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Articles / Applying to College / Help ... I have NO Extracurriculars for My Common App

Sept. 20, 2019

Help ... I have NO Extracurriculars for My Common App

Help ... I have NO Extracurriculars for My Common App

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I am filling out my Common App and I have no extracurriculars, and I mean none. I haven't joined a club or worked a job or anything organized like that. I do play tennis and disc golf with friends all the time -- can I include that? I have also babysat my brother but not for money. Can that count? If I like to bake can that go on there? Seems like a stretch but I really have nothing else to list.


Admission officials are always eager to learn what students do outside of class time, and not just through the same-old-same-old school clubs and sports teams that they see on applications about 717 times on any given winter weekend. So your baking, babysitting, disc golf and tennis are all quite application-worthy.

In the small amount of space provided on your applications (and/or via a separate "annotated" resume where you add a sentence or two describing your assorted undertakings), try to provide a little more information than merely the name of each endeavor, adding a touch of humor here and there if it comes naturally to you. For instance, instead of just saying, "Baking," you might have room for, "Experimental pastry chef for family guinea pigs. (Who knew that chili sauce and chocolate frosting would be so compatible?)"

Here is an old but once very active College Confidential discussion thread on "Hidden Extracurriculars" that may help you identify other pursuits that could be fodder for the "Activities" section of your applications.

And here is a recent "Ask the Dean" question from another current senior, like you, who worried that her Activities list might be woefully short. You can read how "The Dean" advised her.

Bottom line: If you're aiming for Ivies and those other hyper-selective places where the lion's share of applicants have near-perfect grades and test scores and thus where impressive extracurriculars can help accomplished candidates stand out in the crowd, your own short list of more personal pursuits might hurt your acceptance odds. But at most colleges and universities, the admission folks just want to see that you're doing something constructive with your time ... and they may even be relieved that it's not a something that they've already seen a gazillion times before!

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Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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