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Teach me about extracurricular activities (4 questions)

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Joined: 08 Jan 2012
Posts: 48
Concentration: Technology, Other
Schools: MIT Sloan - Class of 2015
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Teach me about extracurricular activities (4 questions) [#permalink] New post 19 Feb 2012, 03:05
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Hi gmatclub,

I understand that extracurricular activities (EA) can make up an important part of an application, especially in the case of a "standard" applicant (e.g. undergrad + so-so GPA + a handful of years in some industry position). These have been described, not by me but by others, as "one-dimensional" and EA is an easily accessible avenue through which such applicants can stand out from a sea of similarly accomplished applicants that adcoms must sift through each round. I have found many helpful and insightful guides and opinions regarding EA and EA options in the context of the standard applicant.

However, when it comes to non-traditional applicants my research has been unsuccessful. This is the gist of my application:

I am an internationally awarded bioinformatics (specifically, computational genetics) PhD, MSc from a world-leading biomedical research university in the US; I have business strategy, thought leadership and research lead roles in Big3 Pharma; I am working on vaccines, antibiotics, cancer therapy and other drug classes that haven't even emerged in the market yet; I am a published author and I am a patent holder. I just took my GMAT and got a 730 (q49;v41); I don't think I will retake the exam.

So now I'm turning my attention to the EA part of my application and I am lost:

1. I want to focus on the two things that will make the greatest impact on my application given my non-traditional background. Am I correct in identifying EA (e.g. volunteering/community service) as one area that will enhance my particular app? Perhaps the other is demonstrating rapid professional growth within my company (e.g. through rapid promotions or take on added responsibilities).

2. Will timing be held against me? Looking at the dates, anyone interested will see that I didn't start my more recent EA until after my GMAT, which may render my efforts superficial.

3. Are there EA that are generally frowned upon? For example, I work with prison inmates to develop their education and career planning. But is working with inmates seen as a risk?

4. What characteristics of EA "wow" adcoms? Stepping outside of my comfort zone? (e.g. given my science background, would organizing a county Science Fair be a good thing? or would that be too in-line with my training? Wouldn't adcom like to see something that requires me to have stepped completely out of my comfort zone?).

Thank you!
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Current Student
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Joined: 08 Jan 2012
Posts: 48
Concentration: Technology, Other
Schools: MIT Sloan - Class of 2015
GMAT 1: 730 Q49 V41
GPA: 3.8
Followers: 1

Kudos [?]: 9 [0], given: 3

Re: Teach me about extracurricular activities (4 questions) [#permalink] New post 20 Feb 2012, 04:55
:( no one has advice?
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Re: Teach me about extracurricular activities (4 questions) [#permalink] New post 20 Feb 2012, 05:08
Hi Ichinichi! I have a question, which will help me answer yours.. Will you be picking up an activity solely to get in to school, or are you looking to do something becuase its meaningful to you as an individual, outside of whether or not you attend business school.
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Posts: 48
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Re: Teach me about extracurricular activities (4 questions) [#permalink] New post 20 Feb 2012, 10:18
mbalady wrote:
Hi Ichinichi! I have a question, which will help me answer yours.. Will you be picking up an activity solely to get in to school, or are you looking to do something becuase its meaningful to you as an individual, outside of whether or not you attend business school.


I have three volunteer positions lined up, each of which are immensely important to me personally. These three issues are disparate and broad in scope:
1. the environment
2. helping less fortunate citizens get back on their feet
3. guiding the development of young scientists

But my time is limited. Hence, this thread. Which do I focus on to best compliment my background? For example, I am going back to school after having demonstrated my scientific ability; perhaps adcoms look to my EA as a chance to reflect my interest in non-science - so options 1 and 2 above would demonstrate that I have a broad range of interests outside of science. However, option 3 could be interpreted as my not being really committed to a switch from science because I continue to dedicate my free time to developing future scientists. If this is the case, I would focus on 1 and 2 and step back from 3.

Ultimately, I am not going to save the world and I do not have the time I'd like to give to all these causes that are important to me, so I am trying to leverage my upcoming application to help me decide how to prioritize these three opportunities.
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Re: Teach me about extracurricular activities (4 questions) [#permalink] New post 20 Feb 2012, 10:30
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Ichinichi wrote:
mbalady wrote:
Hi Ichinichi! I have a question, which will help me answer yours.. Will you be picking up an activity solely to get in to school, or are you looking to do something becuase its meaningful to you as an individual, outside of whether or not you attend business school.


I have three volunteer positions lined up, each of which are immensely important to me personally. These three issues are disparate and broad in scope:
1. the environment
2. helping less fortunate citizens get back on their feet
3. guiding the development of young scientists

But my time is limited. Hence, this thread. Which do I focus on to best compliment my background? For example, I am going back to school after having demonstrated my scientific ability; perhaps adcoms look to my EA as a chance to reflect my interest in non-science - so options 1 and 2 above would demonstrate that I have a broad range of interests outside of science. However, option 3 could be interpreted as my not being really committed to a switch from science because I continue to dedicate my free time to developing future scientists. If this is the case, I would focus on 1 and 2 and step back from 3.

Ultimately, I am not going to save the world and I do not have the time I'd like to give to all these causes that are important to me, so I am trying to leverage my upcoming application to help me decide how to prioritize these three opportunities.


Don't pick ECs based on what an adcom will think. Do what you want to do. The quality of experience will be a natural output of your level of commitment and that is what will impress the adcom, not the activity itself.
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Re: Teach me about extracurricular activities (4 questions) [#permalink] New post 20 Feb 2012, 12:58
I have to agree with my girl Cheetarah. Don't make decisions based on how it will make you look to an adcom member. If you do so, you may totally miss the point.

YOU define how valuable your ECs are; there is no calculation/algorithm behind something like this. Do whatever it is you feel like you are supposed to do - do what you feel is most meaningful to you. Writing about THAT in an essay or speaking to THAT in an interview will come naturally, and your passion/affinity for it will be evident. Don't stress about dates/timelines or any other formalities.

Do whatever it is you would do in a heartbeat even if you didnt have bshcool applications ahead of you.
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Re: Teach me about extracurricular activities (4 questions) [#permalink] New post 20 Feb 2012, 13:13
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OP- I totally get it. You've got several activities you are interested in, but at the same time, you want to maximize your admission to a top MBA program. You don't have time to do all three, but you do want to do that one activity that will provide the most bang for your buck. Clearly, each activity is important to you and no one activity outshines the other. So to help you choose an activity (we're not going to pick one for you), I'll ask several questions:

1) Which activity would you do if you were not applying to MBA programs?

2) Which activity best supports your short and long term goals?

3) Which activity would you enjoy doing the most?

Hopefully, one activity will clearly emerge as the winner. And hopefully, based on the feedback provided by the previous posters, you'll have the confidence to pursue it without regard to what adcoms will think.

Ichinichi wrote:
mbalady wrote:
Hi Ichinichi! I have a question, which will help me answer yours.. Will you be picking up an activity solely to get in to school, or are you looking to do something becuase its meaningful to you as an individual, outside of whether or not you attend business school.


I have three volunteer positions lined up, each of which are immensely important to me personally. These three issues are disparate and broad in scope:
1. the environment
2. helping less fortunate citizens get back on their feet
3. guiding the development of young scientists

But my time is limited. Hence, this thread. Which do I focus on to best compliment my background? For example, I am going back to school after having demonstrated my scientific ability; perhaps adcoms look to my EA as a chance to reflect my interest in non-science - so options 1 and 2 above would demonstrate that I have a broad range of interests outside of science. However, option 3 could be interpreted as my not being really committed to a switch from science because I continue to dedicate my free time to developing future scientists. If this is the case, I would focus on 1 and 2 and step back from 3.

Ultimately, I am not going to save the world and I do not have the time I'd like to give to all these causes that are important to me, so I am trying to leverage my upcoming application to help me decide how to prioritize these three opportunities.
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Re: Teach me about extracurricular activities (4 questions) [#permalink] New post 20 Feb 2012, 13:14
mbalady wrote:
I have to agree with my girl Cheetarah. Don't make decisions based on how it will make you look to an adcom member. If you do so, you may totally miss the point.

YOU define how valuable your ECs are; there is no calculation/algorithm behind something like this. Do whatever it is you feel like you are supposed to do - do what you feel is most meaningful to you. Writing about THAT in an essay or speaking to THAT in an interview will come naturally, and your passion/affinity for it will be evident. Don't stress about dates/timelines or any other formalities.

Do whatever it is you would do in a heartbeat even if you didnt have bshcool applications ahead of you.


Off topic - Girl, your profile looks like a field of grass. Green everywhere! Congrats on all the admits.
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Re: Teach me about extracurricular activities (4 questions) [#permalink] New post 20 Feb 2012, 15:01
Mine, on the other hand, looks like someone threw up a rainbow in my profile.
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Re: Teach me about extracurricular activities (4 questions) [#permalink] New post 21 Feb 2012, 08:55
Hi Ichinichi, you have a very interesting profile! I would say not to worry too much about the EA part of the application, because you already stand out or differentiate yourself with your profile only. In my opinion, you should spend most of your energy showing why your goals are realistic, and how you would succeed if changing career. If the EA is geared towards your post MBA goals, then excellent.

So I think your EA won't be as heavy part of the admission process as it would be for a traditional applicant.

Anyway, if you want to get involved into something to be able to show in the application process, doesn't matter what activity you finally choose, try to get into a leadership role. There's a world of difference if you get into an environment activity, for example, cleaning the sand of the beach as a team member, vs doing the same as a team leader/organizer.
Re: Teach me about extracurricular activities (4 questions)   [#permalink] 21 Feb 2012, 08:55
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