Something commonly seen at B-schools is that most applicants are fairly accomplished at work as well as academics. They would have received multiple promotions, commendations, etc., would have been in the top 5%-10% of their undergraduate class, and would have good scores on standardized tests. So how do B-schools choose one applicant over another when they all seem equally competent? They select those students who contribute to the diversity of the student body and also show a high level of maturity. A reliable indicator of these two is a student’s interest and participation in extracurricular activities.
An extracurricular activity is something that goes above and beyond one’s daily tasks, whether it is going to office or attending classes at school. The activity could be sports, music, theater, arts, photography, learning a new language, organizing events, volunteering for a cause, teaching, building expertise on a specific topic of interest, traveling, something unique or quirky, or hundreds more. Done over a sustained period of time in earnest, these activities help develop a well-rounded, mature personality. They often help build leadership, teamwork and organization skills and open up a whole new world of perspectives for the individual. Which B-school wouldn’t appreciate that in an applicant?
While writing your essays, it is important to understand which activities are truly application-worthy and which deserve only a passing mention. Activities to which very little time and effort have been dedicated are not impressive. “Learned guitar for 3 months” does not show dedication. Similarly, highlighting your participation in stray company events or volunteering with an NGO just to put it on your CV will not help your case. The duration of your involvement with an activity shows your dedication to it and gives a sense of stability. These are personality traits of importance to B-schools.
Another important facet of extracurricular activities is accomplishments. If you have excelled at these activities and have formal recognition to show for it, apart from doing well in your main responsibilities at work or school, it speaks volumes about your abilities as an individual. It also shows that you have tremendous passion for anything that you take up, a passion that you will also bring to the MBA program that you plan to take up at this particular school. So make sure you flaunt your awards and certificates in your essays. This doesn’t mean you should be cocky and arrogant about it, but a B-school application is not the place to be humble either.
To summarize, if you have a unique interest, hobby or activity outside of work and school, if you have put a substantial amount of time and effort into it, and if you are very good at it, write essays that leverage it well and bring out the 3rd dimension of your personality. This will substantially boost your chances of getting (and converting) an interview ca