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Extracurricular Activities

Making a Compelling Application

When your application arrives at your favorite college, the officers are not deciding whether to accept or reject you, but rather your application. Therefore, you need to make your application reflect your abilities, personality, background, interests, and past performance.

Don’t Hesitate – Starting Early Pays Off

Don’t wait until senior year to download the applications you need.  Ideally, you will begin familiarizing yourself with your college applications and their requirements during the spring of your junior year.  You will need time to carefully gather the necessary information and compile lists of activities and honors.  If you can begin writing your essays over the summer, you will save plenty of time; just make sure to ask the admissions offices whether or not they plan on changing the essays in the fall.  

Submitting your application as early as possible is always beneficial.  Close to the deadline date, admissions officers must read close to 100 applications a day, but early in the season, they read only a handful a day.  If the admissions officer has more time to consider your application in a thoughtful way, your chances are greatly improved.  Also, an early submission suggests that you are quite serious about your interest in the school, even when you do not select Early Action or another similar option.

Extracurricular Activities and Your Application

You cannot fool college admissions officers by presenting an extremely long list of extracurricular activities in your application.  While it is true that colleges want to make sure that you are doing something worthwhile in your spare time, it is not necessary to be a member of 20 different clubs, sports, or organizations.  However, if you spend 20 hours a week at one particular activity, and you have become the mainstay of that organization, that’s impressive. 

Extracurricular activity lists should demonstrate:

  1. Dedication and Loyalty
  2. Well-Roundedness
  3. Social Awareness and Sophistication
  4. Leadership Capacity

First Jobs and Student Resumes

As a high school student, it is not expected that you will have a lengthy resume.  However, having a job in high school can impress admissions officers.  It is a good idea include the number of hours per week you normally work at your job, and any leadership positions that you’ve held.  Your job doesn’t need to be unusual, but your dedication is what matters.  Some schools permit additional recommendation letters from job supervisors, and a glowing report of your maturity, work ethic, and problem-solving skills can be a real boon.

Look after your applications! If you apply online, always save a copy of your essays on your hard drive, and also a backup copy on CD or other removable drive.  Take your time, and do your best to present yourself in the best light possible.

At most top MBA programs, interviews are a required and important part of the application. Even where they are not required, they are generally recommended by admissions staff.

The interview offers admissions committees the opportunity to access a candidate’s ability to verbally communicate who they are. They see a candidate’s charm, beyond their written expression and their ability to think on their feet. Overall, a candidate should aim to behave in a manner that encourages conversation and open discussion. However, this requires practice. A few guidelines are the following:

· Aim for consistency with the written application. Candidates should be sure to review essay questions prior to the interview and make responses align with their written responses.

· Research the school. You may even want to have knowledgeable questions in mind for the interviewer related to the school’s program.

· If you tend to be nervous in interview situations, find a way to relax yourself.

· Be honest!

· Be prepared especially to explain your weaknesses and make them strengths. Avoid using the old, “I’m a perfectionist line.”

· Support your answers with examples.

In practice sessions with friends or co-workers or individually (ideally still aloud), practice the following themes:

College and (Graduate education if applicable). Why did you attend the college you did? What was your experience like? How were your classes? Which ones in particular stand out? What were your college extracurricular activities?

Job. Why did you choose the job(s) you chose?

MBA. Why? Why now? Why at ___? Where else did you apply? What is your top choice? Where would you like to work in short and long term? What curriculum methods interest you?

General. Tell us about yourself, according to your resume. Where do you see yourself in five years? Why do you leave the house each day? What is your opinion on random business issues (ethics, current markets)? How would people describe you, including friends, co-workers, and supervisors? Describe your style of leadership, your approach to ethical questions. Describe your strengths and weaknesses. Rate yourself in terms of motivation, teamwork, organization, loyalty, work ethic. If money was not a worry, what would you do?

Recommendations

Recommenders should be individuals able to comment on your preparedness for business school, your past experiences, and your personal and professional attributes. A recommender need not be a big name at your company or elsewhere, but most importantly someone who knows you well.

Sometimes this aspect of the process is frustrating. Your recommender is pressed for time, forgets they promised you a recommendation. But you can make it easier on yourself and your recommender by making sure you:

· Provide them with a copy of your resume, even essay draft.

· Meet with them (whether by phone or in person).

· Give them a clear understanding of deadlines.

On the recommendations themselves, if you feel appropriate doing so request that your recommender address how they know you, your accomplishments, you vs. others in similar roles, your strengths, and your weaknesses. As a rule, the more specific a recommendation is, the better the recommendation is.

Resume

Your resume is also an important selling point to the admissions committee. It should be flawless and in a style the admissions committees find suitable. Some schools, for example, insist that the resume be one-page, so you should adapt, cut, and edit to their expectations. Some guiding principles to follow include the following.

· Do not include high school experiences in your business school resume.

· List your work experiences first, before your education.

· Do not state your objectives.

OTHER TIPS ON KEY APPLICATION COMPONENTS

GMAT

Do the best you can and give yourself adequate time to prepare. Take a review class or seek out private tutoring to ensure that your score is as good as it can be.

Undergraduate GPA

It can not be changed. For some it will be a strength, for others a weakness. Consider explaining in an optional essay, for example, a low GPA, but do not make excuses. Professional or academic successes post-college do say a great deal already.

Extracurricular Activities

Do not simply list these activities. Make sure that you also explain them and their importance to you as well as your particular accomplishments. If you do not have at least 4 extracurricular activities, consider explaining why: Were you working? Were you fulfilling other personal or professional roles? What in the future would you like to do outside the professional sphere? How will you ensure that you are able to do so?

Posted on November 17, 2008 by Manhattan Review

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