Image from Pexels.

Image from Pexels.

Welcome to TP’s 12 Days of College Apps series, where we’ll be helping you out with your most pressing college app questions during the remaining 10 days until applications are due (December 20th-31st). Each day, we’ll feature a different post to help you suffer less and get more out of your super exciting admissions process experience. So, without further ado…

On the fourth day of college apps, The Prospect gave to me…ways of making activities sound so much cooler on the CommonApp Activities Section!

So, we spent the first two days of this series discussing your college essays. Now we’re taking a small break and heading over to the CommonApp. First off, the CommonApp format this year is terrible in terms of listing off your extracurriculars (BRING. BACK. THE. “SUBMIT. ADDITIONAL. SUPPLEMENT.” OPTION.). After all, how can you explain how awesome you are in such a tight space? We had a super helpful article (which you can check out HERE) earlier this semester on how to combine/reduce parts of this section, so building on that, how do you make the most of the small word count allotted for your activities? We’re here to help!

1. Use action verbs.

It seems obvious, but you need to be showing the admissions officers what you did and not telling them. Saying that you “participated” in a club means nothing, because think about it: What does “participation” entail? That could really mean anything, from running an organization that has 30+ club members and has raised over $50,000 to sitting on someone’s couch watching reruns of Girl Code. Remember: Admissions officers care about you, not what the club itself is. What specifically did you do for the club? Now that’s a good question.

Are you stumped trying to find action verbs to properly describe what you want to say? That’s where we can help (and you can also find more verbs on THIS super amazing list)!

  • Collaborated
  • Managed
  • Enhanced
  • Condensed
  • Led
  • Enacted
  • Fundraised
  • Composed
  • Synthesized
  • Reinforced
  • Conceptualized
  • Reviewed
  • Analyzed
  • Established
  • Formulated
  • Founded
  • Resolved
  • Catalogued
  • Implemented
  • Executed
  • Established

2. Be very exact with your level and depth of participation.

Admissions people have totally tuned bullish*t meters; they can tell when you’re trying to sound way impressive than you actually are. If you make broad statements like, “Helped club raise money”, they might question how much you did. Same goes for a phrase like, “Helped club raise $5000”. Who raised that money? Did you alone get all that moolah? For all we know, you raised $1 and one of your friends raised the other $4999. But if you say something like, “Raised $2500 for club charity event X, about 50% of the money club raised total”, then that is hella impressive.

The attention to exactness also goes for the length and intensity of the club. Honestly, if you were part of a club for four years that met once a semester and didn’t do much, it’s probably not worth putting on your resume.

3. Building on the statement above, numbers and dates are the way to go.

Numbers are awesome because it give an admissions officer something tangible to hold onto. Do you know how hard it is to remember which kid, out of thousands of applicants, said that he “participated in Dreams Come True Club”? You’d be more likely to remember the student who raised X amount of money to help send Y number of kids with terminal illnesses on their dream vacation. Psychologically, people deal better with specifics (especially impressive specifics) over generalized terms. This should be kept in mind for your entire admissions process.

4. Outline everything separately before putting it onto the CommonApp.

I don’t about you, but if I ever try to write something one the spot in an application form, I always feel like my computer will miraculously implode and delete all my work. If that doesn’t happen, I also fear that I had a bunch of gigantic spelling errors that I didn’t notice before I clicked the “Submit’ button that will keep me from being accepted to whatever I want to get. Try outlining all of your activities in a Microsoft Word or Google Doc beforehand (not just a resume, but in the actual format that the CommonApp Activities Section uses, with the word count and everything).

Again, I know this sounds super obvious, but when you’re sleep-deprived, more stressed than you’ve been in your entire life, and about to bang you head against a wall if you have to write, “I want to go to X College because…” one more time, saving your work elsewhere can save you from anxiety-ridden blunders. That last thing you want is to have the CommonApp site go down just as you’re saving your work, or to submit your application with a ton of blatant spelling/grammar/syntax mistakes (yikes!). Besides, for some weird reason, when you copy and paste all of this stuff into the “official” document (aka the CommonApp), you become a lot more aware of what you’re putting into all of those little boxes.

Keep chugging away, prospies. The end is near!



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the author

Lily Herman is a junior at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Besides bopping around on The Prospect, Lily is a columnist for USA TODAY College (read the Quad Report, yo); an editorial intern for The Daily Muse; a contributing editor for the campus blog Wesleying; a national contributing editor for Her Campus; and an editorial/marketing intern at HelloFlo. When she is not studying or awkwardly waving at people around campus, Lily enjoys eating Sour Patch Kids and re-watching the Friday Night Lights series finale (she's Team Saracen, by the way). Also (shameless plug alert), feel free to follow her on Twitter, or email her at lherman(at)theprospect(dot)net.

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