First question to ask yourself, what do you understand by extracurricular activities? Second, how do you interpret those activities in terms of expectations for your MBA applications?
It is a long-understood notion that MBA Admission Committees view applicant profiles subjectively, looking for no particular recipe and yet with the expectation that the applicant has something unique to offer. Extra-curricular ventures make setting that level of uniqueness possible.
Beyond the all objective approach, the MBA goals, essays, and especially the extra-curricular try-outs help to paint a personality of the applicant.
More importantly, your extracurriculars should answer some of these pertinent questions.
- What, if anything, did she do to show an interest in an activity?
- How passionate is she about her interests?
- How committed, or is there any commitment at all, towards an activity that is not related to her occupation or job?
The last point, in particular, highlights the essence of such activities. If you are willing to passionately pursue an interest outside your line of work, and that which doesn’t directly offer you any career incentives, you are someone who believes in a wholesome life experience.
Someone who is capable of involving himself in a creative process which is driven purely by passion.
Someone who doesn’t lack the initiative to step outside his comfort zone to try something new, and that you possess the capability to organize, manage your time, and lead yourself and others in situations that you are not otherwise necessarily required to do.
With that framework in place, let us explore what are some of the best ways you can embark on such activities that create the application edge for your MBA profile and sets you apart from other equally competitive candidates, in the best way possible.
What kind of Extra-Curricular Activities help your Profile?
Let us begin by putting a disclaimer in place. These are some of the most well-rounded suggestions and don’t indicate a sure-shot recipe to admission success. They represent individual efforts that may be appreciated by the adcoms – efforts that can vouch for your future management and leadership capabilities.
Volunteering and its likes for Social or Environmental or other impact
An all-time favourite, there is a clear motivation to be involved in activities directly or indirectly related to some form of charitable or environmental impact. You can volunteer to do the following –
- Teach underprivileged kids regularly or coach sports teams
- You can raise money through fundraising events for a cause
- Join and organize events that say clean up cities, or even those occasional oil-spills
- You can even volunteer to work for a non-profit in your spare time and think of engaging in ventures that can help your community at large.
The advantage of such pursuits lies in the ability to demonstrate a passion and commitment if undertaken for a consistently long period of time.
The impact can be measured and should be represented by the candidate with details, if available. What’s more, your undertakings can even be used to highlight your long-term career goals, through the particular skills you develop in the course of the extra-curricular activity.
How did your contribution help the motivation behind the activity?
What was your contribution quantitatively?
Can you highlight your leadership skills through the teaching, coaching, fundraising, and other events you organized?
How did you manage a group of pre-teen kids in the cricket training sessions?
How has it increased your capacity to manage and work in teams?
And so on.
Many corporates have CSR events that are usually aligned with some form of community work. You can engage in such CSR initiatives.
However, be mindful of looking beyond the comforts of your company organized volunteer events and take the initiative to work towards building these experiences outside of your work routine.
Your intention is to represent yourself as someone who doesn’t shy away from “pushing the envelope”, as Dartmouth Tuck’s Regional Director points out in this article – How important are extracurricular activities for MBA application essay?
Do you have a particular interest or hobby?
Does your extracurricular have to be altruistic by nature? Not necessarily. Adcoms may even find your interest in pursuing your passion, completely unrelated to your career goals or job, a fascinating facet of your personality.
They can be enchanted by the variety you bring to the school community with your out-of-the-box interests.
Do you fancy yourself a musician, a sports person, or an avid wildlife photographer? Commit yourself to those passions and develop your skills with an ardent discipline.
At the end of the day, during your MBA application, will you be able to stand your ground when facing the adcoms with questions like.
- Were you able to demonstrate your consistency in the pursuit of the interest?
- How can you measure the development and impact of the skills? Did you perform somewhere? Play at a competitive level? Teach others with competence?
- Did you manage to use your passion and diversify into other related activities, say form a musical band and organize events?
- Could you demonstrate the salient features of a business education, say management, team work, leadership, and initiative, through your hobby?
In other words, if you are able to show them a multi-dimensional facet of yourself, you have a fighting chance of impressing the adcoms into believing you are more than the books, job, and employee that you play in your everyday role.
Here are some other ideas and qualities you can explore for your extracurricular activities.
- Can you demonstrate a quality that is needed in a future leader through your activity? Qualities like organization, focus, and initiative – Have you organized a rally say for women’s or LGBTQ rights? Have you passionately worked for a cause that you hold dear?
- Do you take interest in activities that develop your skills that you feel are lacking otherwise, either by virtue of your nature or your job? Say, building on your creativity or communication skills if your everyday routine doesn’t give you the opportunity to explore them. Did you try your hand at public speaking by joining a club such as Toastmasters?
- Can you use your extracurricular to highlight personality traits that are not obviously evident in your application? Say, your lack of a global exposure through your job can be replaced by a study or interest that is particularly foreign to you. Did you try learning a foreign language? Did you join a university society, or other clubs, that explore diverse cultures, say a drama club following the works of global playwrights?
As has been the theme of this article, there is no particular golden recipe. Everything works in a holistic approach.
Put yourself in the shoes of your future Admission Committee members and ask yourself, how can I align my passions to make my candidature appealing. This inherently implies the total avoidance of deception.
You cannot fake an interest and you cannot simply make a good impression by not being true to yourself.
Extracurricular activities are essential but so is the need to not be random in their choice. Put some thought into what captivates your heart and soul and work at it towards something meaningful.
And if it is already too late and your MBA application is around the corner, don’t force yourself into an activity just for the sake of it.
Take a good look at your past and you may just find efforts that you had otherwise back-benched in your memory. Try and find ways to make your profile unique with what is existing instead of cooking something half-baked in the last minute.
How to write about extracurricular activities in your college application and resume
What this article covers is half the story. The remaining half is how effectively you use it in your applications.
That’s a stumbling block for many MBA and MS applicants who work with MBA Crystal Ball. They have a bunch of extracurricular activities with varying degrees of recency – some dating back to their school days.
Here’s a pro tip. Don’t feel compelled to squeeze in every hobby and event you’ve been part of into a laundry list.
Choose the ones that are the most relevant and impactful for the application. Decide whether it would be better suited to write it in your resume, or elaborate on it in your essays / SoP.
If that means, you end up dropping some interesting activities that you hold dear to your heart – so be it.
Get in touch with us if you are struggling to find ways in writing about your extra-curricular activities in your college application essays and SoPs. Or you have enough time to build your profile and aren’t sure how to go about it.
Read this article So you have no NGO, non-profit, or social work experience for your MBA essay?
Some related articles.
- How to write your MBA essays?
- Top MBA application tips from students and applicants
- How are MBA applicant profiles evaluated?