How should I list my high school activities on the Common Application?

Students can often use assistance with these descriptions and working with me, they learn how to write succinct summaries of each activity, so their achievements are well documented and show the impact they had in each club and organization. I recommend writing the descriptions offline and review them someone unfamiliar with their school to ensure the names of organizations are understandable. If you say you were the head of Project Action, but you don’t describe your contributions to it, the reader will skip over that activity and the end result is the same as if you were never involved in it.

The tips below reflect the changes to the 2020-2021 Common Application.

  • Ten activities is a limit, not a goal.
  • Maximum number of characters with spaces:
    • Position or leadership description: required, 50 characters with spaces max
    • Organization name, if applicable: optional, 100 characters with spaces max
    • Description: required, 150 characters with spaces max
  • Order of activities:
    • List activities in rank order from highest to lowest importance to you.
    • List activities in backwards chronological order—most to least recent.
    • Put activities in which you have held leadership positions toward the top of the list.
  • Do not list the years you participated in an activity, as they will appear in the participation grades section.
  • However, do note the year(s) you held leadership positions and/or received an award—ex., Captain (10, 11); Sportsmanship Award (10)
  • Space-saving tips:
    • Use 1st and 2nd instead of the words first and second.
    • Don’t use etc.
    • Don’t use the word “I”, as this is understood.
    • Remember the ampersand “&” is your friend. Use it to save spaces instead of the word and.

Imagine you are an admissions officer reading your application. Make sure your activities list is clear and informative.


Wow! You have been such an enormous help! Your professional expertise and perseverance have been wonderful! There were many moments over the past few months that I never thought those applications would meet the deadlines. You spared me from having to nag and inquire (I did a little). I am terribly grateful!