Extracurricular activities are common buzzwords in MBA application forums, but candidates are often left confused when it comes to key factors such as what type of extracurricular activities to choose and the importance of having them. This article will discuss the value of extracurricular activities to an applicant’s profile and provide further insight into what the admissions committees are seeking.
First the short answer: Yes, any MBA applicant should have extracurricular activities on their resume/CV. “ECs” demonstrate a well-rounded candidate that is passionate and active in all of their endeavors. Volunteerism is especially valuable to an MBA application; several of the top business schools rank community involvement as a key factor in the candidates they seek. In addition, other activities such as sports and other hobbies may supply other accomplishments which can be added to the application resume, and provide more material to share in the application itself: certainly most of the essays and interview examples will focus on workplace scenarios, yet candidates can stand out from their peers by speaking to the occasional task or accomplishment in other settings.
However the good news is that there isn’t a “right” or a “wrong” extracurricular activity or organization. Instead, select charities and activities that are genuinely interesting to you, or those that align with your goals. Keep in mind the traits business schools are seeking such as leadership, teamwork, and creativity, and look for opportunities to demonstrate these skills, much like you are at work. A common example I share with future candidates is the animal shelter example: as an animal lover I hope that many people will volunteer to help care for the animals, however look for ways that you can uniquely contribute to the organization. In addition to walking the dogs, could you use your accounting or finance degree to serve as treasurer and help them manage their budgets, apply for grants, and find donors? Would your production line experience help them to streamline their processes, leading to reduced expenses and more rescued animals?
Admissions committees want to see that you are using your education and experience to contribute not only to your employer, but to society. As an entrepreneur, could you join the board of a local young entrepreneurs club and donate your time to coaching future business owners? As an accomplished college basketball player, could you now coach a basketball team for underprivileged youth on weekends? Don’t worry about the name brand or specific activity; instead focus on how you can contribute, on an ongoing basis. Avoid simply joining “one-off” events like a marathon here and a bake sale there – instead serve on the committee that organizes these events, start a new chapter of the organization, etc.
Extracurricular activities like volunteerism and hobbies can help you to stand out from other applicants, by demonstrating both passion for various mediums and skills like leadership and teamwork beyond the cubicle. The good news is, rather than choosing the “right” activity or organization; you can truly follow your heart and invest in the causes and activities that interest you, leading to achievements and experiences worth speaking to in your MBA application. Good luck, and get involved!