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You can find a better version of my blog at http://www.adammarkus.com/blog/.

Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

May 07, 2008

How Important Are Extracurricular Activities for MBA Applicants?

Imagine the following scenario: You are filling out your MBA applications to Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Chicago, LBS, INSEAD, or any other MBA program, and you are asked to list your post-undergraduate extracurricular activities. You scratch your head, you break into a cold sweat, and wonder whether watching every episode of LOST, reading two science fiction novels a week, or giving blood once a year counts as an extracurricular activity. You begin to panic. What should you do?

I don't believe in lying and writing "NA" (Not Applicable) is an option I hope you can avoid. I have worked with applicants who try to add something completely new even during the year that they are applying and that is rarely effective. Instead try to find something with at least a year or more of activity before the date of your application. Over the years, I have found the following types of activities to be very effective for MBA applications (to get a sense of how they might be used, see my earlier post on MBA contribution essays):
-A volunteer activity related to your post-MBA goals
-A volunteer activity that allows for the development of leadership and/or teamwork experience
-A volunteer activity that puts you in contact with people who are quite different from you in terms of nationality, income level, and/or educational background
-An international volunteer or social activity
-Active involvement in an alumni organization
-A hobby that you are highly committed to that demonstrates something positive about your personality. Scuba diving, for example, is perfectly acceptable, as it reveals someone who is willing to take risks to explore the unknown. Watching TV is not because it reveals nothing positive about you.
-Active participation in a sports team
-A creative pursuit that leads to your book, film, poem, photograph etc. being published (even online publishing counts)
-Studying a foreign language that will relate to your post-MBA goals or personal goals

While it might be too late to start something completely new if you plan to apply for Fall 2009, it is not too late to do something that will add to an existing activity. For instance, if you are a member of an organization, volunteer to organize an activity or least participate in one. If you take pictures consider entering amateur contests such as those on Flickr.

If you are not planning to apply until Fall 2010 or later, you have time. In that case, find something outside of work to focus on. Whatever you select, I suggest you pick something that you are interested in and can be passionate about in your essays and interviews. Now go study GMAT!

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com.

-Adam Markus
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