50 Extracurricular Examples for the Common Application Activities Section
Sep 01, 2021
Most students don’t recognize the power of the activities section on their college application. This is such an underutilized space that can make all the difference in your application!
Something I hear from students all the time is that they aren’t sure what to include in their activities section, or what “counts” for an extracurricular.
Let’s get specific! An extracurricular activity can be any of the following:
- Athletics, either school or club teams (ex: varsity soccer)
- School-based activities (ex: Spanish club)
- Community-based (ex: Volunteer work)
- Any personal hobby, interest, or pursuit (ex: photography, fishing)
- Employment, formal or informal experience (ex: ice cream shop, babysitting, dog walking)
- Family-related (ex: caretaking of relatives, charity events)
- Online-based (ex: taking classes online, etsy shop, personal website)
- Anything that’s meaningful to you and a consistent way you spend your time (ex: creating art)
When deciding what to include in your activities section, keep in mind that these activities should reflect your interests and have a layer of consistency to them. If it’s something that you’ve done once in your high school career, it probably shouldn’t make the list.
Something important to remember is that your activities should be ranked in order of importance to you! This is something that is seriously overlooked and can make a huge difference in your application.
Not only is it important to consider the activities you choose to include in your application, but it’s also important to consider how you represent your activities: it’s all about how you describe them!
Why? Because your activities are the best representation of your interests! This section tells admissions officers what you’re passionate about and how you spend your time.
Let me give you an example. Let’s compare:
- Summer Program: I learned about the healthcare field and did research
- Research Internship: gained exposure to different fields in healthcare, witnessed live surgeries, conducted virtual experiments, researched: diversity in medicine, immunotherapy, biochemistry, and gene editing.
Both examples describe the same experience. Which sounds more interesting to you?
Here’s how you can crush the activities section:
- Under “Activity type,” choose the category that best describes your involvement.
- Under “Position/ Leadership Description” state your role and the level of your involvement within the activity. (50 characters)
- Under “Organization Name” state the name of the group, activity, or organization. (100 characters)
- Under the “Description,” be sure to include a specific, measurable impact you had or created. They ask for accomplishments and recognition so you want to be sure you include them! (150 characters)
- Use specific, active verbs (you can google these!)
- Use lists and eliminate words to save space. You don’t have to write in complete sentences
Below are over 50 examples of activity recommendations, and exciting descriptions for each that will be sure to impress admissions officers!
- Join a student-led organization: Advocated for mental health awareness by participating in education and fundraising events for Active Minds.
- Create your own student-led organization: Created a space for peers to learn and celebrate the German language, organized meetings and social events to foster community.
- Participate in a sport: Trained with the varsity swim team for nearly twenty hours a week, medaled at league championships, qualified for county championships.
- Manage a sport: Helped organize soccer team’s practice and game schedules, worked with coaches to create a positive environment for athletes.
- Join your school’s government/council/advisory board: Led initiative to transition club membership from in-person to virtual during COVID-19 pandemic, directed club registration and advisory process.
- Write for your school’s newspaper: Contributed weekly sports news articles to school’s publication, interviewed athletes and coaches to learn more about school sports.
- Become a peer mentor: Guided incoming freshmen through the transition to high-school, offered emotional and academic support to ease nerves.
- Join a planning committee: Worked in a team to organize the first ever virtual Homecoming dance, created and dispersed advertisements for the event.
- Join an academic team: Competed in local and regional math competitions, researched abstract math concepts to contribute to team victories.
- Participate in your school’s musical/play: Directed the set-design team, painted and built stage structures with team to emulate a beach in the production of Mamma Mia.
- Participate in a science fair: Investigated the effectiveness of different cleaning products with a team, created a poster illustrating findings, awarded third place in the district.
- Become a teaching assistant: Facilitated study groups for AP Chemistry, produced supplementary lessons and practice problems to support struggling students.
- Become a school-sponsored tutor: Met one-on-one with students struggling in a variety of classes, produced supplementary lessons and practice problems.
- Volunteer at a hospital: Directed the front-desk, registered patients for appointments, delivered newspapers to patient rooms to provide comfort.
- Volunteer at a library: Shared my love for reading by reading to children, organized and sanitized books and magazines.
- Volunteer at an animal shelter: Walked shelter dogs to provide exercise and comfort, organized and allocated community toy donations
- Volunteer at a food bank: Organized community donations, ensured that food donations were safe to eat, advertised to increase community donations.
- Organize a community fundraiser: Directed a used-book drive for a local public school district, advertised, collected 200+ donations, delivered organized book collections to elementary schools
- Organize a community education event: Organized a mental health awareness event, coordinated donations from food vendors, arranged a speaker and breakout activities to spark conversations around wellness in schools
- Join your community’s youth city council: Elected to office in 2019, participated in environmental committee, reviewed recycling processes in public schools
- Join a non-profit network: Worked on environmental justice initiatives, collaborated with network to create a social media campaign on single-use plastic.
- Join a youth orchestra: Played second-chair violin in my community’s youth orchestra, performed at showcases and high school graduations.
- Start a local music group: Organized a local band, played lead guitar in a four person music group, performed at birthday parties and school events.
- Canvas for a local election: Campaigned door-to-door for months prior to the Rochester city council election, met directly with candidate to discuss advertising tactics, gained exposure to political communication.
- Join a club sports team: Trained nearly 20 hours a week with local swim club, traveled around the Midwest for competitions, qualified and competed at state championships.
- Join a community theater: Played Glinda in community’s production of The Wizard of Oz, rehearsed with cast for 15+ hours a week, helped advertise the production.
- Coach a youth sports team: Coached local youth little-league team, created workouts and drills to improve skills, organized social events to foster team spirit.
- Pick up a part-time job at a restaurant/coffee shop: Worked part-time as a hostess at a local restaurant, answered phones and organized reservations.
- Start an Etsy or Redbubble shop: Designed and sold stickers relating to favorite musical artist, Taylor Swift, sold over 200 stickers.
- Start freelance tutoring: Advertised tutoring business on social media, met one-on-one with clients, devised unique study plans to promote active learning.
- Start babysitting: Watched groups of children in the neighborhood, cooked, read and played with children to entertain them.
- Walk dogs in your neighborhood: Walked groups of neighborhood dogs, explored local trails, played with dogs to provide comfort.
- Teach music lessons to children: Advertised music lessons on social media, met one-on-one with clients to teach violin, devised creative activities to make learning fun.
- Teach yourself an instrument: Used YouTube tutorials to teach myself piano, learned several popular music covers, performed for family and friends.
- Write music and publish it online: Wrote original song with lyrics on the guitar, produced sheet music and video performance to post on social media.
- Teach yourself a programming language: Used a coding tutorial website to teach myself Python, practiced programming, wrote a program that created an interactive animation.
- Participate in a hackathon: Competed in local library’s hackathon, worked with other programmers to produce creative software structures, awarded third place.
- Teach yourself a new language: Used Duolingo to teach myself French, practiced my conversation skills by speaking with native French speaking family friends.
- Start a niche YouTube channel: Used graphic design software to create a series of short animations, posted to YouTube channel with over 500 subscribers.
- Start a niche Tik Tok account: Created a baking tutorial account, consistently produced and uploaded recipes, gained a thousand followers over six months.
- Start a blog: Created a space to express my popular culture opinions, wrote and uploaded weekly articles relating to pop-culture, interacted directly with readers through a comment section.
- Design a website: Designed an aesthetically pleasing and functional website for a family friend’s small business, applied programming skills to create interactive features.
- Take an online course: Enrolled in Yale’s “Science of Well-Being” online course, learned about the psychology of happiness and self-care, read articles and wrote journals relating to the topic.
- Create an art portfolio: Spent summer painting landscapes of my community, integrated scrapbooking components, photographed art and posted it on social media, submitted to local art galleries.
- Learn about stocks and create an investment portfolio: Researched the stock market, worked with friends to invest and create a successful portfolio, competed in fantasy stock trading competitions.
- Reach out to University professors about research projects: Worked on study of motor redundancy in upper-limb prosthetic users, gained exposure to industry-based biomedical engineering.
- Learn a new skill and teach it to others in a zoom class or YouTube video: Learned custom wood-burning from a family friend, created a series of tutorials on YouTube to teach others.
- Train for a marathon/half-marathon/triathlon: Ran over fifty miles a week to prepare for a community marathon, devised my own training schedule, created a meal plan to properly fuel workouts.
- Care for a family member: Assumed care for young siblings following school days, cooked meals and drove siblings to their sports and music lessons.
- Assist your family in a renovation: Worked with parents to design a complete modern-farmhouse renovation, assisted in all manual labor projects, chose decorative elements.
[ shared post: Courtney Knoblauch & Preeta Kamat]