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Making Your Activity Essay Come Alive

Written by CB Experts

The activity essay may be the most difficult essay you write.  Although it is no longer required as part of the Common App, it still may appear as a college specific essay. It is usually short, so you must choose your points and budget your words carefully; it must engage the reader quickly; and it must tell a part of your “story” succinctly. Here are a few pointers to give life and uniqueness to this essay.

1. There was probably an “aha” moment in your life that led to your interest in this activity. Look back into your childhood for a significant event that led you to pursue it. A wonderfully descriptive narrative of the event that appeals to the reader’s senses should comprise your opening paragraph. Perhaps you encountered a homeless person as a child, and it led you to volunteering at a food pantry or shelter; perhaps you had a frightening experience in the water that led you to swimming lessons and, ultimately, competitive swimming; maybe you saw a movie or a television show that sparked your interest in a political or social movement. Telling this story in a short but vivid paragraph will immediately capture your “audience.”
2. Your second paragraph should provide a brief summary of your experiences while engaging in this activity, with an eye toward how they have impacted your development as a person. Merely describing your participation will be meaningless and boring. Perhaps working at a shelter or volunteering at a hospital has broadened your understanding of the suffering of others and made you far more grateful for your own circumstances; athletic competition has most certainly impacted your ability to set goals and commit to their accomplishment; maybe your volunteer work has cemented your selection of a major field of study and career path.
3. The third, and probably final paragraph should look to the future. What extensions of this activity will be available to you as a college student and as an adult?…


This article was contributed by Eileen Archer. Eileen Archer is currently a resident blogger and a chief writer at After obtaining a Masters in English language she decided to dedicate her time to creative writing as well as providing assistance to students. She spends her free time reading, writing poetry and studying for a PhD in an art-related field.

To finish reading this article and find out how to get everything in in only 250 words, go to the College Basics.

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CB Experts

Content created by retired College Admissions consultants.