Extracurricular activities  


You don't have to be Mother Teresa

Much as admissions committee members admire the unselfish and altruistic among us who take the time out of their busy lives to do some sort of volunteer work, we do realize that this is not for everyone. Yet there seems to have developed a perception that having done some volunteer work is a badge of honor that every would-be applicant absolutely must have in his or her repertoire. Suddenly, everyone is passionate about volunteering, at least according to the applications making their way to admissions committees. Volunteering will no longer make you stand out; in fact, it's become a bit of a cliché. That's not to say that it isn't something you should be doing. It is, if only because giving of yourself to others in need is good for one's soul. But don't look at it as a must-have or your ticket to getting into the committee's good graces. If volunteering for a particular cause or group is something you've done for years and you truly enjoy it, wonderful. Let the committee know about it, as something that's important to you. If it's something you started a month or two ago because you knew you were applying to b-school, don't try to make it more than what it is. If you're doing something that relates to your background, like working with Russian immigrants because you're fluent in Russian, that makes sense and will seem like a sincere interest. Otherwise, it might look manipulative to a somewhat jaded and cynical admissions committee, even if you do have the best of intentions.

Jack of all trades, master of nothing

Here's where the myth of the "well-rounded student" tends to take hold. Many applicants interpret this to mean that schools want students who excel at everything, who have a million interests, who'll get involved in everything under the sun. Nothing could be further from the truth. They're looking for depth and commitment, not necessarily breadth. The applicant who has focused his spare energy on studying the migration patterns of the monarch butterfly is infinitely more appealing than the dabbler, who has tried everything from skydiving and lacrosse to spelunking and orchid growing, but isn't particularly good at any of those activities. Not that you have to be great at what you do, but make sure you're passionate about it. That comes through. Schools want students who'll be committed to a cause and who show evidence of dedication and follow-through. They also want to see that you have interests outside of work. You do, don't you?



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