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The Activity Essay

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At one time, not so long ago, the Common App asked all applicants for a brief description of their most important extracurricular experiences. When that requirement became optional in 2013, many individual colleges took it upon themselves to issue a similar prompt as a replacement.

The activity essay is an excellent opportunity to expand beyond the 150-character limit of the Common App’s activity descriptions. Colleges want to know the motivations behind your participation and your level of commitment to the enterprises you deem most important. How has this activity had an impact on your life? How has participation in this activity affected the lives of others? Maybe your membership in speech and debate served as the inspiration for your future pursuit of a law degree. Did your after school volunteer work at an animal shelter bring new furry family members into the lives of your friends and family? Has playing the guitar since you were five years old shown you the power of dedication and allowed you the thrill of taking part in your own garage band?

This is also an excellent place to highlight your leadership skills, teamwork and drive. But remember, show don’t tell (if you have the space). Describing how your role as captain improved communication among your cheerleading teammates is much more effective than telling admissions you are a great leader.

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