How to Write Your Common App College Activities List

activities list tips
activities list tips

You only get 150 characters: how do you make the most of them? Here are some tips with accompanying college activities list examples:

10 tips for How to write the Common App Activities List:

  1. State role and organization name in top box, so you don’t waste characters in the lower, 150 character box.
    Instead of: (top box) School newspaper
    (description box) I am the editor for the school newspaper (And don’t repeat words!)

    Try: (top box) Editor of International Column, School Newspaper
    (description box) Responsible for brainstorming, revising, and supervising articles by other writers for my column.

  2. Emphasize tangible, measurable impact. 
    Whom did your activity help? How many people? How much money did you raise?

    Instead of: Raised money for children in Africa.
    Try: Raised $3,000 to provide three uniforms and scholarships for students attending the Joseph Waweru Home School in Kenya (

  3. Use active verbs to explain what you actually did (list your tasks).
    Instead of: Worked at a clinic doing different things.
    Try: Organized patient diagnosis notes, sterilized tools for surgeries, assisted with x-ray analysis.

  4. To fit in more info: use lists, don’t use complete sentences, cut extra words.
    Instead of: I raised money to donate to a school in Ghana in Africa by selling t-shirts and bracelets.
    Try: Arranged advertising events, organized fundraisers, and gave presentations at school meetings.

  5. Use the present tense if it’s something you still do.
    Instead of: I helped tour visitors around the campus and presented some information on school history and student life.
    Try: I give campus tours, providing info on school history, student activities, boarding life.

  6. Aim for variety in your list, making sure your verbs aren’t redundant.
    Instead of: Instructing, helping, teaching children tennis (how are these three different?)
    Try: Instructing in proper technique, while imparting lessons in sportsmanship, health and integrity.

  7. Include any responsibilities you had to demonstrate leadership skills.
    Instead of: I swim on the swim team.
    Try: Responsible for leading swim practices, planning fundraising events; assisting in recruiting process.

  8. What if there isn’t much to say, or it was a one-time event?
    Explain the significance of the activity: who did the event matter to and why?
    Rather than: Tutored students.
    Try: Provided support to fourth graders with particularly difficult math concepts.

  9. Avoid extreme language.
    Instead of: to help all those in need (or) to end poverty in the world
    Try: to help those in need (or) to aid in the fight against global poverty

  10. Use bigger words.
    Instead of: “Come up with” (or) “told people about”
    Try: Develop, brainstorm (or) advertised, marketed

curious about my huge list of extracurricular activities from high achieving students?

Of course you are.

Check out my post here.

Here are more COMMON APP college activities list examples:

Important: list them in descending level of importance.

  • Intern at Center for Advanced Head & Neck Surgery

    Learned how to operate various screening & diagnostic technologies under Dr. (blank); assisted in patient care & diagnosis procedures in Otolaryngology & Oncology.

  • Leader/Concertmaster, AMAC Youth Chamber Ensemble

    Lead ensemble in rehearsal and performance, coordinate rehearsal times, aid younger members in learning music, present free community concerts yearly.

  • Starter for Varsity Girls Tennis

    Practiced and conditioned daily, led daily stretches, competed in district and regional matches against other schools.

  • Treasurer, Medical Science Academy

    Two year Top Class Performer & Best Medical Presentation Awardee, led club meetings, & presented course curriculum to panels of parents & students.

  • JV/V Bay View High School Tennis Team

    Three year League Champions; planned and hosted team banquet; Coach's Award Recipient.

  • Local Violin Tutor

    Provide aspiring, middle school students a foundation in music and basics of violin, demonstrate proper technique, develop strong cognitive and musical skills.

  • Full-time volunteer EMT

    Responded to emergency calls, performed BLS protocols, interacted with patients and families, assisted paramedics, organized ambulance rigs.

  • Volunteer, Red Cross

    Assisted supervisors, filed paperwork, made phone calls to donors, prepared facilities for training programs by helping with class planning.

  • Member, Songs For Humanity

    Stage and perform in multiple benefit concerts throughout the school year, coordinate club events and fundraisers, raise money for American Red Cross.

  • Producer, (School-sponsored television)

    Worked camera, sound board, and teleprompter every morning with my peers to produce daily broadcast.

  • Brown Univ’s Leadership and Global Health

    Built background knowledge on issues of social justice and investigated biopsychosocial determinants of the Global Burden of Disease

  • Volunteer at Children’s Institute Inc.

    Organized parties for kids, set up crafts, baked cookies, supervised children, and cleaned facility.

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WANT Some help taking your ACTIVITIES LIST to the next level?

CHECK OUT session two in my 'how to APPLY TO COLLEGE' course.