When MBA applications ask about your extracurricular activities, they aren't necessarily looking for what you do for fun. Business school admissions officers are looking for students who can step into leadership positions on campus. By participating in extracurricular activities, you demonstrate that you are the kind of person who will participate in campus organizations.
Extracurricular activities also show that you are well-rounded and reveal qualities that aren't demonstrated in other parts of your application. That's why you need to include activities that reveal aspects of your personality and abilities. Anyone can sit at home at watch movies. Starting a successful movie meetup or organizing a film festival, however, shows that you are outgoing and involved in the local community.
If you are stuck for ideas, here are some examples of the types of activities you can list on your MBA application:
- A volunteer activity related to your career goals
- A volunteer activity that demonstrates leadership ability or teamwork
- International travel
- Serving in the military reserve unit
- Participation in your college or high school alumni organization
- A hobby you are committed to that says something about your personality. Horseback riding, for example, may show that you have a sense of adventure.
- Participation in a recreational sports team -- even if it's an adult kickball league, it still shows that you have teamwork experience, and many recreational leagues like Zogsports include fundraisers for charity.
- Creative projects such as writing a book, making a film or producing artwork
- Studying a foreign language
- Participation in local government
- Participating in a civic or religious group
As you can see from the list above, volunteering is often listed as an extracurricular activity. Participating in a charity walk or corporate outreach day, however, may not be enough to impress business school admissions since that's what many applicants do. You will stand out more if you choose a longer-term volunteer opportunity, particularly if it relates to your future career goals. Even if you volunteer somewhere for a few months, it is better than a one-shot volunteer gig.
If you already have volunteer experience, be sure to put it on your MBA application resume. You may also want to consider the kind of experience you have. Are there leadership opportunities within the organization that you can pursue? Is there a better way to make use of your talent and skills? In addition, you should see if there's a way you can improve the reach or efficiency of the organizations you volunteer for.
Not all extracurricular activities are volunteer ones, however, and not all of them are obvious. If you can't come up with activities off the top of your head, take some time to evaluate your regular routine. Hosting a meetup, singing in a church choir, or tutoring a neighbor all count toward extracurricular activities. Just make sure you are able to connect these activities to your skills, leadership abilities, and community involvement.
If you don't have any extracurricular activities to list on your MBA application, it's important get involved in one as soon as possible. Why start now? You could get waitlisted, which means that you may have to apply again next year. In that case, taking on an extracurricular activity and sticking with it will give you more experience the next time you apply.
If you don't know what activities to do, you can start by brainstorming activities that you like to do as well as those that relate to your future goals. Thinking back on the student groups you participated in back during your undergrad (or even high school) days may also provide you with some good ideas. Then, you can use Google to find local organizations where you can participate in those activities. Websites like VolunteerMatch, idealist.org, and the Hands-On Network may may also help you find local volunteer opportunities.