If you’re applying to business schools this year, the process of pulling your materials together will consume much of your life in the coming months. Of particular focus will be planning 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, you’ll want to be sure you play up that angle in your materials.
A recent post to The MBA Insider’s Blog published by the admissions team at UCLA Anderson School of Management explained precisely why leadership and extracurricular activities are such an important part of their evaluation process.
“Your past is a good predictor for how involved you will be on Anderson’s student-run campus,” writes ad comm member Satiya Witzer. “Recruiters and employers also see your leadership in college, prior companies and Anderson as signs of your leadership interest and potential in their organizations.”
Admissions committees understand that for some applicants, it’s extremely hard to have meaningful involvement in an organization outside of work. This is often the case for those whose jobs constantly keep them on the road, or whose typical workday doesn’t even afford them the opportunity for a full night’s sleep.
But extracurriculars are vital to your application for several reasons. First, they show admissions officials that you are multi-dimensional. They demonstrate your interests, passions, and personality, which helps the committees get to know you beyond your professional goals. Extracurriculars also indicate how you might contribute to the diversity and vitality of a class and alumni network.
Having interests outside of work shows that you can balance multiple commitments, and that you are the type of person who is capable of juggling academics with clubs, conferences, recruiting, and more.
Witzer lists a variety of activities to help jog your memory of valuable experiences that make great examples of leadership for your MBA application:
- College athletics: Team captain? Most Valuable Player? Operations manager?
- Leadership role in a campus club, non-profit organization, sorority or fraternity
- Writer or Editor of a campus publication
- Mentor for high school students
- Orientation leader or campus tour guide
- Volunteer missions
- Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC)
- Case competitions
- Peer tutor
- Leadership role in an alumni association
- Continued involvement/role in non-profits or professional organizations
- Workplace engagement teams
- Volunteer team leader
- Public speaking or teaching roles
- Active role in political organizations or local campaigns
- Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) role
Your extracurriculars can show admissions officials that you understand your own role as a leader and your ability to leverage your position and give back. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate qualities such as creativity, leadership, teamwork, communication skills, and initiative. These qualities are important outside of a professional setting, as well as at work.
Keep in mind that quality is far more important than quantity. Rattling off a list of 10 involvements will not help your admissions chances as much as something that truly reflects who you are and can showcase important interests and skills.
You may be surprised to find that these involvements will add a great deal to your life, which is exactly the point.