The activity list is a significant portion of your application to universities in the US. Even so, international applicants are sometimes confused about why American universities put so much emphasis on extracurriculars. In this blog, we will tell you why the activity list is important to an application, how students should go about choosing activities and filling this section and some helpful tips.
As a total stranger reading your various application forms, admissions officers have very little context of who students really are. They use different methods, such as school reports, teacher recommendations, to get to know students a bit better. However, admissions officers would also like to know you in more than one context, that is to say, they want to who you are outside the classroom. That is where your activities list come in. Officers want to know how you engage with different people and different communities, what makes you passionate to continue doing this one activity, and why you stopped them. All in all, what activities you do and why adds another layer to your application and makes it easier for officers to see you as a real person.
While what’s on your activity list matters, the context behind those activities is also really important. Admissions officers know that there’s multiple different areas they have to try to understand, such as the global context, the community context and, most importantly, your personal context. With the pandemic happening right now, officers understand that activities have been cut short or altogether cancelled. They also understand that different cultures and schools have different ideologies (community context) thus leading to diversified activities or only a small selection of them. However, the most important one is personal context, for example what have you been involved in since the start of high school. This one can only be seen if students tell us, and we encourage this to see a clear picture of them. Students have to help us see why you are involved in less activities, it might be due to family responsibilities, it might be because your commute from and to school is very lengthy. Whatever the student’s reasons are, give context on who, where and what.
What, then, should you use on your activity list? Is there a list that students should follow or perhaps requirements they should meet? Which activity you choose isn’t all that important. There are no correct activities. Doing a certain activity will not guarantee you nor disqualify you from a university. Instead officers evaluate your activities based on passion, interest and effort. If you have these three things, the activities can range from dancing to taking care of your grandma. While activities may be affected because of the current pandemic, officers explain that things like teaching yourself a new skill or talent could be part of the activity list. The activity list is a way to showcase your talents, attitudes, and your personal story.
In terms of filling out the activities list section. There are various aspects to this section: the activity name and what position the student was in, how long this activity has been going on, etc. This section also allows a 150-character description of the activity, which is also the most important part. Context, again, is vital. This short description allows students to explain what their activity was about, whether your position within the group changed, what impacts you made. If you stopped doing this activity why did you stop, was it due to Covid-19? All these details help paint the picture of the situation you were in, and help officers understand the reasoning behind your choices.
These are some final tips: be mindful of how much you can manage, but don’t do something just because you think it will raise your profile with the officers. Do what you naturally enjoy, and the passion itself will shine through effortlessly.