What Really Happens During an MBA Admissions Committee File Review-Part 3

We’re back with our third in a series of five blog posts to help answer frequently asked questions about what really happens during an MBA admissions committee file review, and today we’ll focus on applicants’ outside-of-work leadership and extracurricular activities.

Post 1: GPA and Test Scores
Post 2: Career Path, Resume, Career Goals

Returning to our fictional applicants Jackie and Bill, here are their leadership initiatives and involvement outside of school/work:


College Extracurriculars

  • Newspaper: managed Lifestyle section
  • Sorority, President
  • Dance group, Manager
  • Environmental Club
  • European Club
  • Running Club

College Summers

  • 1st – Travel with family
  • 2nd – Environmental community service
  • 3rd – “Green” internship

Post-College Extracurriculars

  • NY Marathon
  • Board of Environmental Support Group
  • Board of NY Cares
  • Young Contributor Board of Ballet
  • Class Rep for Yale fundraising


College Extracurriculars

  • Volunteer tutoring
  • Worked 40 hours/week in retail store to finance college

College Summers

  • 3 years of full-time work in parents’ shop

Post College Extracurriculars

  • Created online finance job search support for U of Memphis students
  • Launched and rolled out tech enrichment programs for low-income-area high schools

Breaking it Down: Out-of-Work Leadership and Extracurricular Activities

As you can see, Jackie has participated in several activities, but how much is too much? Was she really an effective contributor in all of them? She seems to have a consistent interest in “green” causes, a track record of leadership roles and has given back to her alma mater.

Bill seems to have been consumed by his full-time work and has very limited activities throughout college and post-college; however, he was working to finance his college studies that his scholarship didn’t cover.

Looking closer at the content of his activities we see that where he was active, he was focused on helping others. He also created his own opportunities and gave back to his alma mater  —  all positive traits in the eyes of the adcomm.

The bottom-line here for the adcomm’s assessment: EVERYTHING counts, even how you spend your free time. Impact is most important, so focusing on a few activities and making a difference can be more impactful than a laundry list of involvements. Extracurriculars are also a great opportunity to demonstrate leadership, especially if you are light on work-related leadership, as both Jackie and Bill are.

Extracurriculars are also a chance to show you are well rounded and have a passion; this passion can be used to help develop your planned career goals and shape your MBA story.

Next up – Interpersonal, including essays and recommendations

Image credit: Flickr user Premier of Ontario Photography (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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