The Common App: Activities and Recommenders Sections

Moving on from our overview of the Common App online portal in the previous post, I want to address some typical areas of confusion concerning how to fill out the Common Application itself. The application is mostly self-explanatory; however, students typically have questions for me when filling out the Recommenders and FERPA as well as the Activities sections.

The Recommenders and FERPA section:

This section is located under each individual College that you have added to your “My Colleges” list. Please see this link, which will highlight all that you will need to know to properly complete this section.

The Activities Section:

You may list up to 10 activities and may include a short description of accomplishments and recognitions within each activity. Before you start the activities section, sit down with your resume or a blank sheet of paper and start listing the 10 (or less) activities within which you were the most involved or accomplished. Once you have a list of activities, write about each summarizing your accomplishments and/or your involvement. You have a 150-character limit, so make sure every character counts by making your statement as concise and direct as possible. In this statement, use action words like “Co-created,” “Maintained,” “Organized,” and “Represented,” keeping the statement impactful and results-oriented. (see: word bank below). Colleges want to know what you’ve done, so make sure you convey depth in your involvement and results as your accomplishments. Here are a few examples:

“Competed in Model UN senior year, placing fourth nationally and first in women; elected president junior and senior year.”

“Educated children about the voting process as their parents vote during local, state, and national elections; led team of 6 other volunteers.”

“Led team on and off the field; encouraged all players; chosen by team as Captain junior and senior year; head of recruitment with coach.”

After drafting your descriptions, the last step is to figure out how many hours a week you spent on each activity, how many weeks per year (36 weeks in a school year), and which years you participated in that activity. This should all be pretty simple to procure, and remember that estimations are okay as long as they aren’t unfounded exaggerations.

While initially overwhelming, with all of this information in hand, you are ready to plug in your activities into the Common App. When you done, please make an appointment with me so that we can review your Common Application together.

Word Bank

Leadership Collaborative

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