Do This if You Have No Extracurricular Activities
Today in the U.S., we commemorate the life and teachings of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The federal holiday is also known as a day of service. The goal is to encourage all people to volunteer and do something that will improve their communities. With that in mind, we encourage future MBA applicants with limited extracurricular involvement to think about how they can make a meaningful difference to those around them.
The process of pulling together your MBA application materials will consume much of your life in the coming months as you focus on how to best position yourself. If you’ve taken on leadership roles in volunteer organizations or have actively engaged with a nonprofit you’re passionate about, make sure you play up that angle in your materials. But what if you’ve done nothing on that front? No volunteering, no extracurricular involvement—nada.
Is your MBA candidacy doomed?
Not necessarily. Admissions committees understand that for some people, it’s hard to have meaningful involvement in an organization outside of work. That often happens with applicants whose jobs, pre-COVID, constantly kept them on the road. Or, maybe their typical workday doesn’t even afford them the opportunity for a full night’s sleep.
We have seen compelling candidates get into top programs, even though they lack post-college extracurricular involvement. But, if you had no extracurriculars as an undergrad, either, that might become a red flag. You’ll leverage all facets of your life—not just what you’ve achieved on the job—to help your MBA classmates learn.
What do you do outside of work?
If you have no extracurricular activities to talk about, brainstorm other relevant things you could share with fellow students. Think along the lines of travel or cultural experiences or even a family situation. What else are you passionate about besides your job, and how has that passion manifested itself?
Hobbies or extracurriculars can be windows into character qualities. For instance, one of our clients was a Lego fanatic and had a dedicated brick room in his home. Talk about a conversation starter!
While it might look disingenuous to join a bunch of volunteer organizations in the months leading up to Round 1 deadlines, you could see if your employer has any community-focused committees that you could get involved with soon. Perhaps you could mentor a junior employee or head up a company-sponsored fundraising drive.
Alternatively, taking an active role in a community organization or nonprofit that’s currently in dire need of someone with expertise or skills is an excellent way to differentiate yourself from the competition.
If you’ve volunteered for a certain group before, see what else you can help them with that’s more high profile, or ask if they have new roles that have sprung up over the last two years due to the COVID-19 crisis that would be a good fit.
Any of these steps could result in additional accomplishments you can add to your resume, write essays about, or discuss in an interview.
The Clock is Ticking
The months ahead will provide more than enough time to get involved — or ideally get more involved — in a cause that’s close to your heart (even if done remotely). You cannot change some aspects of your candidacy. Think things like where you earned your undergraduate degree, your GPA, and your career choices up until now. But, there are other things that you can improve over the next several months if you’re willing to get creative.