Common App Activities Section: What If I’m Not A Joiner?

Some students onboard with me as early as freshman year in high school to have curriculum and activity guidance even though applying to college is still on the horizon.

One such student recently confided, “I’m not a joiner.”

I loved this proclamation for two reasons: first, it showed me that the student has self-awareness; and second, having this knowledge allows me to be a more effective coach. We’re now identifying extracurriculars that might help him take risks and discover that he’s perhaps more of a joiner than he now thinks he is.

As students aim to fill the 10 opportunities to list extracurricular interests within the Common Application Activities Section, here are a few tips for students who might be group or team activity-adverse:

Solo Sports & Activities

There are many physical activities that promote mind-body health and awareness that don’t focus on team dynamics. No one chooses a captain or MVP in martial arts, weightlifting or hiking for example. When a student says that they hate sports, often what they mean is they’re uncomfortable with the competitive aspects of traditional sports team management and hierarchy not that they hate moving their bodies. A wonderful side effect of discovering a comfortable fitness “fit” is the endorphin-dopamine boost that exercise provides. It can offer a huuuuuge stress relief for teens.

Online Academic Classes and Research Opportunities

I’ve had many students take classes or conduct research at local or global universities and organizations where they’ve made digital BFFs from their peer group. These virtual friendships, like those made by many of my students who play online games, are valuable in terms of social engagement both now and for networking in later life. Gone are the days when IRL friendships were more meaningful than those created and nurtured from afar. Both types are rewarding in different ways.


One of my students who wasn’t finding satisfaction in the extracurricular options at his school decided to start his own club. Sometimes the anxiety of becoming a member of an established club or group activity is too great and similarly, sometimes a student is more suited to lead than to follow. In both instances, chartering their own club can be the perfect solution while demonstrating leadership and responsibility — two valuable attributes that colleges appreciate in applicants.

For more information about College Counseling/Essay Coaching, please drop me a line at or give me a holler at 917-863-2424. Also, for “news you can use,” please check out my blog, videos, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.