COMMON APP: The Activities page – How do I complete it, considering the paucity of space provided for each activity?

By: Judi Robinovitz | Last Updated: August 23, 2014

Group Activities - Score At The Top

Even if you have a résumé, you must still complete the Activities page of the Common App.

List your activities in order of importance (from most to least), and list only your most important activities. Too many activities can weaken your application, making you look like a dilettante. (Good SAT word!) Even with room for up to 10 activities, don’t list more than nine. And remember, activities are not limited to those in which you participate in school; include outside activities such as work, internships, community service, summer programs, and special hobbies.

You need to provide as much detail as possible to “market” yourself in the limited amount of space provided in the Activities data fields. Here’s where having a résumé really helps! With a detailed résumé to showcase your initiative, leadership, accomplishments, creativity, and impact, you’re almost there! From your résumé, you can copy-and-abbreviate-and-paste salient information into the Common App’s two fields for each activity: 

  • 1st field: Position/Leadership description and organization name, if applicable * – 50 characters (including spaces) 
    • First, type the name of the activity only if the activity you selected from the drop-down list was not spec=ific (like Career Oriented or Cultural)
    • If the activity you selected from the drop-down was specific (e.g., JV/Varsity Tennis or Debate/Speech), don’t retype the name of the activity here
    • List your positions in reverse chronological order and include the school year in which you held the position – and abbreviate to make things fit! If you typed the name of the activity in this area, type a colon [:] before the list of your positions. [e.g., Latin Club: President (12), VP (10, 11), Sec’y (9)]
  • 2nd field: Details, honors won, and accomplishments * – 150 characters (including spaces)
    • Copy/abbreviate from your résumé the most relevant information to describe what you did or accomplished [e.g., Assisted in a research study to identify the most reliable ways to grow MSCs (Myocardial Stem Cells); mastered the technique of RNA extraction]

You may be wondering how you can share more details from your résumé with a college since the activity areas severely limit what you can type. Here are some alternatives:

  1. Some colleges have a Writing Supplement or Questions page that allows you to upload your résumé! Even if you do upload it here, you must still complete the application’s Activities page.
  2. If a college’s Writing Supplement or Questions page doesn’t provide for a résumé upload, then do one of the following:
    1. Contact the college’s admissions rep for your area to ask if you can upload a PDF or physically mail your résumé (along with a brief request to add the résumé to your file). Some colleges prefer not to get résumés. When there’s any doubt, call the admissions office to ask. Or…
    2. Use the Additional Information section on the Writing page to share important résumé details that you could not fit on the Activities page. Start with a title like “Additional Activity Details” and remember that there is a 650-word limit. Because you submit each application separately, include these résumé details only for the colleges that don’t provide for a résumé upload – and remove them for those colleges that do allow for an upload. Note that you will lose formatting when you copy-and-paste from your résumé into the space provided. Therefore, you will have to return to this data-entry area after saving the Writing page in order to adjust the formatting (e.g., replacing bullets with asterisks). This data-entry area will automatically appear double-spaced, and you cannot change that.

Need help with the Activities page of Common App? We’re just a phone call away!

* An asterisk indicates a required data-entry field on the Common App

Topics: College Admission Common Application Test-Prep


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