As per Poets&Quants, MBA applications increased significantly in 2020-21 in 19 out of 25 top business schools.
Your MBA application can make or break your chances of landing a coveted spot in a top-tier business school. Hence there is no room for error! It’s your only chance to show the admissions officers you are someone with a special spark.
But how do they identify stand-out candidates from the competitive pool of applicants? Apart from impressive test scores and achievements, the admissions committee (Adcom) places great emphasis on you as a person. What makes you unique? What are your passions? What positive contributions can you bring to the community? What differentiates you from the pack?
Elements of a Successful MBA Application
Business schools look for individuals with a burning passion, leadership qualities, focus, excellent communicative skills, work experience, extracurriculars, and realistic career goals, to name a few.
So, what constitutes a successful MBA application? What elements can strengthen it to help capture attention?
The document should be well-crafted, honest, provide a peek into your personality, highlight your assets as well as interests, and exhibit your potential for future success. In short, provide such an engaging perspective that vows admission officers and compels them to say, “we’ve got to have this student in the program”.
Role of Extracurricular Activities in MBA Applications
Extracurricular activities play a vital role in the admission process. Though not as significant as academic credentials and work experience, they can improve an individual’s MBA candidacy, especially when the test scores are marginally low. Impressive extracurriculars provide the admission team with a sense of valuable skills you have acquired through various experiences.
Watch this video, where I share how to get into a Harvard Business School
Coming back, B-schools are on the lookout for people who are passionate about a cause, take initiatives, collaborate, and are actively engaged in contributing to their communities. In other words, someone who has the ability to juggle multiple tasks and a career with deftness after graduation.
What Constitutes as Extracurriculars?
Extracurriculars are interests pursued beyond the classroom setting that can help boost confidence and enhance your overall personal development. Apart from exhibiting your talents, capabilities, and character traits, they provide Adcoms with a glimpse at who you are and what you are passionate about. The list of extracurriculars is endless. Volunteerism is especially popular. Other activities that can be added to the application resume include college sports, creative arts, hobbies, music distinctions, community service, internships, leadership positions in clubs, student newspapers, etc.
List of Extracurricular Activities MBA Applicants Can Choose
The list can be quite extensive. However, you can zero down on the extracurricular activity of your choice by segregating these category-wise. Some of the examples of popular activities are listed below-
|Internships and Employment
|Interning in a Company
|Animal Rescue and Shelter
|Working at a Local Store
|Local Development and Welfare
|Working in Government Programs
|Clean the Community Drives
Extracurricular Activities that Admission Officers Love
There is no one extracurricular activity that the Adcom loves. Admission officers are looking for exceptional qualities in their prospective students. Occupying a leadership position in a student government association can capture attention. Participation in creative arts like music, drama, painting, photography is viewed as an asset. Internship experience that demonstrates responsibility, aptitude, and maturity is valued. Students making a meaningful contribution to the campus by supporting activities that promote diversity and culture are considered a plus point. Great importance is attached to sports which display traits like teamwork, dedication, competitiveness, and zeal. And yes, any form of community or voluntary service is appreciated.
Choosing the Right Extracurricular Activity
MBA applicants can be overwhelmed when it comes to choosing the right extracurricular activity. How do you know which one should you go for? Will it benefit you in your MBA application? Just follow this step-by-step guide to choose the right activity.
- Step #1- List Down Your Inclinations, Interests and Hobbies: Don’t think too much in this stage. List down what do you connect with the most. Is it a sport or social activism, or playing an instrument?
- Step #2- Find Clubs and Groups with Shared Likes: Once you have listed down your areas of interest, list down all the active clubs and groups that share your interest. In this stage, make sure you look for credible and yet active groups and clubs.
- Step #3- Explore and Join a Few Clubs: Join a few clubs and explore the activities for a few days. Doing this will help you understand the activities and causes you connect with the most.
- Step #4- Find the Sweet Spot: Choose a few activities and zero down on them. These activities should be of your interest and should be something where you can create a significant impact. Lastly, it should be helping you directly or indirectly towards your career goals.
- Step #5- Weed Out: It’s natural to lose interest in some clubs and groups as you get deeper into them. Instead of wasting time on these, dedicate time to a cause that you really believe in.
- Step #6- Create an Impact: There will be 1 or 2 groups or clubs which is of your interest and is contributing to your growth as well. Make sure you work towards completion and participate in creating a lasting impact.
Watch this video where I share some insights on extracurricular activities for MBA applicants-
Important Tips to Highlight Extracurriculars in Your MBA Application
The admission committee sifts through countless applications a day. The question is how your extracurriculars can provide that competitive edge. The mantra is to highlight them strategically to catch the eye of the officers. Here are a few tips.
- Identify Leadership Qualities: If you have enjoyed a leadership position in a student organization, share the responsibilities, management skills, and lessons you learned during your tenure. Clearly state how the stint helped you interact, collaborate and bond with students. If you organized a special event or accomplished specific goals narrate interesting details from the experience to showcase the additional skills you have acquired.
- Demonstrate Engagement with Community: Some causes like fundraisers and charity work are terrific options that demonstrate you have the initiative and passion for helping others and the confidence to plan projects methodically. Do not hesitate to emphasize the impact and the difference your involvement made to the community.
- Exhibit Work Experience: An internship provides industry exposure and a chance to face real-life challenges. Make sure to list tasks you were entrusted with alongside special projects you worked on. It will give the admission team insight into your abilities and the hands-on experience gained on the professional level.
- Link with Career Goals: If you have been part of an academic club, link it to the program you are keen on pursuing. It shows your commitment to your career goal. Moreover, mention your position in the club, especially if you were a leader.
- Connect to Specific Traits: Activities like athletics convey teamwork, traits in time management, determination, and dedication to excellence. Creative pursuits reveal a range of interests. Mentioning details like you were the captain of a sports team or president of a drama club provides the admissions committee with some insight into your persona.
A résumé brimming with professional accomplishments and academic credentials but lacking in extracurriculars may not be considered robust enough to arouse interest. If you want to nail the MBA application, it’s crucial to add a new dimension to your candidacy by reflecting your personality in a better light.
Join an NGO, teach underprivileged kids, sign-up with a local entrepreneurs’ club, volunteer for an animal shelter, start playing a sport, join the debate team, organize fundraising events, or take up volunteer work on a regular basis. Remember, whatever cause or activity you choose, make sure it genuinely interests you.
Good luck, and get started right away! Your extracurricular activities could be the missing piece in the puzzle to getting the interview invite!