I work in a bank and barely have time to eat dinner, let alone get involved in something outside of work. Is that going to hurt my chances for b-school? Are extracurriculars really THAT important? Am I in trouble if I have none?
Great question, and here’s the short answer: yes. VERY important.
U.S. applicants have a leg up here because they’ve been told from the start that extracurriculars are a BIG part of the school experience and help you get ahead in life. That’s why high schools and colleges across the U.S. offer after-school sports, clubs, events, and competitions for students to run and participate in. We get that this emphasis on involvement outside of the classroom isn’t the same in other countries (China, India, etc.), and that can create a problem for international applicants to U.S. MBA programs.
Why are they so important? Because they show the adcom that you’re more than just a guy who got XYZ score on his GMAT and wants to get an MBA. You’re a real PERSON with real passions and interests, and you can bring something fun and new to the campus culture. You want the adcom to see you as a person, not just a profile. That stuff you do OUTSIDE the office is going to make that happen.
So, what can you do now to beef up that section of your resume? After all, it could look miiiighty suspicious if you suddenly started playing Ultimate Frisbee or volunteering to clean cages at the local dog shelter.
The key is to get creative. Get back into some activities you were in before. Maybe you were in a local football or cricket club when you were younger? Maybe you played a role in a local youth theater group? Maybe you used to contribute to a blog? If you get back into it now, in some capacity, it will look like you’ve been doing it on-and-off for a while and establish your continued interest.
Whatever you do, just make you you do something. And make it something you actually enjoy doing. Not only because you want to, you know, enjoy what limited time you’ve got away from your desk, but because this is going to give the adcom a sense of who you are as a person… so you want to give them the right idea of the kind of person you are.
Bottom line: step away from the desk and start doing something other than work, dude. You’ll be happy you did (and for reasons beyond your applications).
– Jon Frank