How to Write Extracurricular Activities for College Applications

Extracurricular activities are an essential component of your college application. They are a way to showcase your interests, skills, and dedication outside of your academic achievements.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of effectively presenting your extracurricular activities to admission officers. By following these steps, you can maximize the impact of your activities list and stand out from the competition.

Discover the secrets of crafting impressive extracurricular activity descriptions with our guide. Maximize your impact and stand out from the competition.

What Counts as an Activity?

Before we dive into the details, let’s establish what is considered an extracurricular activity.

Essentially, any activity that you participate in outside of your classwork or homework can be included.

This includes a wide range of endeavors such as part-time jobs, taking care of siblings, family responsibilities, personal projects, blogging, hobbies, research, internships, community service, clubs, and sports.

Outlining The Activities List Section

When describing your extracurricular activities, it is important to provide concise and compelling answers to three key questions:

  1. What did you do?
  2. How did you do it?
  3. Why was it important?

These answers will help admission officers understand the scope, depth, and impact of your involvement. Let’s take a look at an example to illustrate how to effectively describe your activities:

  • What did you do?
    • Led a group of 20 students in a local volunteer work.
  • How did you do it?
    • Budgeted, scheduled, organized, and actively participated.
  • Why was it important?
    • Contributed to positive and helpful change in the local community.

A more coherent description would be:

“Led, budgeted, and organized 20 volunteers to create positive change in the local community by volunteering over 40 hours at a non-profit organization.”

How to Effectively Fill Out Your Activities List

Now that you understand the importance of providing clear and concise descriptions, let’s walk through the process of filling out your activities list.

Step 1: Be Organized

To start, download our Google Sheets Template that categorizes different types of activities. This will help you keep track of your various involvements and provide a clear framework for outlining them.

Here are the categories included in the template:

  1. Jobs, Internships, Research Experiences: List any part-time jobs, internships, or research experiences you have had.
  2. School Clubs or Activities: Include any school-related clubs or activities you have participated in.
  3. Outside School Clubs and Organizations: Document activities unrelated to school, such as involvement in local clubs or Scouts.
  4. Sports: List any sports activities, organized or independent.
  5. Family Responsibilities: Include activities related to helping around the house or taking care of family members.
  6. Community Service: Input your volunteering experiences, whether organized or independent.
  7. Independent Hobbies: Include hobbies that may not fit into the other categories but hold personal importance for you.

Step 2: Filling in the Details

For each activity listed in the template, complete the following sections:

  1. Leadership/Title: Highlight any leadership positions you held, even if they are not official titles.
  2. What I Did: Describe your specific responsibilities and actions within each activity. Use powerful verbs to effectively articulate your contributions.
    See: The Best Verbs to Use for Resumes and Leadership Essays.
  3. Problems I Solved: Discuss any obstacles you encountered and the strategies you employed to overcome them.
  4. Lessons I Learned: Focus on personal growth, values, and skills acquired through your engagement in the activity.
  5. Impact: Provide quantitative details where applicable, such as the number of hours volunteered or funds raised. For qualitative impact, highlight positive outcomes or unique achievements.
    Examples: For volunteering: “volunteered for over 100 hrs. Implemented a new recycling program and raised $2000 from donations.” For Sports: “Won League 2x. MVP (11, 12). Created a new team tradition of recorded post-game interviews.
  6. Years/Grades: Indicate the grades or academic years during which you participated in each activity.
  7. Weeks Per Year: Specify the number of weeks you were involved in the activity each year.
  8. Hours Per Week: If your commitment varied over time, calculate an average number of hours per week.

If you finished your Google Sheets Spreadsheet, you can now start crafting a coherent response. Make sure to follow this structure:

Common App Activities

  1. Position/Leadership description (50 characters) (here, you can spend time describing what you did if you have space)
  2. Organization Name (Max characters: 100) (here, you can describe what you did by describing what the organization does) 
  3. Please describe this activity, including what you accomplished and any recognition you received, etc. (Max characters: 150)* (focus on leadership, action, lessons learned, and impact)
  4. hours/week, week/year

Step 3: Hack the “Additional Info” Section

If there are specific details or context you wish to provide for a particular activity, utilize the “Additional Info” section of the Common App. You can use phrases like “(see additional info)” or “(see add. info)” within your description to alert admission officers to additional details you have provided.

Step 4: Order Actually Matters

The order in which you present your extracurricular activities can influence how admission officers perceive your accomplishments. Capture their attention by strategically organizing your list. Consider the following factors when determining the order:

  1. Most Meaningful to You: Prioritize activities that hold the most personal significance.
  2. Most Years: Highlight long-term commitments to demonstrate dedication and continuity.
  3. Hours Per Week: Emphasize activities that required significant time and effort.

Additionally, consider reinforcing any thematic narratives in your application. If your passion for music is a central theme, prioritize music-related activities, even if they involve fewer hours than other activities.

Step 5: Final Review

Before submitting your application, conduct a thorough review of your entire activities list. Look out for any typos, capitalization errors, or formatting issues.

A polished and error-free presentation will ensure that admission officers can focus on your accomplishments and dedication.

Also check out: 30 Exciting Extracurricular Activities for College Applicants With Little or No Experience


Congratulations! You’ve made it through the process of crafting an exceptional activities list!

By following this guide, you have successfully highlighted your extracurricular involvement in an organized and compelling manner. Good luck with your college applications!

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