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You should not be fearing the Extracurricular section on your resume/essays but instead leverage it. We'll walk through a few ideas and suggestions. However, you should customize them to your particular situation and story. Use these experiences to prove your point, show the person you are, illustrate what you believe in, and make you unique and special.
Why Are Extracurricular Activities Valuable?
Although it is largely dependent on your specific application, there are a number of benefits - use them!
Relevant EC (even loosely tied to your long term goal) can demonstrate the commitment to your field/goals adcoms are looking for. E.g. if you said in your apps you were really passionate about the environment but have never done anything about it, then perhaps you just like to say things....
On the other hand even irrelevant experience can show your personality
Your extracurricular (non job related) experience can help you strengthen your leadership picture. Even if you were a troop leader for boy scouts or in charge of a local clean up effort - all of that counts not only on paper but also will speak loudly through your application. But please do not make stuff up - admissions team will see right through that
Someone you have volunteered with or worked together on a project may end up being a good candidate for a Letter of Recommendation
You can use extracurricular activities to explain a few things such as an employment gap or poor academic record during one of the semesters
Extra curricular activities (whether volleyball or volunteering, or political work) can enrich your life, give you a new perspective, and contribute to your life in general
Community work can be incredibly substantial, especially if you have a long term goal to work in the non profit. Make sure your EC is relevant to the non profit industry and even a small stint can come to be quite useful there.
Even 2-3 months of community work can work pretty positively in your application. It makes you a human being, shows your passions and interests and gives an interesting take on your character by taking a necessary break from GPA figures, GMAT score and WE achievements.
I did not volunteer anywhere. But I do spend 10 hours a week helping with X/Y/Z. Is that EC?
YES, they can be. These X/Y/Z can add a lot more to your profile and say much more about you than a couple of weeks of community service could ever do really.
The goal of the AdCom 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?”
One misconception is that your extracurricular activities have to be altruistic. Admissions committee members and admissions consultants will tell you business schools are looking for applicants to participate in activities for which they are truly passionate. One of the successful applicants to Ross, was a really good DJ who was invited to may parties and made side income by being a DJ in some of the hippest parties in Madrid. As a matter of fact, Ross even advertised this on their website to encourage R2 2011 applicants. Another real applicant took care of exotic animals confiscated by the zoo and it worked out great for her too.
OMG. I have nothing. What can I do now?
From the Rhyme's MBA Guide I think the best way to think of extracurricular activities is to think of them as activities you engage in outside of work. This might include hobbies (e.g. restoring old cars, hiking the mountains), sports (softball team, etc.) more formal programs (being a big brother, volunteering at shelters, being part of your university recruiting efforts etc.). As you might imagine, leadership oriented involvement is more meaningful in any of these – so if you go hiking, do you act as the guide? If you volunteer at shelters do you take on a key role?
So the first step is to stop and think about things in those terms – and see if anything jumps out.
If you are part of some extracurricular program and want to try to take on a more leadership oriented role, just ask. In fact, you might even be able to make the role related to your goals – I know one candidate who approached a local dog shelter and offered to help them revisit their financials and marketing materials. They had plenty of people willing to look after the pets, but no one with business acumen to help out.
Assuming neither of those options worked – and the problem is purely a lack of activities completely… we need to get creative. Start with your alma mater and see if there are roles you can take on as an alumnus. (Many schools will have formal alumni recruiting efforts, even at the undergraduate level). If that fails to lead somewhere meaningful, try browsing http://meetup.com or http://www.craigslist.org for local interests groups. You can either start your own (which isn’t free, but it’s a small price to pay in the grand scheme), or you can join another group for free. Odds are, you’ll find something on meetup.com (everything from dumpster diving to xylophone fan clubs seem to exist). Either way, you can quickly become involved in something of consequence. Assuming neither of those ideas work out, start calling local charities and see how you can get involved. Admittedly, none of these strategies can fix a lack of extracurricular involvement in years past, but some involvement is still better than none.
Sign up for Toastmasters. It is a public speaking club that almost immediately can provide you with a number of leadership opportunities during the weekly meetings and give you a role of a VP within 3 months. It will help you with public speaking and interviewing, as well as with leadership and EC experience. Many people in the club can probably recommend other interesting local opportunities - they tend to be in the know
Do what you believe. You don't have to be a Mother Theresa. If you think the world needs more capitalists, find a local organization that teaches kids financial wisdom (google for one or search or see about starting it). Or if you want to save the world, you can probably do that as well in some way. AdComs love people with strong convictions (nobody likes a flip-flopper without a personality)
You are welcome to get involved with GMAT Club. We welcome moderator applicants and frankly will consider any crazy idea. Just contact us.
More discussions on GMATClub about Extracurricular Activies:
Re: Extracurricular Activities - What You Can Do [#permalink]
05 Dec 2012, 13:42
I wanted to add to this. I started the process of doing extra curricular activities in January, and as time passed by I was given additional responsibilities naturally (including being invited to a volunteer advisory board). What I learned is the following. 1. Start adding extras ASAP, however they won't look impressive until at least a few months in once you put in hard work. 2. Go outside the box, if you have a skill set approach the organization with that skill set, they might have something unique you can do. 3. There are more leadership opportunities at smaller organizations, also I have noticed that they are more unique, and people are more interested in them. 4. Finally another reason to start early, you simply have more time. I was able to invest a lot of time into my ECs early on, but as the app season started I had less and less time to invest.
It offers options for 1-12 Volunteer trips around the world for a number of causes, so if you have something you believe pretty strongly and want to demonstrate that to the adcom while having a great time, seems like a great opportunity.... and none of these are in Siberea. Actually quite impressive design and almost too good looking for a volunteer org; it is pricey it seems. About $3K for 2 weeks and $6K for 8 weeks excluding flights. _________________
Re: Extracurricular Activities - What You Can Do [#permalink]
26 Apr 2014, 18:52
Hello from the GMAT Club MBAbot!
Thanks to another GMAT Club member, I have just discovered this valuable topic, yet it had no discussion for over a year. I am now bumping it up - doing my job. I think you may find it valuable (esp those replies with Kudos).
Want to see all other topics I dig out? Follow me (click follow button on profile). You will receive a summary of all topics I bump in your profile area as well as via email.
Extracurricular Activities - What You Can Do [#permalink]
16 Sep 2015, 04:28
Thanks for all the advice. I am going to apply to colleges/universities soon and I am extremely confused. Can you tell me if the following instances are relevant while mentioning extra-curricular activities?
1. Consistently involved in drawing, singing and other cultural activities almost all through school (I have awards and certificates for the performances but I don't have a document to prove I was the House Captain in charge of these activities for a year. And people say school is not relevant.) 2. Had two blogs active from 2008 to 2014 (college to office years) though towards the end I wasn't consistent. Put up my sketches there, as well as on Facebook. Also I have stories and poems apart from random posts. (Should I delete the extremely rambling ones?) 3. Designed posters for blood donation camp in second/third year of college where around 200 people attended. (Didn't donate as I'm almost anemic.) I don't have a proof as such but I do have pictures uploaded by my friend on Facebook. 4. Helped out one of the organizers of Rainbow Pride Parade in our city in 2012 with translation of documents which she later used for posters. I have the messages regarding the same. Had she asked for it again I would have helped more but that never happened. So, this became more of a one time thing, sadly. 5. Learned Spanish just because I wanted to for a few months in 2012. I have the certificate for it. Then joined a language website "Livemocha" for practicing and helped out other people with English and/or Hindi practice. 6. Used to donate to Greenpeace shortly after I joined office but then stopped because all sorts of controversial news started pouring in about them. Also donated to relief funds for Nepal earthquake. Recently donated to an NGO dealing with girl child education. But I don't think this counts. Everyone donates, and this sounds mostly childish.
I have very limited extra curricular stuff as I used to have a 15 hour long schedule when it came to weekdays and weekends I couldn't bear to go out. Also, I'm good at only sketching which is not exactly a team activity sort of thing.
Extracurricular Activities - What You Can Do
16 Sep 2015, 04:28
Check out this awesome article about Anderson on Poets Quants, http://poetsandquants.com/2015/01/02/uclas-anderson-school-morphs-into-a-friendly-tech-hub/ . Anderson is a great place! Sorry for the lack of updates recently. I...