When it comes the MBA admissions process, university committees look at six categories; standardized tests (GMAT, TOEFL & IELTS), academic records, work experience, essays, letters of recommendation and activities. Out of the 6 aspects of your profile that are reviewed, extracurricular activities present an excellent opportunity for you to stand out from your peers.
Today, we focus on extracurricular activities and the role they play in the MBA admissions process.
What do Extracurricular Activities show the Universities?
The goal of MBA programs is to prep students for leadership roles in the business world. Among other things, they need students to be able to multitask. Whether you are enrolled in an undergraduate program or working full time, if you are excelling and pursuing extracurriculars it is an indicator that you are able to multitask.
Whether leading potential recruits through NCC at school, handling logistics for a college fest, organizing a summit, representing your alma mater in national-level sports competitions – your skills in management, leadership and your ability to work well within a team setting are underscored via your participation in ECA. These thus, become an excellent indicator of your potential as a future leader.
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Be it taking the initiative to start an activity Club in college or conceptualizing and launching an initiative to address a pressing social issue (CSR at work), your ability to take initiative and to work independently are important qualities.
For potential applicants who are gainfully employed but at a junior or a technical role, you may not be in a position to show these important skills through key responsibilities. However, via an ECA you can highlight qualities needed to earn you that coveted spot in an MBA program.
Why do Universities care?
MBA colleges celebrate diversity. Rankings are also in part, based on the diversity each School achieves. Since every unique talent and interest, you share augments diversity within and outside the classroom, admitting students with varied ECA experience allows MBA colleges to add to their students’ experience while simultaneously boosting their own rankings.
What is an extracurricular and how do I categorize them?
An extracurricular activity can include your hobbies, school clubs, groups, as well as volunteer work you may perform. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an extracurricular is defined as “lying outside one’s regular duties or routine” and “not falling within the scope of a regular curriculum (of school)” which leaves an almost endless list of possible ECAs. Think outside the box! If you have little to no ECAs, don’t be disheartened. You probably do have a hobby that you have been consistently involved with; find a way to represent it.
While selecting your ECAs, do not be quick to add everything. Pick and choose what you want to include, make sure it reflects the best of what you bring, and remember to include variety. Diversity is important! To organize your ECAs and keep from being repetitive, you might start by making a list and putting each one in categories:
Different types of categorizations
- grade school, college & work
Attempt to have some of each ECA type included to give a fuller picture of you.
- List your ECAs by ‘when’ during grade/ senior school, Bachelors or post-Bachelors, while you have been working etc.
- Note which was individual or team related.
- Highlight significant ECAs from grade school time. Perhaps you held a leadership role or a title in an Olympiad. Including these indicate your involvement and loyalty to the school.
- history vs depth
- Individual or group/team
ECAs can fall under history, depth or even both. An activity that you perform repeatedly such as organizing a set monthly event for a club you have been a member for years, would highlight history. By combining each contribution under one entry saves space on your resume, stops you from repeating yourself and establishes a stable history of what you have accomplished.
If you have been part of something infrequently, such as volunteering to set up a blood or clothing drive for the community could show your depth of character, along with your ability to lead, and work as a unit among other qualities.
Where and how do I show ECAs?
To present your ECAs, there are more options available today than previously. Aside from the more traditional ways like adding details to your essays, CV and/or LORs, you are able to turn your passions into a vlog or a blog. Considering that sincerity and passion are rarely adequately conveyed in written form, you might choose to include details in your essay and use a website, blog, vlog or other formats to emphasize.
- If your hobby is singing, you can make a youtube channel where you could upload short videos of you singing at competitions, events, or around the house even.
- If you enjoy travel you could have a blog about where your travels have taken you.
Make sure your content is interesting, do not bore the committee. Reading through the applications and all the papers that correspond, is what the committee members are doing all day, every day. When your blog or vlog starts sounding and looking like the ones before, it will not be memorable. So, take it a step further and engage your audience, draw them into what you are passionate about and how that reflects on your potential to contribute to the program.
Examples: Let’s say you travel and have kept a blog of where you went and what you saw. A step further could be to incorporate pictures, add some cultural facts about the location and turn your trip into an event.
Those minor additions can transform your blog from “one of many” to one that “stands out” from another potential student that might be sharing the same hobby with the university. It is well worth the effort to take those extra steps with your ECAs. Of course, it is also important to remember to copyright and/or digitally sign any content/ pictures prior to posting on the net.
One last look
The role your extracurricular activities play in the MBA admissions process is multifaceted. It can give a very good idea of your individual skills, abilities and the inner qualities you possess. Bringing another level of your heterogeneity to the attention of the committee is never negative, it will only give another reason for them to positively consider your application. Therefore, putting the extra effort to stand out through ECAs can only be a prudent step.
A word of Caution
For potential applicants who not have many or even any extracurricular activities to date, don’t be disheartened. It is never too late to begin!
You can have fruitful results, even if you do not start until you begin your GMAT preparations. If your attitude towards extracurriculars is cavalier and you have nothing to share, no matter how minute, you will give a poor impression of yourself. Equally, you cannot hide the “length” of your involvement. So it’s important to also reflect on the “why” and offset the negative with a reasonable explanation.
An important aspect to note would be for you to not ‘fudge’ your extracurriculars. If you have none or find that you only have a few – you can improve on the ones you do have. Remember quality over quantity!
Making things up never works out, and it mars your reputation. If you keep in mind that you can demonstrate important traits and skills through work-related responsibilities, there is no reason to ‘pad the application with ECAs.’
If you need further persuading, remember that eventually, you will be interviewing before the committee and ECAs are discussed and questioned in depth. Dishonesty in any form, in any portion of your application, is grounds for automatic rejection.
Watch, Importance of Extra-curricular activities in an MBA application
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