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The Tuesday Q&A: Extracurriculars and the MBA Application

September 13, 2011 :: Admissionado Team

Got a question about those MBA applications? Stuck on an essay? Need a little clarity? Chances are, you’re not the only one. Thankfully, Admissionado founder and Harvard MBA Jon Frank has an answer… for everything admissions-related. And he’s going to share all of his answers with you, right here, every Tuesday.

Today, we’re talking extracurriculars…


I have a question about extracurricular activities – how important do you think they’re in application?

Is the volunteer work or community work the only thing the adcom will consider, or other student activities such as head of Student Union, running the school’s broadcasting station, etc. also count? To be honest, I’ve done very little volunteer work in the past simply because I was focused on my school and work. I donated though…. I just don’t know if that helps or not.


Hello, my friend.  Yes, of course schools want candidates (especially from China) who are well rounded.  People who do more than just excel at work and on standardized tests. People who contribute to the community, pursue hobbies and lead dynamic lives outside of the office.  People who are MORE than just test scores.  (Although amazing ones, at that.)

MBA programs accept PEOPLE, not PROFILES. Interesting, dynamic, promising PEOPLE. That said, all of these things you’ve listed above – whether volunteering, running radio stations, etc. – will be helpful for you. Anything you’ve done that is interesting will be helpful for you, from walking dogs at a no-kill shelter to taking surfing lessons for the past 6 years. It all shows the adcom what makes you, you.

Donations, however, will NOT help.
Any actual activities you have done WILL.

Now, if you don’t have ANY such experience recently, it is still better to try to do SOMETHING before you apply.  Even if it is only for a few months.  You can also try to get involved in something you have done before—and if you write it correctly, it can seem as though you have been “doing it” for a number of years, “off and on.” And honestly, that would be perfectly TRUE. We would NEVER indicate that anyone should lie on their apps, of course. So don’t lie. Find a way to write it so that it is absolutely true.  But at the end of the day, just do something. Anything. And not only for your application, but because it’s a good thing to do.

Hope this helps, and good luck!
— Jon Frank

Got a question you want to ask Jon? Email info@admissionado.com!