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Extracurriculars are very important at most of the top schools. Depending on the school, this can be community service, or possibly something else. The dean of admissions at Wharton has actually come out to say that community service is not viewed differently than other extracurricular activities. On the other hand, it is rumored that lack of do-gooder community service type stuff can kill your application at Kellogg and Stanford.
Shucks! I guess where I am coming from is that I have little community svc to speak of...e.g. charities work etc. What if one's work/family commitment is so heavy that it forbids him or her to do comm work? I hope this does not sound like an excuse. Some of us (I am not in the US) can clock up to 12 to 15 work hours day!
I can totally believe that people all around the world work 12-15 hours a day. I did it all the time when I worked in New York; in fact if I could get away with five 12-hour days and a half day on Saturday, it was a great week. 90-100+ hour weeks were not unusual. Difficult work schedules (long hours, lots of travel, etc.) can help explain a lack of extracurricular activities, but they will still look for activities that you were involved in while in college. The other thing to remember is that at the best schools, you will be competing against people that work hard and also have stellar outside achievements.
Kinda in the same situation as you. I had a ton of extra curr during college with leadership roles but ever since I started working (traveling 5 days out of the week), I was never able to dedicate myself in any program for extended periods of time. Most meetings were on weekdays anyways.
What I'm gonna do is address what I've done in college as a precursor of what I can bring to biz school. I think it'll be more effective this way than trying to spin weak extra currs after college.
HBS: Reimagining Capitalism: Business and Big Problems : Growing income inequality, poor or declining educational systems, unequal access to affordable health care and the fear of continuing economic distress...