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  • Malvika Patil

How to Strengthen Your Extracurricular Profile for MBA Applications



If you’re an MBA applicant with no life outside your 9 to 5, this is your wakeup call!


Business schools claim that they evaluate MBA applications “holistically”... but what does that really mean? It means that business schools look for leaders who boast a variety of skills, and who make an impact through a range of engagements - personal, professional, and in their communities. So, candidates with impressive academic and professional credentials on their CV, but limited extracurricular engagements outside of these, are less likely to get admitted.


In this blog post, we’ll explore how to strengthen your extracurricular profile in your business school application.


Why are Extracurriculars Important for Your MBA Application?


Extracurriculars give you the opportunity to bring your personality and character into your MBA applications. They often demonstrate your passions, and speak volumes about who you are as a person (besides your GMAT score, grades, and career). For the AdCom, they want to see how you’ll bring your unique passions and personality to the school. Will you actively engage with professional/interest-based clubs and student associations, or will you simply head back home after class? Will you network and create bonds with your peers and support them inside and outside the classroom? A strong application contains extracurriculars that demonstrate these qualities. 


That’s why, when we work with clients on their MBA applications, we guide them to connect their extracurriculars to their core MBA application narrative.



The Extracurriculars Our Past Successful Applicants Discussed in their MBA Applications


Here are some examples of extracurriculars that applicants we worked with in the past wrote about in their MBA applications. Let’s discuss how we wove them into their essays to create compelling stories.


1. Football 


One of our clients loved football. They had started playing the sport right from childhood, and went on to form the football club at university and their workplace. But simply playing football doesn’t say much about who they are. When we discussed this passion at length, we found that the sport had been a means for the client to find a community. Wherever they went, they were able to connect with their peers through sports and even improve relationships with clients and senior leadership. Now that’s an interesting story to tell!


2. DJing 


This applicant grew up in a family environment where their academic achievements came first. They faced a lot of pressure to perform well, to the point where they were burnt out in college. It was then that they picked up DJing as a hobby to express themselves creatively and find a balance. Later, they went on to produce their own music and play large events. We connected their passion to their vibrant personality and discipline to build their DJ skills over the years. 


3. Breaking world records


Breaking a world record is a big deal! But in the MBA world, the journey to get there is a bigger deal. Our client discussed their inspiration, the process of training for it, the important things they learned along the way, the relationships they built, and how this experience impacted who they are today. The AdCom wants to know the story of the person behind the accomplishment. 


4. Triathlon 


This applicant was driven to participate in a triathlon to work on their fitness goals. Three months earlier, they joined a training camp to prepare for this challenge. While training for long hours and building their endurance, they found themselves drained after each practice and wanted to give up. When they discussed this with their coach, he set up conversations with other peers who were also training for the triathlon. Turns out, they all felt the same way at some point! By nurturing supportive relationships with their peers, this client discovered the power of community and mentorship. They wrote about this experience in their essays, which came out great. The client won several admits, including scholarships. 


5. Organizing events for a network of professionals 


We meet a lot of applicants who have actively participated in a student club or society during their undergraduate degree and have even taken on leadership roles in these clubs. However, if you have 4-5 years of experience, this might be a bit dated. One applicant brought their undergrad leadership skills to their workplace, regularly organizing 10+ events for a professional association they were a part of. These events provided a platform for ambitious leaders to connect with like-minded individuals, provide and receive mentorship, and recruit the right talent. This applicant was also leveraging this platform to offer consulting services for businesses to grow. Since their post-MBA goal was to be an entrepreneur, this network gave them early access to diverse talent, guidance and resources. 


6. Leading DEI initiatives at work 


Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is a growing priority for global businesses. That’s also why business schools look for individuals who can contribute different perspectives and strengths to the classroom and beyond. They value applicants who have taken initiatives to make their workplace and community more inclusive. Our client, while not from an under-represented minority themselves, led initiatives at their workplace to resolve cultural differences between colleagues and make their office culture more inclusive.  Positioning themselves as an ally who uses their platform to create positive impact for others captured the interest of the AdCom of an M7 business school.


7. Leading a non-profit initiative 


Many applicants have social causes they feel passionate about. In your MBA application, demonstrate meaningful engagement with this social cause. This could be through consistent work with the organization, a leadership role, or something you’ve started. For example, our client provided career coaching to help early-career professionals unlock their potential. This made a huge difference for people who came from modest backgrounds where they had limited or no access to quality coaching and career resources. One of the women they helped became the first woman in her family to join the workforce! Similarly, your community work should show that you care about other people and help build up your community.


9. Pursuing an adventure sport 


Often, applicants add in their awards and sporting achievements in their MBA resume. But well-written essays that paint a more detailed picture of the experience can make your profile stand out. One of our clients discussed how their passion for open water swimming helped them create some cherished memories with new friends, like swimming alongside dolphins. Another client who was passionate about trekking spoke about the physical and mental challenges they overcame to trek one of the world’s highest peaks. Both clients made sure to reflect on the lessons they learned through their respective experiences and how they shaped them as people. 


10. Hobby turned into a side hustle 


This sneakerhead applicant started trading sneakers with their friends, which morphed into a lucrative side hustle. When it came to writing their MBA application, they realized it was an informal hobby that they couldn’t really quantify. So they created a website and Instagram account to market their business, and could now clearly demonstrate their entrepreneurial drive to the AdCom.


How to Boost your Extracurricular Profile 


If you don’t have any significant extracurricular engagements, here are some ways to start building them into your profile:


  • Look within your workplace! Join or create initiatives where you can contribute to hiring, CSR, or DEI efforts.

  • Join an employee resource group (ERG) to start something new like fundraising for a cause or food/clothing distribution drives. 

  • Identify ways to improve your organization’s labor and fair hiring policies. 

  • Get involved in CSR activities, like leading charity or sustainability drives to reduce the company’s carbon footprint. Business schools are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious, so it’s a good addition to your application!

  • Take on a leadership position in activities you’re involved in. For example, if you’re upskilling or mentoring new associates, turn it into a training program that you can lead. Or if you are involved in recruitment efforts for new graduates at your alma mater, maybe it's time you take up a leadership role in the alumni association or offer mentorship and interview training to final year students.

  • Formalize your extracurricular initiatives by building a website, LinkedIn page, or creating social media accounts to record what you’ve done so far and quantify your impact. 

  • Identify a community initiative that aligns with your personal values, like rehabilitation efforts for the unhoused, or mutual aid for local communities. 


 

Need advice on how to best showcase your extracurriculars in your MBA application? Book a free chat with our team. 



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Hi, I'm Sam.  I'm the founder of Sam Weeks Consulting. Our clients get admitted to top MBA and EMBA programs.

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