. I had a student who didn’t have a lot of time to do other extracurriculars because she was really involved in their parents’ church. And so like this was something that she was just like, Oh, well this is just something I. Have to do as part of my family responsibility and wasn’t gonna write it as an activity, but through asking like questions about like, Okay, well what’s your day to day like?
It seems like that person knew a lot about like how to run tech and sound and knew a lot about like how to make posters on Canva. And so those were all things that are like skills and like activities that one might have not considered at first as like a, an activity to list on the Common App, but it is a meaningful way that she spend time outside of her.
So clearly that’s something that she can write on her Common App. Um, so I would just say do that like self reflection of what are, how, how do I spend my time on the day today and what is something meaningful, meaningful and outside of the class that I can write about in the Common App.
Okay. Thank you Maria. That now concludes the presentation portion of our webinar. I hope you enjoy the content. So now we’re gonna move into our Q&A. So how it is gonna work, I am going to read the questions out loud and then I will paste them into the public chat for. See them. So just a reminder, if you are not able to see the Q&A tab, it’s not letting you submit questions.
Just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link and not the webinar landing page. And also, um, Just wanna let you all know that you can receive a copy of the presentation by going to the handout tab and downloading it. All right, so now let’s move into our first question, and thank you to everyone who’s already started to, um, put their questions into the Q&A tab.
The first question reads quantitatively how long of an involvement in the activity you have listed. Do college admission officers like to. Like how many months or years should we aim to be involved in the activity we have listed? Yeah, so I think that really depends. So I gave examples of like you, I think the short answer is you should have a variety, um, and you should include several that have multiple.
I would say the best is having a couple that are multiple. Um, like you wanna have a couple that showed like, you know, you, this wasn’t just something you did this year or last year, but actually something you’ve been part of for a while you really care about. And so if I’m giving you the short answer, I would say at least half should be more than a year.
The other half can be something that like, you know, varied or maybe was seasonal. Uh, but definitely, or like a year. But most of them should show like depth of engagement. Um, what I would say is you don’t have to have all 10 be multiple years. If again, like let’s say you went to a really special like conference or like.
You just like joined a sport you really love or tried out for this group that you really wanna showcase. So I would say don’t limit yourself to having everything be multiple years, but if you have more than half of your, of your, of your activities being less than a year or only a year, um, I would think through.
How are some ways that you can describe like how special that was or like why it needed to be so short term? Because what you don’t wanna give off is that you have a lack of commitment to activities, um, or to a specific activity. Thank you. Our next question is, if I intend to major in pre-med, is it okay if there are still a lot of unique art extracurriculars such as music playing the piano or ex, I’m sorry, teaching piano, dance, et cetera?
Yeah, so, um, a couple things there. First, um, there is no pre-med majors. It’s really going on a pre-med. So if you are part of a premed track, that means that you are taking some classes that would allow you to be eligible for medical school, but you can major in anything you want. For example, I was premed and my major was sociology.
And so actually it’s really helpful for, for schools to know, like even though you’re premed and you should have some activities that show interest in the medical field. Um, so for example, Volunteering at a clinic, doing research, or at least some of your classes, like, you know, it should have like strong science background, um, but it shows a lot of diversity and actually makes you stand out if you also have depth of involvement in a different area.
It’s not a drawback. It’s actually something that will set you apart as long as it’s not like you don’t have anything science.
All right. Next question. What if you are in multiple varsity sports? Do you list them all? If they have, if they take up five to six activities, does it show that you are not as well rounded because you are sports oriented? No, I think that’s totally fine. I think like if you were saying like eight, like you’re taking up eight slots, that’s, you probably wanna.
Mix and match. Also props to you for being, uh, on so many varsity sports. But I think it actually shows like strength of, um, clearly you need to have good time management and strong discipline to be able to do that. And so you should definitely, um, you should definitely include those, especially if you had leadership roles or if you’ve been on varsity for more than a year.
So I would say include them. But if you see that there’s something that maybe like. Like you could drop one of your varsity sports if you see something that’s really special that you want to include and you just really don’t have the space. Cause you have so many other like varsity sports that are already showcasing your sport, um, sport background.
Yes, absolutely. Very impressive though. Very impressive. Our next question reads, should the activities list only contain something that you do regularly? Or can there be individual things like internships that only, that I only did for a little bit of time, but highlight your interest in a major. Yeah, so I think, um, so, so first of all, the coming up actually has slots that say like, um, Did you do this during the year?
Did you do this during a break? So the fact that they have those thoughts means like you can write about something that you did during a summer break, a winter break, um, and it’s not about how long, like if everything, if all 10 of your activities or most of the activities are just like short term like you only did for a couple weeks, that would be concerning.
But if you have a good mix of like things that you do consistently, , Um, and a couple things that you just did over a summer, but we’re meaningful. Like that’s totally fine. I think that the main theme in like my responses to this is like, you wanna have variety, you wanna have a couple and you wanna are on the side of like, variety that shows endurance and that shows commitment.
So you do wanna have most of your things be things that are, you’ve been involved in for a while, or that you do consistently, but you do wanna spar, like bring in some. Kind of cherry on top moments where like maybe you couldn’t do this big like again, conference, summit, internship for the whole year, but it’s still something that showcases and kind of capstones a learning or an activity that you’re interested in.
All right. Our next question, is it okay if the description of my, uh, for my activities is not a complete sentence, but it’s a fragment? I was not able to fit everything about the activity when I made it a full sentence. Due to the character counts, the mighty character counts. Yeah, so the character counts are definitely tricky.
I would say. , like it’s fine to say like for example, instead of like, um, I led, you could put like LED X, Y, or Z in X, Y, Z. But I think that you need to make sure it’s like readable and that it’s not like you wanna make sure, this is why I advise that you run it through a friend or a family member or trusted person to read and say like, Does this make sense?
Because it was just a ton of like back to back content. Has no transition words or like punctuation and it just like runs on for 50 like characters. It might be really hard to read. So I would say as long as it’s legible, as long as it’s still conveying, um, in like proper English, um, that, like, that should be fine.
Okay. Um, if we’ve had, if we’ve held multiple positions in an activity over the years, should we list them all or just the highest? I’m sorry, can you read the, the top part of the sentence again? If we’ve had multiple positions in an activity over, over the years? Yeah, you should. Yeah. So you should definitely put the highest of the position.
Um, what’s it, If there’s character count, um, you can include in your description that you participated, like if you were maybe secretary or, and then became president. Like, you could include that as like responsibilities that you did. Usually in this, it would be, Um, so let’s say you were the president of Club X, um, for three years.
Oh. Like, and it’s a, it’s an inactivity day for three years. For role you would put presidents for duration. You would put three years, and then in the description you would put, um, Uh, participated in X, Y, or Z as a participant for a year, then as a secretary for year two, and eventually ran my candidacy for president on year three.
Like you can include that. You could also include it, you, if you have space in the position, you can put in parentheses president, one year dash or like Colin secretary two year. But you do have to express that you weren’t president for all three years. So as long as like you can describe that, You weren’t present for that long.
Okay, so next question is, um, how do you avoid being repetitive when writing about an activity that is on your activities as in your college app essay? Yeah, so I would say you can still write for both. Um, the difference. In your essay, you shouldn’t just be talking about the activity for the sake of the activity.
You’re using the activity as a mile marker for talking about something deeper, like your personality, an obstacle that you, that you overcame. It should be less like a, an item to like showcase and more so something that like you actually use to showcase a deeper part of yourself. So the way you write about it would be, Um, whereas the Common App, it’s really only about the, like, what you did in that activity.
And so there you would wanna provide more specific details like quantitative stats, um, how much time you did it. So I wouldn’t worry too much about like, can I write an activity for both? Um, it’s more of like a cru, like it’s helpful to know that you, if you weren’t able to write about an activity in your essay, you can still talk about it in your Common App.
Okay. If I only did an activity freshman and sophomore year but didn’t do it junior or senior year, should I include it? Yeah, I think that’s, that’s still good. I would say that the golden rule here is include things that you’ve done for either like a really long period of time until high school. Like you can include things that you did in elementary school or middle school, as long as it has been continuous, like if you played a sport since you were six, but you.
You know, you stopped in eighth grade. I think that like towing the line of like, you did that for a really long time and you should express like, you know, before I got injured or before I transitioned into X, Y, or Z. But, um, if you did it in high school, it counts like anything that you wanna include in high school like that, all of that is good.
Okay, so this is a similar question, but it’s actually speaking of middle school, can you go back to middle school or should you stick with high school activities only? Yeah, so I would say if you started in middle school and still continue, you should write it. But if it’s only in middle school, I, I would not include it unless it was something crazy like you went.
you’re, you’re like the national champion of something in, and it happened in middle school, um, like some, something that really, really highlights. And then you would have to kind of make the case for like, in your description of like, how do you use that now? How has it still impacted you in your high school life?
Because I do think that there is like a qualification of like, this is stuff that you, like, activities you did in the past, like three years or four.
Okay. Our next questions are really great questions that everyone’s asking, by the way. Um, so this next question is, does work experience count as an activity? For example, being a summer camp teacher? It does, yes. And there’s actually a category that says worker volunteer, and so that would fit right there.
Okay. Next question. Read. Um, my school does a peer tutoring program, which I signed up for last year, but was only able to start this year since I was a staff member. Never matched me last year. Do I mark the activity when I signed or signed up or when I actually started? I would do it from the moment you first started, like working on it.
So the fact that you applied, you got in, I would say that counts as like you started before. Um, some. Like, I think it just depends on like and activities where you made, like you spend time outside of class being a part of, and so if there was an application process, if like you had to interview, like that’s something that’s all time outside of school that went into it.
So I would say start it when that process began. Great. Okay, So we are gonna take a short pause from our Q&A. So if you have a, a question, feel free to go ahead and place it in the. Uh, so for those who are not working or for those who are not working with us, um, we know that, you know, the college app application process can be rather overwhelming, especially for competitive applicants like yourself.
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Read. My school does a peer tutoring program, which I signed up for last year, but was only able to start this year since I was a staff member. Never. Um oh, actually, I think we already read this one. Sorry about that. , here we go. How should you list sports if you were part of a JV team for freshman year, but varsity team in other years?
Should this be one activity listing or two separate listings? My recommendation for this is similar to the leadership positions where it’s like you’re pretty much still playing the same sport still, um, like playing for a, the same team or a similar team. So I would say listed as a varsity sport. And then again in parentheses include that you are part of a jv.
You could also decide to split it if you wanted to. Um, I think I always like assume. Like these type of questions are more born out of, like, I don’t have much space to write about other things, so how do I kind of consolidate, um, my activities? If you have the space and you wanna fill it up, like I, I would say yes, include your varsity and your JV separately, but if you’re running out of space, as long as you make that qualification that you weren’t in varsity for all those years, that’s totally fine.
Okay, so our next question, read. Um, where did we go? Here it goes. All right. So how important is the activities list, um, relative to the rest of the application? Yeah, so I think, um, it’s really important in showing, it’s kind of like your extracurricular transcript. Um, it gives a window and extra data points for admissions officers to know who you are outside of the classroom.
Um, so I would say it’s re uh, long story short, it’s really important. Um, I would say this is something that oftentimes get, gets undervalued because students don’t, like in their description, they just say like, play basketball or play the violin. Um, and that’s a missed opportunity that another student is using to really showcase their skills.
And so I would. It could make it or break it. For the most part, the things that will make it or break it the most is like your essay, your transcript, but if it’s between you and another student who’s really fleshed out those Common Apps, uh, that Common App list and made the effort to really. Use it not just as a place to just write like a resume, but a place to showcase.
Like this is like not just something I spend my time with. This is something that made me like a better leader. I gave back in the community in extra y z ways. It’s gonna really make a difference in their in, in admissions officers decisions to admit one student over another.
Okay, so next question. Reads. Um, what are some ways our activity list can stand apart from the millions of others? Yeah, so I give an ex a couple examples of that on the common a on, sorry, on the previous slides, um, where really having an, like, being clear upfront about like what the activity actually is, Adding some statistics, right?
Like not just writing like donated items to people in need, but rather putting. Raised, um, did conducted a donation drive for, um, that collected over a hundred something, um, items that included hygiene materials and school supplies, and noti donated them to residents of rural villages across nine countries.
Right. That gives a lot more meat and flavor and like evidence for what you did than just like donated items that help people in need.
Okay. Our next question reads, when you fill out the activity section, is it okay to include a link to a video that you created that relates directly to the activity you listed? Huh, That’s a good question. I have not, I have not seen that. Mostly because links are usually kinda lengthy and you don’t wanna use your character count on.
Um, but there are section, like, I think at the end of the section of the comment, like there is areas to put, like add any additional details. Some, uh, specific schools even have like, add a portfolio or like something else you wanna showcase. You can write about it in, um, I think you can. I, I also haven’t seen like a link on an essay, but you can refer to it in your essay.
Um, but I would. I don’t think the Common App activities list is the most appropriate place for a link.
Okay. So our next question is if the activity was not really a sport, I mean, we kind of kind of answered this a little bit, but I’ll just read it again. But if the activity was not really a sport, but still took a large amount of my time, like a strategy card game or something of similar structure, would that be ideal to include in the list?
Yeah. I think again, if it’s a definition of something meaningful that you did outside of the classroom, I would just say the way that you describe it, like how much time you spent it, like, like what you did in that strategy game, like how it maybe influenced the way you think about like behavioral psychology or like how you helped to form a community of people like virtually during the time of covid and like you need a.
Give reasons for like why this was important and link it back to like either how that helped you grow as a person or it helped your community grow. Okay. Next question. If my hobby and volunteering positions go together, but I separate them into different activities, how do I avoid dipping on the. That is also a really great question.
Um, I think this is so like, um, activity specific because for example, if you did, uh, I, I think what comes to mind is like, let’s say like you love to paint and you donate your, paint your paintings to a or to a hospital. Your hobby is actually the painting portion and then the, not the volunteering part is like finding like the, um, finding the institutions to donate it to, like all the logistics.
My recommendation would be to try to group it into an umbrella like. Separate the hours you use painting for this non-profit or for this institution from the hours you use to paint just for fun or for a competition. And like use recreational painting in one activity and use this non-profit as a different activity and include the hours you paint for that activity in the in.
in the community service activity is the, the way that I would parse it out. So that, I think that’s an example that maybe wasn’t exactly what you do, but the moral of the story is try to separate the hobby, recreational, and the hobby that it’s the, the hours you did your hobby recreationally for no other pur, like no community service like purpose and the hours that you did that hobby for the community.
And group those separately. Okay. Next question is what makes a prospective pre-med student’s college? I mean, application or activities list stronger? Yeah, so I think things that like show that you have been part of the medical field in some way. Obviously, like you’re not a licensed like doctor, you can’t practice medicine on anybody.
Like that’s not what I mean at all. What I mean, Exposure to physicians. So did you shadow, did you volunteer at a hospital or in a local clinic? Um, do you write about medicine, like maybe in a journal? Did you start a publication that talks about science? Like I would say anything that’s either social or science socially or scientifically related to medicine would be helpful.
Um, and I just gave a couple examples of what that could be. Or taking care of a loved one who has, um, a specific condition. And talking about like maybe you’re the person that administers their insulin or that takes care of them. Um, that’s like all like an incredibly like important part of being a physician.
All right, so what if I don’t have any school activities? What else can I count? Um, anything, again, anything that you don’t do as part of like a graded class. So that could be like things that you do at home or things that like, You could play soccer but not play soccer for your school team. You could play soccer for a club outside of the school.
Um, you can paint for a class and you can also paint for fun. Um, you can write for a class, but you could also write for fun. Like all those things are things that maybe you don’t do as part of a school club, but you still use your time outside of school. Okay, so what would it be better to listen activity.
We have minimum involvement in if there’s space on the activities list. If so, where is the line between an activity that benefits our Common App versus one that does not? That’s also a really great question. A lot of students often just want to write whatever, however much they want to fill it up. And yes, there are some activities like if you put like, you know, I sleep a.
That’s probably not gonna be at like, even though that’s good, like, like that’s great, get those hours in. But that’s probably not an activity that would really help your essay or help your application. Actually. It would just be like, just like the oddness of including it in the Common App would like create like, okay, like what’s going on here?
Like, this is different. Um, my recommendation for this. Think about whether there’s something meaningful that you can write about and meaningful. Doesn’t necessarily have to be the number of hours, but rather it’s a meaningful experience that you had. So maybe like you volunteered at a hospital for only a week, or you did a shouting program for only a week.
That might still be something that’s like really important or like maybe you tried out for a sport for just a season, you didn’t last more than the season, but you discovered something through it. Maybe you discovered like your love for team sports or like you, like was, were part of the team that like broke a cycle of not going to states for five years.
Something like that. That like as long as you can find one meaning, one meaningful point where you either grew as a person or you gave back to your community or you did well, um, Notable competition, like I would still include it. Okay. Um, our next question reads, how do I list hours for past extracurriculars?
Um, so I think this is true of like whether you’re trying to calculate current or past extracurriculars. I would just think about during the season where you did this activity, how many hours per week did you do? And I would just try to do the math. , if this was something that you did every two weeks over the past year, Okay.
In 52 weeks. Okay. Half of that is 26 weeks. Like how many like hours did you do total? So I would just think about it like that. If it’s something that you maybe did between summer and school, then think about. The number of hours that you did and like, take the average to find how many, like, weeks per year.
Cause I know like, kind of the framing of it in Common App is sometimes you can’t just say like how many hours per like year, um, you, you need to do it based on like hours per week and weeks per year. So I would say be comfortable with taking like averages, um, to calculate the number of hours. Mm. Okay, so this question reads, what do you do if Covid shut down, um, like prevented you, the Covid shutdown prevented you from fully participating in many activities because their schedule was limited or nonexistent?
Yeah, so I would say if you, for example, NHS is not just an activity, it’s also like an honor to be part of the National Honors Society, and so I would still include. , if you have the space, um, you could also list that as an award. Um, and so if it’s something where you didn’t do much, but it’s an award, like there’s a section on your Common App just for awards, so I would transfer NHS over to award.
Um, if you did a lot of activities with it, but it was like not as many as you thought you would, then I would just leave it to like your discretion of like, do you have this space for it? If yes, include it. If. , then choose something that you did more like meaningful activities.
Okay. Well that is actually our final question for this evening. Thank you everyone for your great questions that you ask, and thank you Maria, for providing fantastic responses to support our attendees. Um, thank you also again, Maria, for the presentation that you provided everyone, and I just wanna share with you.
Before we head off that we do have more webinars that are happening this month. Actually every month we will have webinars that are geared towards supporting you with preparation for the college admission process, so please check them out. I did receive a few questions in regards to our previous webinar that was offered this week, so if you did not receive that recording, please check your email.
Our sign up on our website so that you can be able to look over our previous webinars. All right. So with that, thank you everyone again. And that concludes this tonight’s webinar. Bye bye. Thank you, Maria.