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Which is the best extracurricular activity for college admissions

Best extracurricular activity for college admissions

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.

If you have any further queries, drop us a mail at info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com and we’ll take it from there.
Sources: 1, 2, 3

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

8 thoughts on “Which is the best extracurricular activity for college admissions”

  1. Hi,
    I am an IT professional with BE Electronics degree and working in TCS for 3.5yrs. Also I started an executive PGP course in Business Analytics from Great Lakes and UT Austin, so as to transition my career internally in TCS, the course will complete in May 2020, and my experience at that time will be 4.5yrs.
    So now I am in a dilemma that shall I give GMAT now and try for ISB Hyderabad for 2020 admission or I must get the internal switch first, work as Business Analyst for a year and along with that give GMAT and appear for ISB 2021.
    Also I sometimes wonder about abroad options but couldn’t take courage for MBA since by background is technical as of now.
    What should be better for me please suggest. I have three things in my mind. Or do you have any fourth alternative?
    Waiting desperately for your reply

  2. I have a 5 years gap post schooling. I initially took admission in a college to study B.Sc. But I didn’t like the curriculum . I couldn’t relate to it. As a result of that I failed in my first two attempts to clear Year 1 of degree course. I stuck to it though and continued with the same course. At the same time I also started supervising Uncle’s Civil Engineering firm and found it rather practical (though not full time ). This gave a new direction and clarity on what I wanted to do. I found I don’t like the course I am pursuing. Setting aside all positives and negatives, I quit the course in the 3rd year and gave entrance and took admission in a reputed Engineering college. Last year I completed my B.Tech degree in Civil Engineering successfully with 81% aggregate . Currently I am preparing for CAT and working in a Reputed company from Ceramic Industry.
    Do you think , will that 5 years of academic gap play a role on MBA admission eligibility and how should I explain my gap in a better way ?

  3. Hi I am pinky from India I have completed my BSC agriculture here I want to do my msc agriculture in abroad can anyone please help me with the best nd top colleges

  4. HI my name is Prasanth I have to complete MBA in this year but what I’m doing next steps 1,job.r 2 course Iam fully confused my Specilatizaton are marketing, HR

  5. @Subhankar: If you’re getting to transition from a technical role to a business role without an MBA, go ahead with it. An MBA can come back in the picture after a couple of years when you’re ready for a bigger jump.

    @Raghava: Tough to say, since it depends on the student’s strengths and interests. Check out the syllabus to see what an MBA curriculum covers and decide for yourself:

    @Suyash: Read this to learn how to handle gaps in your education and career in MBA applications:

    @Pinky: Sorry, no idea!

    @afai: Read this article where we’ve covered the top masters degrees in demand to secure your future:

    @Prasanth: Here’s how to select an MBA specialisation:

  6. HI,
    I am An MBA , I have 9 yrs of experience in IT recruitment work for all the levels of IT jobs, Expertise in IT recruitment , team handling
    I want to change my career path, I want to know what will be best option for me, which field i should take up, in Tech industry, More keen on SAP, or any developer role, will try to get certified if needed


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