Much more so than any other professional or graduate school, extracurricular life and activities play a huge role in the MBA experience. Indeed, many MBA graduates believe these extracurricular experiences were the most important part of their MBA experience. As such, it’s vital that you talk about your intended clubs and extracurriculars in a thoughtful way that integrates well with your broader application’s themes, experiences, and aspirations. Many applicants seem to just read the school’s website, find a list of clubs they “think would be fun” and don’t really do much work in terms of explaining the how and why those clubs would align with and enhance their MBA and long-term professional goals. This is a mistake.
You should avoid the “club dump” in your MBA application, where you simply list the clubs without providing the proper context or integration with your application and aspirations. Instead, look to include fewer clubs, explain your interest in them more substantively, and make sure they seem to align with what you’re hoping to convey about yourself in your application. This can be a tricky needle to thread, so if you’re concerned or confused, feel free to reach out to us at Gurufi.com with help crafting your personal statement. We have a fantastic record of getting clients into top schools, have perfect reviews on GMATClub, and because we focus only on the written aspects of your application (personal statements and CVs), we can offer this service at a competitive price point!
Now, back to the show! Here are two strategies that you can think about using in your personal statement that could make a real difference.
The first is the most straightforward: align your club selection with the rest of your personal statement and your professional aspirations. For instance, if after graduating with your MBA from Bigtime University, you want to found a healthcare startup that operates in the Global South, it makes sense to highlight the Healthcare Club, Young Entrepreneurs Workshop, and the Global South Development Clubs. You could then talk about some of the specific initiatives, programs, and opportunities they offer and provide a brief explanation of how they align with what you aspire to do and become. This is a more coherent approach than, say, writing your essay about your desire to found a healthcare startup and then at the end drop an, “oh, by the way, I also love food, so I’ll be joining the Foodie Club and since I love dancing the Salsa Club, too.” In a personal statement, *mentioning* something in passing is usually a bad idea.
The second approach is a bit more complicated and takes more skill as a writer. (don’t worry, we can help you with that! ) As an example, let me mention a client I worked with a few years back who ended up getting into her top four choice elite MBA programs. She had a pretty standard background (consulting, etc.) and her professional interests were also not surprising (she wanted to move up within the kind of consulting she had built her career in). In the first draft of her personal statement, she did the standard “club dump” we’re talking about, where she talked about the Culinary Club, the Foodie Outings, and other related extracurriculars that she hoped one day to join. I advised her not to do this, and she replied that food was, in fact, *very* important to her, that it had deep cultural roots, and in many ways defined how she saw the world.
My reply was, “great, let’s build your essay around that theme.” The personal statement that we ended up writing talked about how much cooking, baking, and the social experiences that came with it informed her worldview. Baking was about precision, following exact recipes, and a more meticulous form of culinary artistry. Cooking her native Vietnamese dishes was more about feel, flair, flavor, and emotion. She learned to balance these two sides of her personality -the analytical and emotional- by learning cooking and baking at her mother’s and grandmother’s side. These traits made her both more analytical and more adept at communicating with clients and understanding their needs.
By moving from “mentioning” to writing a more genuine essay about how and why cooking and baking were so important, the essay came to life, and she revealed herself in a way that was far more substantive than “just another consultant.”
Remember, best personal statements favor depth over breadth and embrace the idea that saying two things well is far better than mentioning five things.
If you’re struggling to master this, or any other, aspect of your personal statement, be sure to check us out at Gurufi.com. All we do is admissions writing, so helping you build a fantastic essay is our specialty.