Writing About Extracurriculars in Your College Essays
Extracurricular activities are an important part of the application. How can you include them in your essays? Get tips and tricks with CollegeAdvisor.com.
Admissions and essay expert Ann Vande Velde will share her insider knowledge on how to include extracurricular activities in your essays during a 60-minute webinar and Q&A session.
In this webinar, you’ll have all your questions answered, including:
- How can I write about my extracurricular activities?
- How can I choose an activity that will make me stand out?
-Are there any topics I should avoid writing about?
Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-10-25 – Writing About Extracurriculars in Your College Essays
Hi everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisor’s webinar on Writing About Extracurriculars in Your College Essays. I’m McKenzie and I’ll be your moderator tonight. So if you have any questions, you can direct message me. Uh, and also, uh, if you have any questions, uh, related to tech issues, you can direct message me.
Uh, otherwise, to orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start up with a presentation. Then answer your questions in a live Q&A on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start to meet your questions in the Q&A tab. Now let’s meet our. Hi everyone. My name’s Anna Vande Velde. I’m super excited to be here tonight.
Um, just to give you a, a brief sense of who I am, um, I got my bachelor’s at Carnegie Mellon in psychology. Um, I thought I was gonna be a clinical psychologist. My life took a different path. I ended up at Harvard Law School and I’m now working as a nonprofit attorney and have been with CollegeAdvisor for over a year, um, advising students and also as a captain on our essay review team.
Great. And now real quick, we just wanna see where, um, everyone is at. So what grade are you currently in? Eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th or other. And other can be if you’re a transfer student or if you’re taking a gap year, and if you’re a parent on the call, you can select the grade that your student is going into.
And while we wait for those responses to roll in, Anna, can you tell us, um, does the activity that a student write. Uh, writes about, uh, need to be on their activities list? Great question. I would want to know a little more about what the student’s thoughts are. Um, cuz my initial thought is, why wouldn’t you put it on your activities list?
If it’s an issue of like you’ve maxed out the space, um, then I think you just wanna prioritize your activities list based on importance to you impact on your life and the amount of involvement. Um, so if there’s a club you’ve only been in for a week, maybe take that one off and put on the club that you’re writing about.
Um, but it, it’s gonna all depend on like the specifics. Hmm. So it’s looking like we have a great mixture in the crowd. We have 1% eighth graders, 5% ninth graders, 17% 10th graders, 37% 11th graders, which is not the majority, but they have the most percentage, uh, 36% 12th graders, and 3% other. And you can control the slides.
Great. Well, welcome everyone. Um, so the first question we wanted to answer is, where in the application do you even talk about extracurriculars? Um, and there are a lot of options. The most obvious place is, um, in your activities list. Um, and we have here activities, work and family responsibilities to highlight.
Activities list is broad. Um, you can really include so many different things there, and we’ll get into that later. Um, there’s also a section tried about honors and achievements. Those are usually related to an extracurricular activity. Your personal statement. You can write about extracurriculars. You do not have to.
Um, for those of you who maybe haven’t looked at or aren’t this far in the process, um, specifically with the Common App, which is where probably most of your applications will go through, there are a list of questions you can choose from for your personal statement. They’re pretty open-ended, um, and it’s completely up to you what you write about.
Can be an extracurricular. Doesn’t have to be the same thing is true if the college you’re applying to has, um, writing supplements. They might ask additional questions and want you to write additional essays there. And then I have letters of recommendation on here. You would not write this, that’s probably clear.
But there is an opportunity if you are asking a teacher or maybe a mentor and to write a letter of recommendation and they have seen how involved you are in a certain extracurricular, it’s completely appropriate to ask them, Are you comfortable writing about what you’ve seen me do in math club and in whatever the, the extracurricular might be?
So that’s just one more creative way to get your extracurriculars in there. Um, but that is not one that you would write. So the real answer to this question, what activities can students describe in their activities? List your essays. The real answer. Oh, sorry. Did my audio cut up? Okay. Um, the real answer is anything you can write about.
Anything, this is the list that the Common App provides in the activities list section. Uh, Anna, can we pause for a second? There are students, uh, with tech issues at the moment. Um, can you try, uh, speaking without the AirPods? That might help. Did I just cut out for a second cuz my laptop tried to use Siri?
Can you hear me now? Yeah, I can hear you. Okay. Is this better? Everyone? I think that should help, but I’ll stop if we have anymore. Sorry about that. No, thank you for interrupting. Um, so I was just saying on the, on the Common App there is a section for activities and there’s literally a dropdown. That lists every single thing here.
That’s where I got this list from. So these are the types of extracurriculars that the Common App is thinking you might include. Um, you’ll notice the last one is other clubs slash activity. So truly you can put anything, um, it should be meaningful to you. It should be something you’ve been very engaged in.
Um, I did see one of the questions that people submitted ahead of time was about does it have to be like an official club affiliated with a school or a program? No. Um, so maybe, you know, if you’re dancing with friends, you could put it under dance or you could put it under other activity. They’re also gonna ask, you know, how many hours you’ve spent on it.
There’s a place for you to describe your engagement with that extracurricular. So you have a lot of leeway to write about what activities are most important to you.
So why, why are we even having a training on writing about extracurriculars and why is that something you would want to do? Um, first of all, writing about it in your essays will allow you to convey a lot more than you can fit in the activity section. Um, so that the description that you can put in that section is limited to 150 characters that is very short, that is less than like half of what you can put in a tweet.
Um, so you can’t fit a lot there. It’s hard to convey personal growth, um, really deep things there so you can capture that instead in an essay. Um, it also allows you to highlight things on your activities list that are maybe extra important to you. Um, and they’re just a great source I have found of stories.
And we’ll talk about storytelling and how important that is in your essays.
Speaking of how can students write meaningful essays about their activities? Tell a story. I say this a hundred times a day. I’m like a broken records. I drive my students not to lit, but I believe in it. It is so important when you are writing an essay, tell a story. You have the activity section to list, you know, what you did.
Here is where you show us what it looked like, what it felt like, what you experienced, what you learned, um, and any opportunity to connect that activity or what you learned in it to your college or career interests. Um, that’s a great thing to do in your essay.
Yes. Uh, so now we’re just gonna do another quick poll. So where are you in the college application process? Haven’t started. I’m researching schools. I’m working on my essays. I’m getting my application materials together. Or if you’re really lucky, I’m almost done. And while we wait for that, Anna, can you tell us how can writing about an extracurricular help those who have trouble writing about themselves?
Well, I think writing about ourselves can be difficult, and if you’re writing about an extracurricular, it maybe provides a little more structure to a question. Um, and like I said earlier, they’re just great sources of stories. So instead of thinking about like I’m writing about myself, you can start out by just describing the moment.
What did you see when you went to this new club? What did you think? What did you feel? What have you learned? Um, and if you can frame it like that, maybe it feels a bit less like you’re writing about yourself even though you are. Um, so starting with like a specific moment in mind that was really meaningful to you, I think is an easy way to, or easier way to start writing.
Mm-hmm. . So it’s looking like we have 26% have been started. 35% are researching schools, 21% are working on their essays. 11% are getting their application materials together and 6% though lucky if you are almost done and you can control the sides. Great. Well, it’s nice to have thread here. Um, so here are some high level tips for describing your extracurriculars.
Um, I’ve broken it out because my advice is different depending on where you’re writing about ’em. If it’s in the activity section. Um, You don’t have to use full sentences. Start with action words, like on a resume. Um, highlight your leadership, focus on what you’ve done, not what the club is. Um, so you don’t need to explain what Debate Club is.
Folks will know that. Um, and here’s a place to be specific. Um, so one example might be you could write Belong to Debate Club, where students debate controversial topics at various high schools in the region. Or you could write, participated in 15 debates. Organized team fundraiser, which raised over a thousand dollars in co-led practice sessions.
So I would say that second example is much stronger because it’s specific, you know, 15 debates raise over a thousand dollars and it uses action words like participated, organized, co-led. and it doesn’t waste that valuable 150 characters describing what debate club is. Um, in contrast, in your essay, you’re gonna tell me one to two stories of a debate practice or a debate you were in, Put us in your shoes.
What did it look like when you were standing on stage? What did it feel like? What did you hear? Um, and then really importantly, what did you learn about yourself? How did you grow? How has this shaped your college aspirations, your career aspirations? So there’s a lot more depth in the essay, um, versus in an activity section where it’s, you know, a lot, a lot briefer.
Um, things to avoid in your essays. I’ve already said this. You don’t need to describe the club organization if it’s obvious from the name. Sometimes it’s not. Um, and if it’s not, describe it. You want your readers to know what you’re talking about. Um, I would be as brief as possible there, so you save as much space as you can for you and what you’ve done in this club.
Um, similarly, an essay is not the place to list, you know, all of the clubs you’ve joined or all of the things you’ve accomplished in them, like simply as a list. Um, you can do that in that activity section, but here in an essay, you want to really pull your reader in, be engaging. We can do that best through storytelling.
Um, I have negativity on here. That’s not to say that you can’t write about. Negative moments. Sometimes those can be really rich areas to write about. Someone asked the question ahead of time about, um, is it okay to write about things we failed at? Absolutely. If you frame it from the perspective of, I failed at this and here’s what I did in response, here’s what I learned, here’s how I grew.
That could be a fantastic essay. Um, it’s okay to say you’ve failed, but you won’t want to end the essay there. Right. That would be your starting point. And then show us how you responded to that failure.
My experience reviewing essays, um, is that truly, you can relate almost anything back to your career or academic interest. Um, so I think sometimes students get a little worried, um, if I’m applying to. For a math major, and then I have to write about math club. Not necessarily. If you’ve been the most involved in theater and you’ve learned a lot about yourself there, then there you might have more to write about that might be more engaging.
And what have you learned about yourself in theater that confirms for you that math is going to be a, a good major for you? Um, it can be a personality trait. It doesn’t have to be I love math. I’m in math clubs. I’m going to be a math major Also, any amount of impact can be meaningful. There are some questions about impact.
Does it have to be world, world impact? No. Oh my goodness. Please do not put that pressure on yourselves. Um, these stories do not have to be TV worthy at all. Um, I read a fantastic essay. That was about a student’s journey in golf. Um, and it started out by him saying, Snap, the song of the, or the sound of the club as it hits the ball.
Da da da da da puts me in this place. And then this was actually an essay where he talked about how he didn’t do well the first year. Here’s what he did to get better. And it was all in like from his perspective and it was great, right? But that impact was mostly internal for him and a bit on his team.
Not a world changing impact at all. And that’s okay. Um, we can’t all impact the whole world. That’s just not realistic. Colleges know that. Um, and then there are interesting stories everywhere. Everywhere. I’ve read essays where a student just read something like on the subway. That sparked an interesting thought for them.
They followed it through, or a student heard someone say something about common sense and they thought, Oh, what does that even mean? They followed it all the way through. It’s interesting. If you put us in your shoes and you show us how you thought through a concept, it might sound overwhelming. I really encourage you to just take some time, sit and quiet or wherever you think best and just reflect where have I had impactful moments?
What, what, Where was I? What was I doing? What did I learn? And this is hard. This is hard for all of us, but I challenge you as. Having those thoughts and as you’re putting this work in to turn off that part that we all have in our brain that wants to immediately jump on it and say, Oh, I don’t know if a college is gonna like that.
I don’t know if that’s impressive to a Harvard, I don’t know about this. If you can turn that off just for a few minutes while you’re just brainstorming and thinking, let yourself take that story that you could tell there to completion. Take a step back and think like, Okay, is this a good story? Would I want to read this?
And does it tell the readers more about who I am as a person? So all that to say this is a process and it requires some thought and you can absolutely do it. Um, some high level advice. Show don’t tell is another way of me saying tell a story. So sorry, I had to get that in there one more time. Um, remember that lists are for activities sections, not your essays.
Number one rule, really, I should put this at the top. For anything you write, be genuine. Show us who you are. Um, actually write about the extracurriculars that mean the most to you, not the ones that you think colleges are going to care the most about. Because I can tell you they do not have a list. They do not have a rubric of this club ranks above that club.
This activity looks more impressive. Someone, um, asked if out of school extracurriculars look more impressive than in school. No. What they want to see when you’re writing, it’s just more about who you are, what you like, what you enjoy. So it can be any. Type of activity. Just be genuine, be yourself. Also, sometimes we just have to start writing.
Um, I know for me sometimes just getting that first sentence out, I could, there’s like such a writer’s block I challenge you. Let go start writing and then be open to rewriting and, and revising and getting feedback. Um, there’s that saying good writing is rewriting. I’m a big fan of that thing. Um, and feedback I think is really, really helpful.
With any essay from your teachers, your peers, your family, your CollegeAdvisor, um, that is what we are here for. And then this might be annoying to say, I’m sorry if it is, but if you can have fun when you’re writing these, why not? Um, you’re writing about the things you love the most and are the most passionate about, and hopefully even with all of the work on your plate and all of the stress of this process, I hope you can find an ounce of fun at least, um, in, in writing about what you love.
Yes. So that is the end of the presentation part of the webinar. I hope you found this information helpful. And remember, again, that you can download the slide from the link, the handouts tab. And this webinar is being recorded if you would like to view it again later on our website at app.CollegeAdvisor.com/webinars.
Moving on to live Q&A. I’ll read your questions, you submit it in the Q&A tab and read them aloud before a panelist gives you an answer. As a heads up, if your Q&A tab isn’t letting you submit questions, just make sure that you join the link through the custom, uh, join the custom link sent your email and not, uh, from the webinar landing page, also known as the website or else you won’t get all the feature that big marker.
So just make sure you join through that custom link. Uh, and, and real quick just before we get started, I have put some additional information in the Q&A tab. So yes, the character limit is meaning this. It’s150 words on the Common App. Um, different applications have different rules about that, but uh, the characters mean that, um, you can’t go, It’s gonna count each letter and digit that you type in, and I believe spaces are not included in that.
Punctuation? No, I don’t think punctuation is actually. Um, and then with the essays, you have a word count limit. So you get whole words, um, ranging from one word to 800 words depending on the, if it’s a supplement. The personal statement, which is the big essay that most people tend to write about extracurriculars in, um, is a minimum 250 words and a maximum of 650 words.
Uh, that is for the Common App. Every application portal has different, um, rules. Uh, and then also because it is a larger audience tonight, we ask that you do not vote on your, um, questions that you ask, cuz it disrupts the order of the Q&A tab. So, yes. Okay. So for our first question, this is a big question that everyone, uh, wants to know about.
What makes an essay about an extracurricular activity stand out? Love this question. What makes. Any essay stand out about an extracurricular or otherwise, is that I get to learn more about you. So if you can for a minute, put yourself in the shoes of the college admissions reader. They are reading a lot of essays, um, and they’re not always spending a whole lot of time on them.
So the more you can pull them in and engage them right at the beginning, the more likely they are to remember your essay at the end of the day. Um, and that’s, that’s what you want, right? So not here’s my spiel again, but if you can tell a story, put us in your shoes at the very beginning, only you have had that experience.
Only you have had those exact thoughts and feelings. So it’s immediately. Unique, even if it’s about something millions of people do, like golf, If it’s your specific experience with golf, it’s unique, it’s engaging. And I wanna know more. The essay is where people learn about you as a human and everywhere else in the application, the list, the transcript is you as a student on paper.
Um, so that’s, yes. Um, going on to the next question, more about the pros of the essays. A students asking should you use professional language or should the essays be casual? Good question. Um, an annoying thing about lawyers is that we say it depends a lot. Um, so I’m gonna say it depends and then I’m going to elaborate.
I would err on the. Of less casual. Um, you certainly want the essay to sound like yourself. Um, like if someone read the essay and then met with you and had a conversation, they could see like, Oh yeah, this person sounds on paper, similar to how they sound in person. Um, that does not mean that we would write LOL or whatever casual slang is popular these days.
I know it’s not lol. I know I’m old. Um. So find that balance between keeping your voice clear and prominent and not falling too casual. So, I mean, if you’re writing Google Docs and it underlines it as a word, that’s not a word, maybe um, swap that out, um, or explain why you’re using the word that you list.
Mm-hmm. Uh, kind of going off of that, versus asking, when you say that you do not have to write in full sentences in the activity section, do you mean to use bullet points? I don’t think bullet points all are even allowed, just like I don’t think you can enter them. Um, but you can use periods to abbreviate, um, before a full sentence.
Like you, you can take out the word the, uh, similar to like advice you get on, um, resume writing, if you’ve done that or Googled that. Um, yes, no bullets, but you can abbreviate. Mm-hmm. Uh, so I’m seeing a lot of, uh, specific questions, , about, um, various activities from, um, the first Lego League, um, versus, um, what are some other ones?
Dance and sports. Um, how do you know if a topic is good to write about, um, for your application? If you love it, if it’s meaningful to you, If you can tell me a story about something you have done in this activity, be it dance or legos, anything. And I can learn more about you as a human and how you would be as a friend to other students on campus or how you’d be as a student in class or a community member and maybe a new, a new city.
That’s it, y’all. There’s not, there’s not like a. This activity is good, this activity is bad. It can actually be anything. If you love it, if you have learned from it, if you have grown as a person in it and you can capture that in an essay, then it’s a great topic. Uh, going on to the next question, are there any activities that are cliche to write about?
I don’t think so. Um, I think, I think when essays come off as cliche, it has nothing to do with the topic and it’s coming off as cliche cuz students are maybe, you know, pulling together different cliche phrases in a way where it feels like, I don’t think the student talks like this. I think they’re saying this because they think.
I want to read that as an admissions reader, I think they’re, they’re writing this, hoping it’ll impress me instead of writing well from a genuine place’s passion. Mm-hmm. So there are no cliche topics. Only disingenuous. Mm-hmm. A good way to, um, see if your essay is coming off genuinely, um, is to have someone who knows you pretty well to read your essay and they can tell you if they think it sounds like you, if they think it represents you.
I know for me, with one of my essays, I wrote, um, something about identity, but it wasn’t really something about my identity per se, or nothing that I felt strongly about. And one of my teachers, uh, questioned whether or not it would be the best essay because it came off kind of bland and didn’t really connect with anything about my character and my personality.
So that can be a good way to see if your essays coming off cliche. Um, if it can apply to pretty much any other student and it doesn’t really relate to you. There are a lot of shared experiences, but if it can’t be directed back to you, that’s kind of where cliche or in genuineness, uh, comes in. Uh, going on to the next question.
Uh, should we write about an activity we did not enjoy? If you’re going to tell me why you didn’t, why you didn’t enjoy it, what you learned through that experience. Sure. Especially if that’s really relevant to what you wanna do in college. If that, if doing something you didn’t like, taught you a really big thing about yourself and your future goals, I would definitely write about it.
I would caution you to not frame, to not be overly negative and blaming the activity or the person who is leading it. Um, cause we don’t wanna come across too negative. Um, but yes, if you can, if you can tell me why you didn’t like it and how you drew. Uh, going on to the next question, a parent is asking, um, about the additional information section and if that is a good place to put, um, to write about activities that maybe weren’t on your activities list or if you wanted to use your essay for something else, would the additional information section be a good place to do that?
Um, is this, I’m not sure what additional information section there is. Um, so like there’s the Common App essay and then there’s the activities list and on like the, one of the last sections of the Common App application, and I’m not sure about other application portals. Um, but on the last section it asks is there anything else that you would like to add to your application?
And it gives. I, I wanna say it’s like 250 or six 50 words, but I’m not sure, Um, just to add any additional parts to your application. Usually people use it to like, explain maybe dips and grades or people have used it for activities, um, before. And then, um, it can be used to just expand on something, uh, in your application that wasn’t touched on anywhere else.
Thank you, McKenzie. Um, I understand the question now and, and I agree with everything you said. Um, you can use it for that. I, I caution my students against including activities just to have a long activities list. Um, so I think common epilepsy put 10 mm-hmm, um, if you genuinely have 12 extracurriculars that you.
Are so passionate about and they’re really impactful to you. Yeah, you, you can totally include it there. Um, I just, I wouldn’t feel any pressure to, to do that or to, to show colleges like I have done, I’ve set up world record in like, number of extracurriculars I’ve participated in, um, cuz they, I really are taking a holistic, uh, view of these applications and it’s not like maxing out the activity section, boost your points or anything.
There’s no point system. Um, so I hope that answers the question. You can, but I caution students to only include activities that they’re really genuinely engaged and excited. Mm-hmm. . Uh, going on to the next question, I’m gonna kind of combine these two, but does it need to be an activity or experience? We were recently involved in, and this kind of goes with the student’s question, asking if an activity that they were in, uh, in elementary, during elementary and middle school, but didn’t do in, um, high school can be written about because it inspired their, uh, in current interest.
Awesome question. I believe the Common App in the activity section wants you to talk about just high school activities with the essays, there’s a lot of freedom. Um, so that question about this thing I did in elementary or middle school that really informed what I wanna do. Yes. That sounds like a great starting point for your personal statement or for supplemental essay.
Absolutely. You can really write about anything in the essays. Um, doesn’t have to be just something you’ve done in high school. Uh, kind of going off of that, another student is asking, can they write about a camp that they attended and then sort to add on, uh, can we write about an activity that was only one day, such as a conference or a competition, uh, or an activity that we were not in for a long, that we were in for a short time?
Yes. Thank you. I actually, I had in my notes to address that one during the presentation and I skipped over it. Yes. If you go to a conference and it changes your life, where it tells you what you wanna study and what you don’t wanna study, yes. Please write about it. That sounds really important to your story, to knowing you as a person.
Absolutely. Camps similarly, um, you can include them on the activities list and or in an essay, uh, focusing on the impact that they’ve had on you. Uh, going on to the next question, um, just to kind of broadly talk about extracurriculars, cuz I’m seeing a lot of questions on it. Uh, a student is asking if there’s a disadvantage if you don’t have a large number of extracurriculars.
Uh, and another student is asking on the opposite end, Is it good to have a lot of extracurriculars? They just wanna know like, what is it about these extracurriculars? Yes. Yeah, good question. Be genuine. Don’t be like, me as a high school senior who joined every club my school offered because I thought that’s what colleges wanted to see.
It is not, that was a, I was pushing myself too hard and I was overextending myself. Go to the clubs and extracurriculars that excite you, that are interesting to you. and then just be genuine about that on your application. Colleges are really like, I know it can feel like they’re not, but they really genuinely are taking the holistic approach.
So they’re gonna look at your activities list, but they’re also gonna look at your transcript and they’re also gonna look at your essays. So if there’s something in, if you, if you’re like, Ooh, I’m worried I have only one or two extracurriculars. First of all, I would challenge you to look really closely at that list.
Uh, cause there are a lot of things on there, um, that you might not be thinking of as an extracurricular. You, I’m just scrolling back to it. Um, if you are engaged in any religious community, if you have any family responsibilities, um, so helping with siblings or grandparents, parents, if you have a job, there are so many things that you can put on that list.
Um, but first of all, if you think you don’t have enough, really go through that list closely and see if we might have more than you think. Um, and then just follow our natural passions and tell your story and your application. I don’t know, I’m forgetting there are two questions that, Did I get both of them?
McKenzie? Yeah. Like, is it, um, a disadvantage, uh, to have a low number of activities also, or a large number? It’s not a disadvantage, it’s just a fact. Um, and tell your story. If there’s a reason why that you think is worth sharing, do that in your personal statement or in the extra space. Um, but no, they’re, they’re looking at you as a whole person, not just as someone who should sign up for extracurriculars.
Yes. And for me, uh, cause I see that someone asking about the average, uh, on the Common App, you’re able to upload 10 activities and then they have a separate section for honors and awards. So you don’t need to use that space there. Um, a lot of people try to meet that, um, maximum number of 10, and we have other webinars that go over this, but you do not need to do that.
I believe that when I was applying to college back in 2019, oh my gosh, um, my senior year I had about, I wanna say seven activities on my list and I got into Cornell University early decisions. So it’s more so about what your, um, commitment and your involvement, even if it was a one day thing, it’s like what did you do in that?
Why was it meaningful? Getting, uh, across that point in your application overall is more important than the number of activities that you have. Though a lot of people do try and meet that number of 10 just because the space is available. Um, the coalition application, I believe only goes up to eight activities.
So if you wanted to submit more than that, I’d recommend the Common App, Uh, different, uh, portals, like the UCs, I don’t remember what they do, but some applications don’t allow you to submit anything. Like they don’t really ask for much information. So it really depends on, um, what schools and what application portal you’re using.
Uh, going on to the next question, cause I’m seeing it come up a lot, students are just really curious about, um, whether or not the, the activity or the essay needs to be related to your major or career interest. Great question. Um, I think first of all, uh, it depends a little bit on the prompt. Uh, if the prompt is a supplemental essay and it says, Tell us about an extracurricular you’ve done.
There’s maybe a little more leeway, but I think even there, you can bring it back to your interest somehow. It might not be obvious. Um, I read an essay the other day that related, um, archery to forensic science. Right? Those are not related, but the student learned certain things in archery, like patience, working independently, attention to detail.
Those are all super relevant in forensic science. And she made a really convincing argument that they are, and because of this extracurricular, she’s done, she’s now better prepared to be a forensic science. So I’m telling you, there is a connection there because in everything we do as humans, we are learning and we are growing.
And if we’re learning and growing, then we’re getting something that is going to be useful in a big new chapter like college. Uh, going along with that, uh, there are gonna be multiple essays in your application. So you have the personal statement, and I’m going off the Common App again, but the personal statement is big essay, um, that you find under the, my Common App, uh, section of the Common App.
Uh, and then you have the supplemental essays, which is found under each individual college, under the My Colleges section. And then, so, um, the personal statement, um, is a good place to write about this. Supplements can be a good place to write about, um, majors, uh, career interests, just because schools typically are asking the why school question, like, why do you wanna attend there?
Why do you wanna do this program? So that can be a good place to explain that and then maybe talk about a different activity or experience or whatever else in your personal statement. Um, but if schools aren’t asking that question or if you don’t have the space to talk about an extracurricular there, um, you can always, um, Use your personal statement.
And then also some schools will even ask you what activities you would like to participate in college and why. So that can be a good space to say like, Hey, I participated in this in high school and I’d like to continue. Um, that’s another space. It all makes more sense when you actually see it on the application.
Uh, and it does not need to be, your essay does not need to be related to your career or anything. I wrote about a college prep, uh, club that I started at my high school and I was applying pre-med and public health. Uh, I did eventually switch into the education side, but um, initially I got into pre-med and public health with my, um, essay talking about.
Education. There we go. Uh, but my supplements, were talking more about my interest in health and health. Uh, so, yeah. Uh, going on to the next question, a student is asking, should a person write about, uh, extracurricular activities or life experiences in an essay which would be more engaging and memorable?
I’m sorry, McKenzie, you cut out at the very beginning. Yes. Uh, so a student asking should a person write about extracurricular activities or life experiences in the essays, uh, which would be more engaging?
I’m curious how an extracurricular is different from a life experience. Um, in that everything we do is a life experience. If the question is about, is it better to write about an extracurricular, like a formal club or something that happened in my personal? No. Like none is, neither is better than the other.
Uh, write about what’s gonna, tell me more about you. You want the admissions readers to look at your entire application and see like, Oh, I know a bit about who this student is. I understand where they’re coming from and where they want to go, but they make, it makes sense. They’ve told their story throughout the application.
Um, so you don’t have to write about your extracurricular and your essay. Um, you can absolutely write about personal things. Um, I just got a, a chat question about writing about weaknesses being vulnerable. Yes. You can do all of that. Um, just, you know, frame it how we’ve been talking about. Tell the story.
What have you learned? How do you feel it’s prepared you, um, for where you want to go? Yes. And I’m seeing a question in the chat asking, Do I have to limit my essay to six 50 words? Is there a drawback to exceeding the limit? So on the Common App, it is going to cut you off after six 50 words, so you won’t be able to go over that.
Um, we recommend writing your essays in like a separate Google Doc or Word doc. Um, and then, uh, cutting it down, editing it there, and then, um, copying and pasting it into your, uh, application. Uh, and then it’ll show you whether or not you, um, your essay fits in or not. And you can like check the word count.
You need a minimum of 250 words to be able to submit your Common App. And, but you have a max at six 50, so there’s no way to exceed it. And on that, Um, we know that the admissions process is hard for, um, is overwhelming for parents and students alike, especially when trying to figure out how to get these essays down.
Um, cut down the word count, figure out what’s even right about and make the essays as strong as possible. Our team of over 300, uh, forum or admissions officers and admissions experts, such as Anna are ready to help you and your family navigate it all in one-on-one advising sessions. Uh, take charge of your family’s college admissions journey by signing up for a free strategy session with an admissions expert by scanning the QR code on the screen.
From there, you’ll be taken to, um, A form, um, which you can fill out to figure out when a good meeting time will be, and then you’ll be connected with someone from our team to figure out what our packages are, um, what our different services are. Um, but just to go over it a bit, uh, with your advisor, you’ll really get to know them in these, um, one-on-one sessions and then they’ll be able to get to know you, your interest.
Um, usually you’re paired with someone who’s been accepted into or attends the school of interest and even, um, is doing this a similar career path to what you’re interested in. So they can really help with guiding you to figure out what’s gonna be the best, uh, topic, best way to frame your application so that it is the strongest possible and really represents you, your passions, your interests, and helps you, um, helps improve your chances of getting into your dream schools.
And one of the highlights for joining CollegeAdvisor is you get access to our essay review team who can provide additional support, um, with, um, Your essays. And Anna, since you are the lead on that, do you mind talking a bit more about, um, the essay review team? Yes, absolutely. Our essay review team is here for you.
We are, uh, a select group of advisors within the CollegeAdvisor network who are particularly passionate about writing, editing, um, and essays that come to us through, typically through your advisor. Um, and we give thorough feedback. We do the inline edits. Um, we’ll help with word count if that’s an issue.
We’ll point out places where we think you might need more or, uh, you know, some clarification. Um, and then we’ll give you a paragraph or two of high level feedback, um, just to say like, Here’s where I see this going, great work. Here’s my biggest, Like, if you’re only gonna do one thing to strengthen this essay, this is what I would do.
Um, and that’s, that’s what we’re here for. We have a turnaround time. We’re very proud of. Uh, we get ’em back within 24 hours. It’s often even faster than that. Um, so we are here for you and would love to read your essays. Yes, it’s a, it’s a great part of CollegeAdvisor. You get a whole team just looking over your essays so that it can really stand out as much as possible.
And um, again, with helping with that word count, cause I know that is a bit tricky for students, but yeah, so, um, you can sign up again by going to, uh, by scanning the QR code on the screen and you can also go to app.CollegeAdvisor.com and sign up for a free account, um, with us where you can, um, review different parts of the application process, um, keep up with deadlines, research various schools, and you can, uh, keep track of our webinars, um, to view what’s upcoming or view, um, past webinars.
So yeah, so’s scan the QR code on the screen to find out more. Uh, now back to the Q&A. So I am seeing a student asking about, I just had the question. Um, Okay. Uh, similar to like the, um, clubs that are less formal. A student is asking, Do colleges consider hobbies as extracurriculars? I would want to know more.
I’d want to have a conversation with a student asking this. Absolutely. You can write about a hobby in an essay. A hundred percent. Cause you can write about anything. Um, if, if you’re wanting to include it on the activities list, I would just wanna hear more about what it is. Um, on Common App, at least they do ask questions about how long you’ve been doing it, how many hours per week you spend on it.
Um, so if it’s a hobby that you’re spending like 10, 15 hours a week on, I think that’s a strong argument to include it there. Um, and then you just wanna be thought of what, which drop down category you select for it. Um, so yes, you could, and you can absolutely write about it in an essence. Yes, it’s a long list of things that can be counted as, um, As your activities list, including family responsibilities, which is even more broad than a hobby.
So, um, just it’s really more so about your commitment and how well you’re able to explain it. And then also for different things, if you wanted a extra like voucher for them or extra verification, um, you can ask someone to write you a recommendation for them if you have the additional space. Some schools limit who or how many people you can ask, um, for a letter of recommendation.
But if you have the extra space to get a recommender who maybe watched you the hobby, that is a great, um, way to just get the extra verification in terms of whether or not colleges verify how many hours and stuff you participate in them or how many activities you’re really participating in. I’d recommend just not lying.
Um, and then just try and be truthful. If you can’t quantify how many hours you were in it, you can put like, how many days a week? Um, how many. How long you were in the activity. Um, just give a general idea of what your participation was like. And if it seems like it’s too many activities to where it doesn’t sound realistic, then maybe you can explain it in the additional information section.
But usually if you were able to accomplish that many tasks and the time you were given, then you should, you should be good. But if it, you’re saying like you did 150 hours a week on an activity, that’s probably not likely. Cuz 40 hours a week is like the average working hours and you’re full-time students.
Uh, so just keep that in mind. . Yeah, I tell my students like, Look, you want the right order of magnitude. Mm-hmm. . Um, and it’s okay to estimate on average how many hours per week, but it needs to be in the ballpark. It can’t be 150 hours per week unless somehow you are doing that. And then you should definitely write about that in an essay.
Uh, going on to the next question, should you talk about an activity that you quit?
If I can learn something interesting about you, I’d wanna know why you quit, um, what you did after you quit, what you learned about yourself. You might be starting to notice a theme to my answers, um, because that’s the goal of these essays is who are you as a person and how do you think, how do you grow?
How do you learn? Um, are you able to introspect? and reflect on a time and say like, Oh, I quit dance and here’s, here’s why. Here’s what I learned about myself. Um, again, staying away from the negative, like dance is a horrible activity. I would not say something like that. Um, focus on you and what you learned.
Mm-hmm. , Uh, going on to the next question is students asking how many activities do you recommend we, uh, should write about? Is there a minimum? Um, I guess that would depend on the, if it’s the essay or the activities list. Can you kind of touch on both? Yes, absolutely. Um, we’ve talked about the activities list, um, a bit.
So I’ll, I’ll be brief there. You’re limited to 10 on the Common App. You do not have to have 10. McKenzie, I think she had seven and got an early decision before now, like a rock star. Um, so you do not need to fill that in an essay. I, I would, I would tend to write about fewer activities, maybe even one, maybe even one moment in that activity.
Um, because the activities, the activities list is there, um, to see how, like how many things you’ve done. The essay is there not for that at all, cuz that’s what the activities section is for. The essay is there for me to learn more about you as a person. So if you’re spending a lot of your 650 words, well listing all the, the activities we’ve done, it’s kind of a waste of your space.
Uh, so when writing in an essay, I would maybe talk about just. Um, if, if two are related, um, or if there’s a reason you wanna talk about two. It’s not a hard and fast rule. Um, but just be thoughtful about why would, why would I write about more than one? And how does writing about more than one tell the reader more about me that they can’t get from my activities list?
Mm-hmm, uh, if it’s starting to sound more like a list or it gets a little bit off topic, that’s where writing about more than one activity and an essay can get a little bit difficult and then you aren’t able to expand as much as you would like to. If you just talked about one, maybe two activities or even a moment, like Anna said.
Um, it’s specificity is really good in essays and having multiple things to talk about limits that, um, y’all can check out our other webinars. There are even some. Workshop webinars where we go over specific ways to write the essay, different ways to edit it. Uh, you can check out our webinars on writing about a passion project, which overlaps a lot with this topic.
Um, and you can just switch it out for like an activity that you’re doing, even if it wasn’t something that you started. So that is also a good place to look and I’m also seeing some questions related to the admissions process in general. Like when should you start? Um, and uh, where do recommenders go?
You can check out our other webinars by typing in those keywords, like recommender or activities list or admissions process, um, on our website at app.CollegeAdvisor.com to find those more specific questions. And in terms of being able to save the application, the application does save as you go. I would just recommend with the essays that you would, um, do it in a separate doc just so you can edit it and see it a bit easier and even share it with someone else if you wanted them to read over it.
Um, and the activities list, you can just. You can do in the Common App, but then also having like a spreadsheet or a resume on the side, um, for you to look off of, uh, going on to the next question. Um, Okay. Uh, a student is asked, oh, if there’s any questions in the chat that you wanted to get to, please feel free to read them out and respond.
Um, uh, but how, uh, what are admissions officers looking for in an essay, particularly about the extracurriculars? And another student is asking, um, what are some common mistakes you see within the, within, uh, applications or within nasa? Yeah, in essays about extracurriculars and about anything readers, admissions readers are looking to get to know you as a person.
How do you think about the world? And it makes sense that they want to, to know that. Because you’re applying to be a student at their university where you’re going to come and participate in activities and participate in class. So they want to know how, how do you see the world, how do you engage with it?
What would you be like as a student here on campus? Um, and what was, Sorry McKenzie, I don’t remember the other question. Um, what are some common mistakes? I believe somebody, uh, is putting like top three mistakes and writing essays about extracurriculars. Okay. Um, top three might be hard for me to commit to cause I’m an indecisive person.
Um, mistakes I see are, I think that biggest one is just not going deep. Not, not introspecting. That’s when they’re coming off as cliche as if you’re writing this, um, cuz you want to impress me. Um, and doing this is hard. It. Like it does require. Why don’t to scare you if you can do it. And it’s helpful to do the work up front by thinking it through.
Like genuinely take some time before you start writing to think about what extracurricular is the most meaningful to me and why. I’m telling you, I don’t think every student does that. And I think putting in even just a few minutes to think about that before you start writing will really, uh, level up your essay.
Mm-hmm, uh, since we are coming up on time, is there any last advice that you would like to give to students or any questions again that you see that you wanna answer? My advice to students is that you can do this. I know it’s a long process and I was there, I remember how stressful it can be. Use your support network.
Um, Hopefully that includes CollegeAdvisor. Um, use your teachers, use your peers, your family. Um, it’s intimidating to ask people to read what we’ve written and it is so worth it to get feedback on your essays. Um, so that’s my number one advice. Be open to feedback, be open to reworking things, um, and then be you show your true self.
Use your real voice when you write and, you’re going to be fabulous and we cannot wait to work with all of you individually. Mm-hmm. So thank you for that wonderful answer. So that is the end of the, uh, our webinar. Thank you to our wonderful panelists, Anna, for all this great information about writing about your extracurriculars.
Um, here’s the rest of our October series in our upcoming November series where we’ll have various webinars on college panels and on, um, various parts of the application and essay editing, as well as some supplemental essay workshops for those, um, school specific essays. Um, So remember again, you can, um, rewatch this recording later on our website at app.CollegeAdvisor.com, and you can find other webinars as well.
Um, so if your question was not answered in tonight’s webinar, do try attending the, um, upcoming webinars or, uh, view our older webinars as well as looking on our blog where you may be able to find, uh, the specific answers to your questions. Especially for everyone that’s new to the admissions process. I recommend, um, watching some of our videos that go over the admissions pro, uh, process entirely so that you can figure out what’s coming up, what all do you need to do, and what all to look out for, uh, as you get started on this journey.
So thank you everyone for coming out tonight and goodnight .