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Want to learn about maximizing your activities section common app? Get tips and advice to fill out the common app activities section!
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Maximizing Your Activities Section Common App

Maximizing Your Activities Section Common App

Want to learn about maximizing your activities section common app? 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 common app activities section?” It seems simple, but is it? Let’s find out!

Tips For The Activities Section Common App

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 For The Activities Section Common App

  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 common app 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.

Activities Section Common App 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 On The Common App Activities Section

  • 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 common app. 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.

See you soon!

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Liz Robles

Major Advisor - Art, Multimedia, Design

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 2

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love to motivate students to find their true passion. It’s so rewarding to see students succeed in a field they enjoy.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I enjoy arts and crafts, doing outdoorsy things such as hiking or picnics and the nightlife with friends.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Time management is key. Have a healthy balance between your work/school and social life.

Justin Siu

Major Advisor - Premed

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 3 years.

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: Every student is so unique, with their own story, skills, strengths, and personality. I love embarking on that journey with them, albeit temporarily, in helping them envision and execute their own vision for their life.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I love spending the little free time I have exploring new foods with friends and family. If I'm lucky, I spend it trying to build my sketching/design/sewing skills in hopes of building my second dream career as a runway couture designer.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: When envisioning a life career, utilize the Japanese philosophy of ikigai (translated as 'reason for being'). An ideal career meets at the intersection of passion, mission, profession, and vocation. Evaluate each of these components when envisioning yourself in a life path/career.

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Pranshul Goel

Major Advisor - Premed, Biology, Chemistry

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 1

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: The ability to help students find their passion for their lifelong careers.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I am an avid hiker/backpacker, musician, and love to learn about medical breakthroughs

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Take time for yourself and enjoy life, so that when you are in school, it does not feel like a chore.

Xenia Bremseth

Major Advisor - Business

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 14

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: When they have the lightbulb moment and everything clicks into place for them.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Travel, yoga, run, hike, eat lots of good food

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Enjoy life as it today; don’t be in such a rush to be an adult because most of life is being an adult.

Bridgette Well

Essay Editor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: In writing, editing, tutoring, and college support, I have a combined 9.5 years of experience

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I like getting to know students as individuals, holding space to help them connect more deeply with themselves, witnessing “green light” moments when new ideas or perspectives create a positive shift, and learning what feels important to them.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I enjoy spending time with friends, meditation and yoga, listening to music, being in nature, making/consuming art (painting, singing, poetry, performance), and learning about the world and universe we live in.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Be kind to yourself.

Ariana Lee

Admissions Advisor, Apps Advisor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 12

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love hearing their stories. There's so much to discover about a person. It's very rewarding when my students get comfortable and know that I'm there for them.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Swim, read, write, sing, enjoy nature, and play with my two crazy boys.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Do what you love, and everything else will fall into place.

Tam Minton

Apps Advisor, Major Advisor - Social Sciences

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 16

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love getting to know them and helping them know themselves!

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Scuba dive, write, travel.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Don't worry about everyone else's opinion, be your authentic self!

Julian Hoffman

Admissions Advisor, Apps Advisor, Essay Editor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 5

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: Hearing each student's unique stories, guiding them in discovering their passions, and helping find their voice!

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I am a figure skater, world traveler, dessert aficionado, and devotee of the Pioneer Woman, the Barefoot Contessa, and Maneet Chauhan!

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Work hard now -- procrastinate later!

Sarah Gooch

Essay Editor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: I have five years' experience in coaching student writing, but this is my first year with ReadyEdgeGo.

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love helping students find depth and meaning in their own stories—but I also just love it when they make me laugh!

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: In theory, I enjoy painting and writing poetry, but these days I actually spend most of my free time socializing or watching movies with my husband.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Don't just focus on achieving top grades and credentials because they look good on applications, or your education will be meaningless. The numbers and awards have their place, but stay connected to your sense of curiosity, discovery, excitement, and wonder so that the content you're learning is constantly transforming you—it's something you care about, something you remember after the final exam. Work on the aspects of yourself no one can measure, like integrity, wisdom, kindness, and compassion, so that you're not only developing your academic and career potential but also investing in the type of adult you're going to be, the person you'll have to live with after you clock out every day for the rest of your life. Doing the hard inner work of building your character and learning deeply instead of just earning grades will set you up for a satisfying, well-rounded life. Strange as it sounds, it will also put you ahead in your academic and career goals, because colleges and hiring managers aren't looking for an empty set of data on a spreadsheet; they want a fully fleshed-out person marked by passion, creativity, and a story no one else has lived. So go on studying hard for tests, but also spend some time asking yourself what matters in life and who your role models are. Read up on topics that amaze you, and build something incredible just for fun. Cultivate that spark of joy you feel when you're immersed in a subject that fascinates you. If you can hit that balancing act of doing your homework and meeting deadlines but also investing in the kind of person you want to be, then trust that all the rest will follow: schools will recognize you as a dynamic, all-star person, and you will also build a life of happiness, close relationships, and peace.

Sherrie Malleis

Essay Editor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: I have more than 15 years experience teaching writing to all ages.

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love assisting students to achieve their educational goals.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I love to go hiking on the trails around the dunes of Lake Michigan.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Use a calendar to help you meet your deadlines and to stay stay organized.

Bernie Nguyen

Major Advisor - STEM

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 5 years high school mentoring experience. I was heavily involved in it all throughout college and after graduating.

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love hearing about their passions and what they genuinely love to do. It also makes me extremely happy to.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I recently picked up the electric guitar! I also have multiple aquariums, and founded a company that built body armor.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Don't go down a path just because you think that's "what you're supposed to do." Life is more diverse and unexpected than any of us could ever know.

Maxx Mueller

Major Advisor - Engineering

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 1

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: Getting to know student's interests and seeing their growth as students and people.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Ice Hockey, Snowboarding.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: You are more than your list of accomplishments. The growth and learning about yourself and others, and the hard work, failures, and lessons that lead to those accomplishments make you who you are.

Joanna Yang Yowler

Essay Editor

Q:How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 15

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love hearing students' stories and seeing their faces light up when they talk about their passions and dreams.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Cook, write, draw, save Azeroth .

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Pursue dreams that matter to you and don't be afraid of forging your own path to where you want to go.

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Aaron Togelang

Major Advisor - Engineering

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 2

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: It's amazing getting to know the unique and diverse passions that drive each student

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Sleep, but also video games, climb, scuba dive, and ride my motorcycle

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Do things. Just get out there and try as many cool new things you can! You never know what you'll love until you give it a shot.

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Tylar Pendgraft

Senior Essay Editor

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 9

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I love how open students are to learning and trying new things. As mentors, we get to see so much growth simply because our students are so open to new experiences and are looking forward to applying their learning and other skills.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: In my free time I like to read and write. I also spend a lot of time just watching--my dogs, birds, trees. I also enjoy baking and cooking (even though I'm terrible at baking).

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: It's never too early or late to start practicing self-care. Build moments of joy and celebration into your week. Give yourself a treat for working hard. It's important to have things to look forward to. If you can get into the habit now, you'll have a much more balanced college experience.

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Miguel Barranco

Major Advisor - Premed, Biology, Chemistry

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: Three years

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: I enjoy getting to know them on a personal level and helping them see that their life story/experiences are unique and matter.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I coach wrestling at the high school level. Enjoy spending time with my husky, Lucy, on runs or hikes. Dancing mainly bachata and salsa. Collecting retro video games and playing them from time to time.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Make time to do things you love outside of academics. Whether that is clubs, music, art, sports, etc.

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Anika Sherma

Major Advisor - Health Sciences, Social Sciences

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 2

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: As a major advisor for students interested in the humanities, I’ve found it immensely rewarding to offer an outlet for students to explore ideas that they often don’t get to delve into at school. Watching a student light up when they realize that there is in fact a community around their specific interests is easily the best part of the job.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: In my free time, I love to be outdoors - I've been hiking around the Bay Area and recently started biking again. I also volunteer at community gardens and trail restoration projects in San Francisco. When I'm not outside, you can find me reading visionary fiction, practicing yoga and qigong, or cooking.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: My advice for high school students is to focus on the present! Use this time to learn more about yourself and the world around you. Solid values and a sense of self will allow you to make challenging decisions for the future and create the life you want.

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Tushar Singla

Chief Technology Officer

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 4

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: Watching them accomplish great things.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Watch Formula 1, play ice hockey, and watch TV.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Spend time exploring different things -- you have a long time to become an expert.

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Dan Zhou

Chief Executive Officer

Q: How many total years of experience do you have in your current role, including but not limited to ReadyEdgeGo?

A: 16

Q: What about working with students do you most enjoy?

A: Inspiring a student towards self discovery, and wanting to learn about everything there is in the world. Reaching this moment can take time, but it's what makes it worth it every time.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Outdoors hiking, photography, gardening, and reading.

Q: What is your one piece of advice for high schoolers?

A: Do the thing that moves you, or be moved by forces not your own. The choice is yours.

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