You should not be fearing the Extracurricular section on your resume but instead leverage it. We’ll walk through a few ideas and suggestions. However, you should customize them to your particular situation and story. Use these experiences to prove your point, show the person you are, illustrate what you believe in, and make you unique and special.
Why Are Extracurricular Activities Valuable?
Although it is largely dependent on your specific application, there are a number of benefits – use them!
Your extracurricular (non job related) experience can help you strengthen your leadership picture. Even if you were a troop leader for sports team or in charge of a local clean up effort – all of that counts not only on paper but also will speak loudly through your application. But please do not make stuff up – admissions team will see right through that
You can use extracurricular activities to explain a few things such as an employment gap or poor academic record during one of the semesters
Extra curricular activities (whether volleyball or volunteering, or political work) can enrich your life, give you a new perspective, and contribute to your life in general
Community work can be incredibly substantial, especially if you have a long term goal to work in the non profit. Make sure your EC is relevant to the non profit industry and even a small stint can come to be quite useful there.
Even 2-3 months of community work can work pretty positively in your application. It makes you a human being, shows your passions and interests.
I did not volunteer anywhere. But I do spend 10 hours a week helping with X/Y/Z. Is that EC?
YES, they can be. These X/Y/Z can add a lot more to your profile and say much more about you than a couple of weeks of community service could ever do really.
The goal of the interviewer is to admit individuals who will support a vibrant campus community and step into leadership positions. In other words, as admissions officers consider each applicant, they ask themselves “what’s in it for our school?”
One misconception is that your extracurricular activities have to be altruistic. Admissions committee members and admissions consultants will tell you business schools are looking for applicants to participate in activities for which they are truly passionate.
OMG. I have nothing. What can I do now?
I think the best way to think of extracurricular activities is to think of them as activities you engage in outside of work. This might include hobbies (e.g. restoring old cars, hiking the mountains), sports (softball team, etc.) more formal programs (being a big brother, volunteering at shelters, being part of your university recruiting efforts etc.). As you might imagine, leadership oriented involvement is more meaningful in any of these – so if you go hiking, do you act as the guide? If you volunteer at shelters do you take on a key role?
So the first step is to stop and think about things in those terms – and see if anything jumps out.
If you are part of some extracurricular program and want to try to take on a more leadership oriented role, just ask. In fact, you might even be able to make the role related to your goals – I know one candidate who approached a
local dog shelter and offered to help them revisit their financials and marketing materials.
Do what you believe. You don’t have to be a Mother Theresa. If you think the world needs more capitalists, find a local organization that teaches kids financial wisdom (google for one or search or see about starting it). Or if you want to save the world, you can probably do that as well in some way. Interviewers love people with strong convictions (nobody likes a flip-flopper without a personality)