College & Beyond

“Activities” Section

My students applying to college always get a little nervous filling out the activities section.

“Are my activities good enough?”

“Do I have the right number of extracurriculars?”

“Would the admissions committee like the number of hours I’ve committed to the activity?”

“Should I start volunteering more so that I have community service on my activities section?”

The truth is that by senior year, a student should not be trying to pad a resume. The activities section is an opportunity, much like the essay, to show the admissions committee the types of activities that shape who you are. Activities are extremely revealing about a student’s interests, passions, and talents.

More important than the number of activities is the way you express your involvement. I recommend using “active verbs” to describe your “active” participation.

*****Some applications leave more space than others for the description of the activity. If the space is shorter, you still use active verbs, but you pick and choose your words carefully. Some students continue their descriptions elsewhere, such as in an Additional Information section, if they need more room for the details.*****

Take a look at this before and after. This boy started a Debate Club on campus:


Activity: Debate Club

Description: In our club, we meet once a week to discuss important topics.


Activity: Co-Founder of Debate Club

Description: Co-created the first debate club on campus; responsible for choosing weekly topics, teaching rules of debate, running meetings, and facilitating competitions.

In the revised version, the applicant gives the reader much more information about himself and seems truly involved in this activity. Using active verbs and well-thought-out descriptions changes the whole feel of the activity. In a short amount of space, the reader now gets a sense of his leadership, debate skills, and organizational abilities.