How to Write Your UC Activities List

how to write uc activities

Why is the UC Activities List important? While your personal statement shows who you are, your activities list shows what you’ve done. Keywords: leadership, responsibility, impact
 

The UC Activities List is more comprehensive than the Common App Activities List. Why? Because the UC Activities List gives you up to 20 blanks for inputting your activities and awards, and up to 500 characters of space for describing each activity (as of 2019!)

However, the Common App only gives you space for 10 activities (and 150 character descriptions), as well as 5 honors and awards.

TIP: Make your UC Activities List first, then you’ll choose your top 10 for the Common App and cut down the 500 characters descriptions to 150 characters, if needed.

Let’s get started...

The UC application will ask you to split your activities list into…

  1. Award or honor

  2. Educational Prep Programs

  3. Extracurricular activity

  4. Other coursework

  5. Volunteer / Community Service

  6. Work experience

 
UC Activities List Description.JPG
 

You get to list up to 20 for any of these categories.

Wanna see a list of activities you may not have considered? Look here.

There are a few tips that can really help you put together a great UC activity list.

BUT First, an example description:

Important Update: As of July 2019, the UC schools have updated their application to allow descriptions of up to 500 characters, rather than just 160 characters. We’ll be updating this post with more great example descriptions as we gather them!

For now, here is one example, followed by a list of tips to make the most of your 500 characters.

Example of a Common App Description (150 characters)

Commission member, Buncombe County Government
Discussed issues facing Durham youth, coordinated outreach projects to combat gun violence, provided input on local problems, volunteered regularly. (148 chars)

Example of an expansion for a (new!) UC Description (500 chars):

Commission member, Buncombe County Government
Promoted efforts to combat gun violence, mental health challenges, and food insecurities. Regularly updated by city officials and Durham Mayor about the nature of our work. Attended several conferences hosted by other city youth councils to build leadership skills and encourage active community involvement. Volunteered over 60 hours each term for organizations like Mobile Market, Peace Toys for War Toys, Habitat for Humanity, and Kids Voting. (448 char)

Want to learn how to write a great description like that? I’m glad you asked.

10 Tips for Writing Your UC Activities List:

You get 500 characters: how do you make the most of them? Here are some tips:

  1. State role and organization name in top box (60 characters), so you don’t waste characters in the lower, 500 character box.

    Instead of:

    School newspaper
    I am the editor for the school newspaper

    Try:

    Editor of International Column, School Newspaper
    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: http://www.exop.org/home_school.html

     

  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.

     Want an epic list of verbs? Click here.

  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

See how the student in the first example used these tips?

Now your turn. Here are some great examples for you to drum up some inspiration:

A few UC Activities List examples that work


Educational Prep Programs

Yosemite Backpacking Excursion

Learned basic survival skills and took part in team leadership training and development activities. Orienteered and rationed food for a 10-day backpacking trip from Half Dome to Glacier Point. Explored ecological development of Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep. Coordinated daily hiking routes with other participants. Organized base camp cooking, sleeping, and traveling supplies. Rappelled down the Sunnyside Bench Route. Supported others as a climbing belayer at Upper Yosemite Falls. (482 characters)

Narrative Writing Workshop

Attended a writing workshop during the summer after my junior year that focused on narrative and descriptive writing. Discussed the difference in narrative voice between stories written by Flannery O’Connor, Mark Twain, and Kate Chopin. Brainstormed and developed my own portfolio of poetry, short stories, and non-fiction narratives. Peer-edited and provided constructive feedback on other participants’ written work. Published a fictional short story in the end-of-workshop print journal. (490 characters)

Independent Study

Researched, presented thesis as Interim Semester project on the state of the aging population in Singapore and explored government stance on the issue. Created a cohesive, actionable plan to improve living conditions for elderly Singaporeans. Utilized census data to analyze socioeconomic status in relation to population demographics. Designed an interactive website highlighting the most impoverished regions of Singapore and cross-referenced it with the average age of the area’s inhabitants. (496 characters)

Volunteer & Community Service

Intern at Children’s Institute Otis Booth Campus

Brainstormed ideas for after-school programs to decrease restlessness and increase creative productivity among teenagers. Analyzed the interests of young people aged 14-18 in the local LA area. Investigated strategies for promoting academic/extracurricular interest among disaffected youth. Presented data to supervisor and worked with program coordinators to implement the YouthWorks program, an initiative to engage children living below the poverty line with the greater LA community. (488 characters)

Member of Civics Committee

Provide mentorship support to ninth graders at Lincoln Park High School. Led roundtable discussions about how to exercise responsible and productive citizenship within a high school setting. Responsible for assigning tutors, coordinating events, and sending out weekly updates to committee advisors. Organized GirlsGetUp event to promote social, ethical, and political literacy among middle school girls in the local Chicago area. (431 characters)

Street Soccer Program

Volunteered for County Fair Fundraising Committee to support underprivileged kids playing street soccer. Collaborated with other committee members to create fun soccer-themed activities. Coordinated visit with North Carolina Courage professional team to inspire program participants. Created an outlet for disadvantaged kids to destress and explore growth through soccer. Supervised pick-up and drop-off of participants and ensured every child got home safely each day. (469 characters)

American Water Works Association, Volunteer

Volunteered at Centre for Caregivers events. Developed and led a presentation on how to support public health initiatives through education and knowledge creation. Built client relationships and facilitated discussions about sustainable water development initiatives. Surveyed local farmland to determine potability of available water sources. Helped write government proposal to create an infrastructure plan that would help manage lead in drinking water. (455 characters)

Global Partner for International Orientation

Helped international students who had recently moved with registration and adjustment to the new school environment. Created positive and welcoming spaces for foreign students to voice concerns about acclimating and cultural differences. Organized partnerships between American and international students to break down cross-cultural boundaries. Oriented incoming students to American campus life, social culture, and current events. (433 characters)

Work Experience

Shingari's School of Rhythm, Administrative Assistant 

(First box) Shingari’s School of Rhythm is a Bollywood dance school, teaching the art of Bollywood cinematic dancing and instilling in its students a love of Indian culture. It serves nearly 2000 students nationwide and has been recognized as one of the best introductory Bollywood dance studios by the Centerwork: Bollywood dance magazine. It has locations in Houston, Los, Angeles, San Francisco, and the Greater Chicago Area. (417 characters)

(Second box) I was in charge of customer service, managing financial accounts, recording attendance, managing inventory, and all other administrative aspects. I also worked in conjunction with other Shingari locations across the country to assess the consistency and efficacy of the current dance curriculum. My job was mainly interpersonal and relational, talking with students, parents, and teachers about what the program offered and concerns they had about payment. (457 characters)

Childcare, Babysitter

(First box) I started a babysitting service that has offered childcare help for the past two summers. I’m hired by local parents, teachers, or family that need me to watch their children for various reasons. Over the past two years, I’ve developed regular babysitting jobs at 10-15 separate households in the Chicago suburbs. My services are advertised on several local list serves and safesitter.com for interested families. (414 characters)

(Second box) Worked 3-5 days a week taking care of two children, ages 1 and 3. Responsibilities included feeding, transporting, changing and regulating bed times. Took care of children 4-6 hours each day while parents were at work or out of town. Taught me the value of patience, self-reliance, time management, communication, and relationship-building. Provided parents with time off to relax and focus on their work outside of the house (426 characters)

Jones-Davis High School Student Store, Manager/Cashier 

(First box) The Jones-Davis student store provides office supplies, school textbooks, snacks, meals, drinks, and branded school gear for purchase. The store was regularly frequented by school faculty, students, siblings, parents, and visiting families. An average of 100-150 individual items were sold each day and the profit was given to the administration for school improvement projects like a new community garden. (407 characters)

(Second box) Developed student store policies, reviewed resumes, and hired accordingly. Announced new gear arrivals and communicated financial updates to student body Treasurer on the executive student council. Worked part time as a cashier and checked in during off times to make sure sales were running smoothly. Co-coordinated an initiative with the school Environmental Club to label all school store food items with details about how much methane was released in the production of each item. (483 characters)

ZogSports LA County Intramural Soccer, Referee

(First box) Zogsports is an online sports community with over 120,000 players in 7 big metropolitan areas (LA, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, etc.). Founded as a social sports league in the wake of 9/11, it aims to connect people through physical activity and contribute positively to the community through acts of charity. People who participate in the program play for a cause and ZogSports has donated over $3.4 million to 2000+ charities since 2002. They offer anything from soccer to touch football. (495 characters)

(Second box) Volunteered as a soccer referee at Zogsports in Chicago for 2 summers. Refereed 20 games per summer, 2-3 times per week. Acted as the face of the company at all games attended and judged fairly. Connected with young people with different backgrounds and formed lasting friendships. Invested myself in both my own mental and physical improvement as well as the growth of others. Learned to be a team player and a caring, reliable person committed to creating connections through difference. (489 characters)

Korean Compassion, Korean-to-English Letter Translator

(First box) Korean Compassion is an initiative that recruits volunteers in the US to send, receive, and translate letters from a Korean correspondent. Compassion has over 12,000 Korean supporters in the US that are working to strengthen the relational bridge between Americans and Koreans. And orientation about Korean culture and a translation assessment are required before volunteering. More details at: https://www.compassion.com/act/volunteer/roles/us-korean-translator.htm (467 characters).

(Second box) Volunteered for one year as a remote worker (via computer).  Translated letters sent by supporters to impoverished children in Korea. Devoted over 60 hours of service to Compassion and received the Volunteer Service Certificate for my dedication. Learned how to use online translation tool and developed Korean writing skills. Formed lasting relationships with 2 young impoverished Korean children to give them hope and a tangible sense of the global community that is supporting them. (485 characters)

Awards & Honors

Academic All-American, Speech and Debate

(First box) Academic All-Americans must have at least 750 NSDA points, completed at least five semesters of HS, demonstrated outstanding character/leadership, and maintained a GPA of 3.7 on a 4.0 scale (or its equivalent on another scale). Eligible students are nominated by their coach. 2000 speech and debate students are awarded Academic All-American each year after the nomination process. (381 characters)

(Second box) Academic All-American Award was based off cumulative winning record throughout all four years of HS (54 wins, 13 losses), along with a consistent standard of academic excellence. My qualification for NSDA Districts in NC and semi-final placement at the Stanford Invitational tournament demonstrated my growth and efficacy as a public speaker. This success, coupled with consistent attendance/leadership/productivity at practices earned me recognition from my coaches. (468 characters)

Player of the Tournament, Lincoln Heights Invitational

(First box) Player of the Tournament is given to someone who consistently places in the top 5 of three or more events, while also demonstrating sportsmanship, cordiality, a love of the sport, and good-willed team spirit. Only one athlete receives this award each year when the tournament takes place. The recipient is chosen by the five-member board of coaches and officiators who run the Lincoln Heights Invitational. (406 characters)

(Second box) I participated in the Girls 100 Meter Dash, 400 Meter Dash, and Pole Vault. Placing 2nd, 3rd, and 1st in these events, respectively, qualified me for recognition in terms of athletic performance. This strong showing was the result of 2-3 hours of intense practice every day after school. Throughout the tournament, my leadership, empathetic encouragement of others, and kind treatment of my competitors earned me recognition, but most importantly, the respect of those around me. (479 characters)

Carl Schubert Trophy, New York City Cricket Championship

(First box) The NYC Cricket Championship is a competition between all public high school cricket teams in the state of New York at the end of the regular Spring season. There were 50 teams entered into the tournament in 2019. Each team plays 4 preliminary rounds and, based on their records, moves onto the sudden death rounds or face elimination. The overall winner of the Carl Schubert Trophy must have a winning preliminary record, plays 10 games in total, and defeat their opponent in the final game. (492 characters)

(Second box) Winning the Carl Schubert Trophy was the result of a positive, healthy team culture as well as incredible grit and determination from the whole team, on and off the pitch. Our winning record (13-4-1) in the regular season qualified us for the tournament and 3 hours of practice every week day conditioned us for a strong showing at the tournament itself. Our collective mental toughness and dynamic resilience were what pushed us past our competitors. (452 characters)

Brett J. Harman Award, Naval Academy 

(First box) This award is given annually to the Navy wrestler who demonstrates selfless character in both thought and action; an individual who routinely puts the team ahead of himself. The recipient is able to maintain a positive attitude in spite of adversity and lift the spirits of his teammates through his outlook on life. The Academy, in conjunction with the wrestling team coaching staff, chooses one wrestler out of a team of 20-25 to win this award each year. (457 characters)

(Second box) Wrestling was an outlet for me to challenge myself physically, invest in myself emotionally, and put my extra energy into a productive endeavor. My deep love for the sport and development as a wrestler during my four years on the team earned me respect from my teammates and the coaching staff. The 20+ hours I devoted to wrestling each week and my ability to celebrate the successes of my teammates as if they were my own demonstrated empathy, compassion, and love in an unconventional setting. (495 characters)

3rd Place, Whitewater Open Canoe Downriver Nationals

(First box) The 2019 Open Canoe Nationals took place on the Arkansas River in Colorado. The course was 9 miles long in total with Class 4 rapids the day of competition. Each team was made up of two people and there were a total of 23 teams competing in the 2019 competition. Medals are awarded to the top 5 finishers and we finished 3rd overall, beating 20 other teams to the finish line. (376 characters).

(Second box) Training for Nationals required a rigorous, 6-month practice schedule. My partner and I trained on class 3 and 4 rapids on the Nantahala and Watauga Rivers in the months leading up to the competition. A regular practice meant braving the weather and putting in 2-4 hours of paddling per day. Effective verbal and non-verbal communication, composure in the face of challenging river sequences, physical toughness, and quick-thinking in dangerous situations were all integral to our strong finish. (495 characters)

Extracurricular Activities

Commission member, Buncombe County Government

Promoted efforts to combat gun violence, mental health challenges, and food insecurities. Regularly updated city officials and Durham Mayor on the nature of our work. Attended several conferences hosted by other city youth councils to build leadership skills and encourage active community involvement. Volunteered over 60 hours each term for organizations like Mobile Market, Peace Toys for War Toys, Habitat for Humanity, and Kids Voting. (440 characters)

Founder and President of Model United Nations

Pitched idea for club to school administrators and established first official Model UN chapter in Fayetteville, NC. Organized weekly team meetings and coached students for conferences. Led club assembly at my high school about fostering global citizenship. Raised money and awareness for UNICEF to combat child mortality in Muhuru Bay, Kenya. Awarded "Outstanding Delegate" at the Washington University Model UN Symposium and the Georgia Tech Model UN Conference in 2019. (472 characters)

Intern at the Los Angeles Superior Court

Assisted a Los Angeles District Attorney by drafting briefs and assisting with client interviews. Analyzed pending motions. Gathered data on local cases regarding education, family, and children’s rights. Attended court sessions and seminars organized by Superior Court officials. Learned about the function, history, and role of the Superior Court. Collected, summarized, and tracked relevant news articles. (410 characters)

Research Assistant at the UCLA Psychology Department

Assisted Dr. Negin Ghavemi with a study exploring the relationship between gender, age, and sexual identity in elementary and middle school. Studied LGBTQ+ inclusion in local schools, looking particularly at the incorporation of non-heteronormative experiences in Southern sex education syllubi. Published findings in the Undergraduate Research Journal of Psychology, an online journal published by students interested in cross-disciplinary psychological research. (464 characters)

Indian Classical and Bollywood Dancer

SSR Scholarship, VMASC 1st Place Cinematic Dance, KCCNA 3rd pl. in folk, VMASC 1st Pl. Classical Dance, KALA Kalolsavam 1st Pl. Group Dance. One of the 5 dancers selected from nearly 500 applicants to be  featured on Studio 860’s annual International Dance Day video. Choreographed and performed an original dance routine at the 2018 Indian Dance Fest that came in 4th place. (376 characters)

Strings Orchestra

Played as a cellist in the school orchestra for 4 years. Showcased in various evening concerts and performances. Mentored younger students interested in getting involved with the music program. One of four students selected by orchestra director to perform with Duke University String Ensemble in their annual winter Blue Devil Fundraiser. Invited to guest perform with the local jazz quartet Rivendell Brothers at their Eno River Festival debut the summer before senior year. (476 characters)


Other coursework (other than A-G requirements)

edX and Coursera Courses on Global Health Equity

Completed 3 college courses in Global Health Equity and Healthcare systems. Pre-enrolled in Paul Farmer’s edX Course on Global Health Equity. Learned about health disparities, particularly in relation to cultural gender norms. Investigated Rwandan reproductive health among women as a case study and drafted an actionable plan for improvement centered around female empowerment. Interrogated the efficacy of medical education in the US and discussed the importance of technological development. (494 characters)

Graduate of Harvard U's Public Speaking Course

Gained confidence through developing and learning powerful public speaking techniques. Listened to speeches made by MLK, Socrates, Winston Churchhill, and James Baldwin to explore new modes of communication. Mastered improvised speech through extemporaneous speaking drills. Learned how to deliver a cohesive, persuasive, and compelling argument through speech presentations and individual coaching. Incorporated theatrical skills to make speech delivery more vocally and physically expressive. (494 characters)

Chinese 1 to Chinese 4

Studied Mandarin at Chinese Sunday school to expand cultural understanding and further love for language after testing out of Chinese at school. Wrote poetry in traditional calligraphy each week. Improved speaking, listening, writing, and reading skills each class. Selected my junior and senior year as a finalist by NC State’s Confucius Institute for their high school Chinese competition in Raleigh. Won Best Talent the first year and came in 2nd for essay writing the second year. (485 characters)

Introduction to Python

Explored the differences between Python, Java, and C++ coding languages. Researched programming syntax and basics of Python, designed various innovative algorithms to use Python’s unique functions in unconventional ways. Coded hangman, tic-tac-toe, conversation-, 20 questions, and my own original game design using Python commands. Collaborated with classmates in Robotics 101 to design a group code for an automated robot. (424 characters)

Ryman Arts Program
Took drawing lessons, sketched still life drawings, and painted models with top 100 HS artists in Southern California to build art portfolio. Fine-tuned portraiture and painting skills by working on joint projects with program participants. Attended classes taught by professional artists and seminars about job opportunities in the arts. Displayed final portfolios in a curated show at the Southern California Museum of Art that was attended by arts advocates from all over the state. (490 characters)

Now take a look at the great (shorter) examples below, and apply to tips above to your own activities list.

A few More (Shorter) Examples That Work

(Based on the old UC 160 character limit)

Educational Prep Programs

AVID
Developed study skills, received mentorship, offered tutoring in math and received tutoring in critical reading.

National Youth Leadership Forum (Stanford)
Studied medicine at medical simulation center, received hands-on training in medical procedures, experienced life as a medical student.

Early Academic Outreach Program (EAOP)
Received academic and financial guidance in preparation for college. 

Volunteer & Community Service

Intern at Children’s Institute Otis Booth Campus
Brainstormed ideas for after school programs for teens,created surveys,presented data to supervisor

Member of Civics Committee
Provide mentorship support to ninth graders; responsible for assigning tutors, coordinating events.

Street Soccer Program
Volunteer for County Fair fundraising committee supporting underprivileged kids playing street soccer.

AWWA
Volunteered to support Centre for Caregivers events; Model Caregivers Awards. Helped write government proposals and helped get performers backstage ready.

Global Partner for International Orientation
I help new international students with registration and adjustment to the new school environment.

Work Experience

Administrative Assistant at Shingari's School of Rhythm
In charge of customer service, managing financial accounts, recording attendance, managing inventory, and all other administrative aspects

Childcare (Paid)
Worked 3-5 days a week taking care of two children, ages 1 and 3. Responsibilities included feeding, changing and regulating bed times.

Manager, Student Store
Developed student store policies, reviewed resumes and hired accordingly and worked part time as a cashier.

Coach and Technical Analyst, LA County Intramural Basketball
Led fitness sessions, trained others in technical fundamentals; also helped with video analysis.

Korean Compassion: Korean-to-English Letter Translator
Translated letters sent by supporters to impoverished children in Asian and African countries.

 

Awards & Honors

Speech and Debate
Academic All-American Award, NFL Tournament Qualifier ('11, '12), Rupe Scholar, Stanford Invitational Semi-finalist, Harker Invitational Semi-finalist

Player of the Tournament
Was named Best Player in the local Lincoln Heights Invitational.

Highest Scorer
Highest scorer in annual Carl Schubert trophy between Singapore and Malaysia's under-23 team.

“Iron Man” Award
Given for "outstanding athletic performance in keeping with the physical mission of the Naval Academy.

White Water Kayaking Nationals (5th place)
Competed at the 2013 United States Slalom National Competition in Bryson City (placed 5th). Paddled Class 5 rapids. Swift Water rescue certified

Extracurricular Activities

Founder and President of Model United Nations
Organize meetings, coach students for conferences, raise money and awareness for UNICEF causes, awarded "Outstanding Delegate" at every conference attended

Intern at the Los Angeles Superior Court
Assisted a Los Angeles District Attorney by researching relevant case laws, drafting briefs, and assisting with client interviews

Research Assistant at the UCLA Psychology Department
Assisted Dr. Negin Ghavemi with a study exploring the relationship between gender, age, and sexual identity in elementary and middle school

Indian Classical and Bollywood Dancer
SSR Scholarship, VMASC 1st Place Cinematic Dance, KCCNA 3rd pl. in folk, VMASC 1st Pl. Classical Dance, KALA Kalolsavam 1st Pl. Group Dance

Strings Orchestra
Played as a cellist in the school orchestra in various evening concerts and performances throughout the year.

FYI: Programs like those below should be listed under "Other coursework" or in the Additional Comments section: 

Yosemite Backpacking Excursion
Learned basic survival skills and took part in team leadership training and development activities.

Narrative Writing Workshop
Attended a writing workshop during the summer after my junior that focused on the narrative and descriptive writing.

Independent Study
Researched, presented thesis as Interim Semester project on the state of the aging population in Singapore and government stance on the issue.

 



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