Thousands of students will submit applications through the Common App. The Common Application is a non-profit membership organization committed to access, equity, and integrity in the college admission process. They provide a single platform for students to apply to multiple colleges.

The Activities section is one of the most important parts of your application. It’s your opportunity to demonstrate your interests and talents to colleges. In this blog post,  we’ll give you tips on approaching the Common App Activities section and making your application shine above all others.

Common App Activities Section. Activities Section Common App
Common App Activities Section is just one of the many portions of the application

Activities Section Common App: What is it Used for?

The Common App Activities section is a chance for you to demonstrate your involvement outside the classroom. It’s used to highlight any meaningful activities that you’ve been involved in, such as volunteering, leadership roles, or creative pursuits.

The Common App asks for a list of your activities and a description of your role in each one. This is your opportunity to show colleges what you’re passionate about and how you’ve made a difference in your community.

So take the time to thoughtfully fill out this section – it could be the key to standing out from the rest of the applicant pool.

Activities Section Common App: How It Works!

From the drop-down menu, choose your activity type. If you don’t see your activity, pick “other club/activity.” In the position/leadership and activity description fields, give more information about both.

Note: There’s limited space for these descriptions, so use abbreviations or simpler grammar if needed.

The Common Application offers a drop-down menu with the following activities from which to select:

  • Academic
  • Art
  • Athletics: Club
  • Athletics: JV/Varsity
  • Career-Oriented
  • Community Service (Volunteer)
  • Computer/Technology
  • Cultural
  • Dance
  • Debate/Speech
  • Environmental
  • Family Responsibilities
  • Foreign Exchange
  • Journalism/Publication
  • Junior R.O.T.C.
  • LGBT
  • Music: Instrumental
  • Music: Vocal
  • Religious
  • Research
  • Robotics
  • School Spirit
  • Science/Math
  • Student Govt./Politics
  • Theater/Drama
  • Work (paid)
  • Other Club/Activity

How Do You Fill Out the Activities Section Common App Correctly?

It’s common for students to choose the “leadership” category when filling out the activities section of the Common App, but there are 10 different options to choose from. To choose the best category for your activity, ask yourself what the main focus of the activity is.

For example, if you’re a member of the school yearbook committee, you would choose “Publications & Media.” Once you’ve decided on the appropriate category, list your most meaningful and significant activities first.

Don’t worry if you can’t fit everything in – you can always include additional information in your Personal Statement or Additional Information section.

Approach the Activities Section Common App with a Handful of Ideas in Mind. Screenshot of Activities Section Common App.
Approach the Activities Section Common App with a Handful of Ideas in Mind

Finally, don’t forget to include any relevant details, such as your position or role in the activity, any awards you’ve received, and any other important information.

By following these tips, you can be sure that you’re filling out the Activities section correctly and to its fullest potential.

Tips to Filling Out the Activities Section Common App Effectively So Your Application Shines Above All Others

The activities section of the Common App is your opportunity to shine and demonstrate what makes you unique. Here are some tips for making your activities section stand out:

  • Think about what activities showcase your passions and interests.
  • Choose activities that have helped you grow and develop as a person.
  • Include activities that show you are well-rounded and have various interests.
  • Don’t include activities to paddle your resume – admissions committees can see right through that!

By following these tips, you can be sure that your activities section will make a great impression on admissions committees and help you get one step closer to your dream school.

Related: 9 Things You Must Do in High School to be Competitive for UC Admission

Are there any specific activities or types of activities that are looked upon more favorably by college admissions officers than others when reviewing an applicant’s file?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as different colleges will have different preferences. However, there are some activities that are generally looked upon favorably by admissions officers.

For example, rare opportunities such as internships or study abroad programs can show that an applicant is motivated and resourceful.

Similarly, leadership roles in extracurricular activities can demonstrate resilience and a commitment to teamwork.

Ultimately, admissions officers are looking for students who will contribute to the college community and take advantage of all the college offers. So applicants should focus on highlighting their unique strengths and experiences.

Should I list every activity I have ever done, no matter how small, or should I only list those that were most meaningful/impactful to me?”

The Common App asks you to “list your extracurricular activities,” but don’t freak out if you only have 10 things to list. They’re not looking for a laundry list of everything you’ve ever done – they’re looking for quality, not quantity.

So focus on the activities that have been most meaningful or impactful to you, even if they’re not the ones you did for the longest amount of time.

And don’t worry if you don’t have any “big” accomplishments – sometimes the smaller, more mundane things can be just as meaningful because they show who you are on a day-to-day basis. So just be honest and list the most important activities to you, and you’ll be fine.

Tips on What to Include in the Common App Activities Section

The activities section of the Common App is your chance to show admissions officers what you’re passionate about and how you like to spend your time. But with only 150 characters for each activity, it can be tough to figure out what to include. Here are a few tips:

Tip #1 Be Unique in the Activities You Pick / Note Unique Opportunities

College admissions are becoming increasingly more competitive, and students have to find lucrative and exciting opportunities to present in their Common App Activities Section.

Related: 5 Tips for a Strong College Application: Transfer Students

Think beyond the traditional, “I was the captain of my high school Football or Debate Team,” and focus on more tangible and unique experiences like studying abroad or an opportunity to meet with a professional in an industry or field.

When students note unique opportunities and experiences, it differentiates them from the other applicants who decided to follow the traditional and boring route of listing activities as if they were achievements.

Tip #2: Don’t Lie or Stretch the Truth in Your Common App Activities Section

It is extremely important to be honest about what you include on your Common App activities list. It is one of the most easily verifiable sections, and if an admissions officer catches you in a lie, it will jeopardize your entire application.

If you’re unsure about whether or not you should include something, err on the side of caution and leave it off. It’s better to have a slightly shorter activities list than one that contains information that isn’t accurate.

Tip #3: Choose a Wide Variety of Activities to Show You’re Well-Rounded

Admissions officers want to see that you’re a well-rounded student with diverse interests. So, in addition to including information about your academic accomplishments, make sure to include a mix of extracurricular activities that show you’re well-rounded.

Some students make the mistake of thinking that they need to list only “serious” activities, like volunteering or internships. But it’s also important to include activities that show you have a life outside of your academics. So don’t forget to include things like sports, clubs, and hobbies.

Tip #4 Be Concise and Show Extreme Brevity

An important tip for filling out the Activities Section Common App is to keep activity descriptions short and concise while minimizing any attempt to fluff or elongate a response.

For example, if you were the Treasurer of the Student Council, a typical response might be:

“As the Treasurer of the Student Council, I was responsible for overseeing a budget of $5,000.”


And instead, be more concise:

“Oversaw a budget of $5000.”

The latter is not only more concise, but it also tells the exact same thing as the incorrect example. Plus, the Activities Section Common App portion has a placeholder where students enter the Position of the activity they were in as well as the activity itself.

In other words, the admissions team already knows that you were the Treasurer of the Student Council because it was a requirement in your activity listing.

Tip #5 Quality, Over Quantity when picking the Common App Activities Section

To piggyback on Tip #1, students must devote time to the Common App Activities Section to present high-quality and professionally relevant activities.

For example, if you are majoring in Biological Sciences, your recent research opportunity at the Zoo or in a Lab is an example of a high-quality activity.

This is in contrast to a student who has a laundry list of activities like “Tutoring, Student Government, Key Club, National Honor Society, and being Captain of the Varsity Football Team” but can’t speak about any of them in-depth or with conviction.

In other words, choose a smaller number of activities you are passionate about and can speak to rather than a larger number of activities you are only peripherally involved in.

This is your opportunity to tell the admissions team what you’re passionate about outside of the classroom, so make sure to choose wisely!

The Common App Activities Section: Final Thoughts

Remember, the Common App Activities Section is your chance to showcase your growth and interests beyond academics to admissions officers.

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So take the time to craft thoughtful responses that highlight your unique experiences and interests. And most importantly, be honest! Admissions officers can spot a lie from a mile away, so don’t risk jeopardizing your entire application with one.


Well, that’s it for the Common App Activities section! As you can see, there is a lot of information to provide, and it’s important to fill it out correctly in order to give admissions officers a well-rounded view of your interests and experiences.

We hope our tips have helped and that you now feel confident in completing this section. What did you include on your Common App? Let us know in the comments below!

If you adhere to these guidelines, your Common App Activities Section (List) will make a positive impression on admissions counselors and provide them with a deeper understanding of your character.

A nonprofit organization supporting California Community College students through the transfer process.