How to Write a Strong Common Application Activities Statement

Posted by: Website Administrator on 10/31/2012

“Please briefly elaborate on one of your extracurricular activities or work experiences in the space below.”

There’s a lot of talk about the Personal Statement for your college applications, but you don’t seem to hear as much about the Activities Statement.  After all, it’s only 1000 characters; how much of an impact can it really have?

The truth is that every piece of your application has the potential to make a difference, including the Activities Statement.  In order to make sure that yours stands out in a good way, take note of our suggestions.

Proofread!   It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often students think the Activities Statement matters less because it’s shorter.  They will spend hours proofreading their Personal Statement, and then just a few minutes on the Activities Statement.  Typos, grammatical mistakes, and spelling errors that appear anywhere in your application will stand out.  In addition, if the writing in your Activities Statement is noticeably weaker than in the Personal Statement (because you spent much more time on the Personal Statement), colleges will notice, and possibly wonder if the same person wrote both pieces.

Be specific.  1000 characters isn’t a lot of space.  In order to have the most impact with limited room, your best option is to focus on a specific idea.  For instance, if you’re editor of the yearbook, don’t try to convey the entire experience, but choose one aspect to elaborate on.  If you focus on a narrow topic, it will be easier for you to make a coherent, interesting point about it.

Show, don’t tell.  You’ve heard it before, and it applies just as well to the Activities Statement as it does to other writing.  If you can demonstrate a point with an anecdote or an example, it will almost always be more engaging than just telling it.  Instead of just saying that being editor of the yearbook is a challenge, you need to say what specifically makes it challenging.

Have some fun with it.  This should be about something that you enjoy doing.  Think about the activity that makes you happiest, and then write about the aspect of that activity that you like the best.  If you’re happy thinking about your topic, your positive attitude will come through in your writing. 

Focus on something different than your Personal Statement.  If your Personal Statement is about the challenges and rewards of being on the lacrosse team, then you should write about something completely different in the Activities Statement.  If all of your writing is about the same activity or topic, your application might come across a bit one-dimensional.  

The Activities Statement is short, so it should be a bit easier to write than the Personal Statement.  However, just because it’s short, doesn’t mean it isn’t important.  You want every piece of writing in your application to be a strong and positive representation of your personality and skills.  With that in mind, put some focused time into writing your Activities Statement, consider our guidelines, and ask someone you trust to read it over before submitting it.