When you apply for graduate school and pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree – one of the highest-paying master’s degrees – the admissions team takes a comprehensive look at your application. Work experience, your undergraduate transcript, letters of recommendation and scores on graduate school entrance exams are some of the parts of the application package that MBA applicants tend to pay attention to the most. An often-overlooked aspect of MBA applications is the student’s history of extracurricular activities, which can improve your application’s weak points and give you experience and networking opportunities.
Making Up for Weaknesses in Your MBA Application
MBA admissions teams typically take a holistic view of applicants, looking at everything a student has to offer rather than making decisions based on a single measure, according to U.S. News & World Report. For applicants who have been actively engaged in extracurricular activities as undergraduates and in their workplace and community since starting their careers, this is a good thing.
Although some schools have hard and fast rules regarding MBA admissions criteria, it’s unlikely that one so-so aspect of your application will disqualify you from consideration for the program if the rest of your application is strong. Having a robust record of involvement in extracurricular activities can help give your application a boost, especially if it has some minor weak points.
Suppose that the amount of professional work experience you have is slightly less than the average for your school. If your extracurricular activities are a testament to your leadership skills and ambitions, they may make up for that one weakness. This isn’t to say that your extracurricular experience can replace the importance of your undergraduate GPA or your work experience. Both of these measures are typically prioritized over extracurricular activities by most MBA admissions teams, according to U.S. News & World Report. However, extracurricular activities can make the difference if you’re only missing the mark by a small amount or if you and another candidate are neck-and-neck in terms of academic achievements and work experience.
If you’re attempting to get into one of the most highly ranked MBA programs, you may need more extracurricular experience – or just more extensive extracurricular experience – than you would need for less prestigious programs, since there is more competition.
Providing You With Experience and Connections
Your extracurricular activities can also improve your MBA application in indirect ways. The experiences you gain may allow you to develop and practice new skills that can make their way onto your resumé. You can also draw on these experiences in job interviews or in an admission interview for an MBA program, especially if an interview question doesn’t relate closely to your professional experience.
The connections you make through extracurricular activities, too, can be valuable in a professional sense. The professors you get to know largely through this activity may be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. Your organization might work with industry partners who could later serve as a job reference or help you get a job at their company. It’s always helpful for business professionals to have contacts in a variety of industries, which occurs as your fellow students start their professional lives.
Don’t underestimate the importance of networking, which, studies have shown, accounts for as many as 85 percent of job placements, according to the professional networking website LinkedIn.
The Extracurricular Activities That Make the Most Impact on an MBA Application
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Which extracurriculars have the greatest effect on a prospective MBA student’s application? Business student organizations like marketing associations, accounting societies, sales clubs, economics societies, business analytics associations and business-specific honor societies are obviously relevant to MBA programs. You might contribute your knowledge to educating your fellow students and the community as part of a financial literacy group. Some student business organizations, such as the Association of Latino Professionals for America, the National Association of Black Accountants and women’s business organizations, are dedicated to the education, empowerment and success of business professionals in specific populations, demographics and minority groups.
Of course, just because you’re serious about studying business doesn’t mean you have no other interests. MBA admissions teams may also be impressed by extracurricular activities that have nothing to do with business, especially when you hold some sort of leadership role or you otherwise make an impact within your organization. Maybe you held an official leadership role, like president, in a club unrelated to your major. You might have served as the captain of a sports team or just spearheaded one of the projects your organization undertook. Mentoring children and teenagers on a volunteer basis is an activity that shows you have leadership skills, even if you didn’t hold some kind of a formal leadership position.
Perhaps you tried your hand at starting your own business as a student. Although it may not have grown into a full-time job, this extracurricular entrepreneurial enterprise gave you valuable experience and is likely to gain the notice and respect of admissions personnel.