How to write about extracurriculars in college applications

June 28, 2022

If there’s one thing we’ve all heard about college applications, it’s that grades alone will not get a student accepted. The admissions office wants to know what you’re like, what you plan to do after graduation, and if you’re a good fit for their programs. Extracurriculars are one major factor in that decision because those are activities that bring evidence of your journey.

College admissions officers need to know your career goals

When you’re driving a car, you don’t keep your eyes fixed on the steering wheel, you look beyond the hood at the horizon. Goals are what you see on your horizon as you navigate the educational journey. The college admissions officers want to know about your goals, because they want a success story out of each applicant.

One way to demonstrate your goals (and commitment to goals) is by describing how your extracurricular activities are helping you along your way. 

Hobbies and jobs in sports, carpentry, lifeguarding, babysitting, lawn care, performing arts, and cooking can all be relevant. Anything you do outside of the classroom has potential as an extracurricular worthy of the college application. 

Now, with all that in mind…

Here’s how to write about your extracurriculars 

Tips from College Vine:

Above all, remember to be specific! While applications give you ample opportunity to describe the vast amount of time you’ve committed to an activity, all that time doesn’t mean much if you don’t execute correctly. The best way to showcase dedication and interest is through concrete accomplishments and specific references to what you achieved in your position.

Tips from Prep Scholar:

For the Common App, you’ll need to reflect on what you have learned from your activities and how they have helped you develop. Admissions officers are going to be particularly interested in seeing how you have been involved in leadership positions and that you have dedicated a significant amount of time and energy to your activities.

Tips from Powerful Youth:

When you go to write about your extracurriculars on a college application, be sure to include language that makes your commitment clear to the reader. For example, this could include stating how many hours per week you commit to an activity. You could also highlight extracurriculars or particular events that demonstrate a high degree commitment, such as sports teams that involve a lot of weekend travel, or summer activities where you prioritized growth, development, or experience over free time!

Tips from InGeniusPrep:

Each successful college application should tell a story. When I read applications for Dartmouth, I tried to form a sense of each student’s personality, aspirations, and character. Many of the applications did not make this easy. I often struggled to identify common threads that could bring an individual into focus. I’m not saying that everything in your application needs to assert the same message; this would be monotonous! I’m also not suggesting that your extracurricular activities for college applications should actually articulate your persona. 

Here are some examples of how NOT to write about your activities 

Medical School HQ puts out some great content that applies to all sorts of career pursuits, not just medicine. Here’s the summary of the video below: Your activity descriptions play a KEY role in telling your story through the med school application. But most students are wasting this opportunity with very un-impactful writing.