Because it’s the time of year when applicants aiming for Fall 2012 intake are just beginning to think about the admissions process, we wanted to focus today on one element of the application that candidates often underestimate: extracurricular activities.
In order to understand why this category is important, candidates should keep in mind that the adcom is responsible for crafting a dynamic class each year. The aim is to admit individuals who will support a vibrant campus community and step into leadership positions. In other words, as admissions officers consider each applicant, they ask themselves “what’s in it for our school?” An applicant who has previously demonstrated a talent for writing, for example, by contributing to a non-profit’s newsletter, will really catch the adcom’s attention if she also expresses her intent to contribute to a specific publication on campus.
Volunteering is of course a great way to expand one’s extracurricular involvement. However, many applicants participate in the occasional fundraising walk or an annual corporate outreach day; those who demonstrate ongoing involvement in one cause or organization will be of special interest to the admissions committee, especially if it is related to their current or future career. A candidate who has contributed over a longer period is likely to have developed his or her responsibilities beyond ladling soup or stuffing envelopes. What’s more, this can be a particularly important opportunity for applicants who are currently living and working outside of their home countries; for example, an Indian applicant who works and volunteers in Africa will stand out as being particularly engaged and well-adapted to his or her foreign environment.
Candidates who are older or younger than the average applicant should recognize that their extracurricular involvement is particularly important. A younger applicant who lacks leadership responsibilities at work might demonstrate his talent for motivating others outside of the office. Meanwhile, older applicants can use their extracurricular involvement to reassure the adcom that, despite family responsibilities or distance in age from one’s classmates, the broader life of the community remains important to them.
Lastly, applicants will have a much easier time writing their application essays if they have a variety of experiences from which to draw. While applicants can certainly respond to most essay prompts by reflecting on their professional experiences, relying exclusively on one’s work is a mistake. With each essay, the applicant should aim to share a different side of him or herself – submitting five essays about electrical engineering or investment banking is not the most effective way to do this.
We hope that this sheds some light on the opportunities and value that activities outside of work provide with respect to one’s b-school candidacy and applications. Should you find that area of your application lacking upon reflection, the good news is that there’s still plenty of time to address this before the deadlines. Whether that means volunteering your professional services to a local non-profit, joining a community mentoring organization or brushing up on your competitive square dancing, Class of 2012 aspirants should aim to make this an especially active and productive spring and summer!
Interested in a free assessment of your candidacy? Feel free to send your CV or resume to firstname.lastname@example.org.