Most college-bound students will complete the Common Application. One section of the Common Application that confuses many students is the activities section. Demonstrating participation and accomplishment through extracurricular activities is essential for all college applicants. Extracurricular activities can take on a special importance for homeschoolers. Stereotypes about homeschoolers persist and activities are an opportunity to demonstrate that teens have been well-socialized and are members of their communities. Here are a few tips for making a good impression in the activities section.
Ten Activities Aren’t Necessary
Many students see ten lines in the activities section and they panic. They may not have ten high school activities or ten activities that they find to be important. That is totally fine. By offering room for ten activities the Common Application is not saying students should have ten activities, just that they possibly may. What really impresses colleges are activities where your student has dedicated him or herself and demonstrated a commitment to persist and work hard. Coming up with lots of tiny activities they devoted just a little bit of energy to impresses no one.
What’s an Activity? How You Spend Your Time
According to the Common Application “your activities may include arts, athletics, clubs, employment, personal commitments, and other pursuits.” While traditional extracurriculars like orchestra, debate, sports, and clubs are all appropriate to list on the Common Application, these are not the only options. Activities on the Common Application do not need to be based in schools or through traditional organizations like Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. Students are really being asked to explain how they spend their time in productive ways. Playing video games or hanging out with friends at the beach doesn’t count as an extracurricular activity. Designing apps or working at the beach as a lifeguard are appropriate to list. Some of the diverse options for extra curricular activities on the Common Application drop down menu include career oriented activities, cultural activities, family responsibilities, environmental, religious, robotics, science/math, and paid work.
Most Important Activities First
Applicants are encouraged to put their most important activities first. Sometimes students have trouble with this. They may want to list the activity that they think sounds the most impressive to other people. Instead encourage your homeschooler to think about the activity that they’ve devoted a lot of time to and feel has been most important to their development.
Details About Activities
Students are asked to indicate some specific details about their activities including the grades in which they participated, if the participation was during the summer or year-round, and how many hours they typically devoted to the activity. Most of us don’t keep time logs of every minute of our days, so estimating is what is expected here. Encourage your student to be realistic and not to over or underestimate. Often I find that teenagers don’t have a really accurate gauge of time so it may be helpful to weigh in with your own observations.
Position and Organization Details
The first text field provides a place for students to list position/leadership name and organization name if applicable. The text for this answer is limited to 50 characters including spaces. Examples of student answers might include:
First chair violin, Mid-Central Youth Orchestra
Green Committee Chair, Youth In Action
Junior Volunteer, Central Food Pantry
Please Describe this Activity
The second text field allows you to elaborate and provide more detail. “Please describe this activity, including what you accomplished and any recognition you received, etc. This response text is limited to 150 characters including spaces. You have some flexibility here. Take the time to plan your answer carefully and remember that your reader may not be familiar with the specific activities or organizations you are involved with. Play around with different answers to see how much information you share and stay within the allowed word count.
Preview is a Must
Be sure to take the time to preview your activities on the screen. This will allow you to get a sense of how your activities all look together and what picture they may paint of you as an application. This is also a good time to make sure you’ve proofread this section of your application carefully.
Take Advantage of this Opportunity
Colleges want to recruit students who have demonstrated they are good citizens who are involved in developing their talents and contributing to their communities. Admissions officers know that students who were immersed in activities during their high school years are more likely to also be active on their college campus. Make the best use you can of the activities section of the Common Application to showcase what you have been able to do with the freedom and flexibility afforded by a homeschool education.
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