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Maximizing Your Activities Section
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Maximizing Your Activities Section

Hey everyone! Welcome back. As the deadline for the UC Applications is approaching, I want to address another popular question that most people have. “How am I supposed to fill out the Activities section?” It seems simple, but is it? Let’s find out!

List It

Your first step should be to create a list of everything you have done outside of class. In this step, do not discriminate by how long you have done something for. Many people tend to leave really good experiences off of their list because they think they have not done it for enough time for it to count. Generally, if you did something (not video games or a YouTube binge) that lasted longer than 2 weeks, it’s probably worth noting.

Describe It

Next, write a 2-sentence description of each activity. The first sentence should describe what you did. The second one should be the effect this activity had on you. Essentially, you would describe what you learned or gained from it.

Organize It

After that, it is time for you to organize and order your activities into the following categories: Leadership, Learning, and Other. By doing so, admission readers will get an easy-to-understand and organized feeling that you are a well-rounded person.

Leadership is defined as any formally recognized experience that requires you to help or empower others. Typically, titles associated with this category have to do with club involvement, leadership class, school events, sports, and band.

Learning is defined as both formal and informal academic learning experiences that were part of your high school experience. If you were a general club member, for instance, of a Robotics team, then this would be a good place to put that. However, if you were part of the leadership of that Robotics team, you’ll want to put that in the Leadership bucket. Note that personal projects and internships also fall into this category.

“Other” is defined as any experience that doesn’t meet the prior definitions. Popular entries here include sports and recreational activities such as music or crafts not pertaining to your major.

With the advice so far, you should be able to fill out any application with great certainty. However, in the honor of UC Applications month, I’m going to give some more tips tailored to the UC Application.

UC Best Practices

  1. Don’t focus on the descriptions – focus on the order. Readers will read your entries from top to bottom, so strike a good impression: Leadership, Learning, and Other.
  2. List it, even if you only did it once. Whether you engaged in a volunteer activity only one time, or only did a sport for only one year, we want to know about it. Just because you didn’t continue it, doesn’t mean it looks bad; it just means you had other things to do that were more important.
    1. Many students think doing a sport or activity only one year looks bad – a huge myth.
  3. Elaborate elsewhere. If you find yourself needing way more words than the character count allows in Activities, that probably means you should consider writing a PIQ on it. At the very least, describing the activity in further detail in Additional Comments at the end of your application.

For all you UC applicants, this should be all you need to make sure your activities section is as polished as it can be. Go out and make your application the best it can be!

If you are a Common Application applicant, we have decided to throw in some best practices for that as well.

Common Application Best Practices

  1. Use the Awards Section.  Don’t take up valuable space in Activities when you can highlight your awards elsewhere.
  2. Choose the Right Category. Select the option from the dropdown that best reflects the nature of the activity. If the activity was largely career-oriented, then designate it as such. However, if it was more of a fun learning experience, then be honest. Lastly, don’t stress if you’re not sure which category is best. Chances are you’re thinking way harder than your reader will.
  3. Combine. If you had different involvements or positions within the same organization, then put your highest earned title when asked for your position, and provide a description of your changing roles in the description. This allows you to highlight your greatest accomplishment while saving you space for more activities

As a bonus, here’s a list of some of the activities that you are most likely forgetting about.

Commonly Forgotten Activities

  • That sport you only did for one year in 9th grade (but had to stop because school got busy)
  • The club that you were a general member for (but the club wasn’t always active)
  • The volunteer experience that lasted only a day
  • The self-taught Python course, or any Coursera/edX/other course, you decided to take
  • The personal project you undertook – whether it was designing your own computer games or that electric skateboard you tried building. Even if you “failed”, it reads well on paper.

I hope that this provides some valuable insight into how to fill out your activities section. For a full feature and even more detail, check out our YouTube video about it.

We specialize in youth mentorship and college counseling. From 8th grade to 12th, we have you covered for any stage in your high school career. Schedule a free consultation with us here.

We are always posting more helpful tips and tricks to help reduce the stress of college application season. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

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