With just over a month left in the UC Application window, and Common Application deadlines fast approaching, you’ve likely got a lot on your mind. While the application essay portion requires a lot of attention and care and can really set you apart, students often underestimate the importance of a well-thought-out activities section. Here are some of my best tips to ensure you put your best foot forward.
I recommend filling out the UC Application first - The UC Application allows for 350 characters per section and allows for 20 activities to be listed, while the Common App allows 150 characters per section and 10 activities to be listed. That way, you can get out everything you want to say in a succinct yet complete way, and you can work on editing down from there. This will also help you avoid putting entries you don’t need on your list.
While both applications have an upper limit to the number of activities you can include, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to, or should, fill them all.
Don’t list something just to list something - ensure that whatever you are choosing to present on your application, you could write at least a paragraph about. Could you answer these questions? If yes, consider including the extracurricular in the activities section:
Don’t feel the need to use complete sentences. Much like a resume, the activities section entries can be more simplified and stripped down in order to get the message across. You’ll want to avoid the superfluous wording, and ensure you are telling your reader what you did, what leadership positions you held, any awards, and also any important lessons you learned/impacts you made.
Consider combining any activities and awards into one entry (i.e. if one was a leadership position you held in a club and another is a notable award you won in that club, save space by combining them both into one activity).
Use “action verbs” in your activities section. Action verbs are words that elicit more of a response from the reader, and are also more descriptive themselves. These words often pack together both WHAT you did and the IMPACT it made, all in one word! This can not only save you space later on trying to clarify what you mean, but can also:
Sarah is a Consultant and Social Media Marketing Manager on the Study Hall College Consulting Team. Sarah graduated from UC Berkeley in the class of 2020 where she majored in Architecture and minored in Spanish Language and Literature. For more college application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.