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Extracurriculars and Awards - App Tips Summer Series

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Maya Raichura
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Post Extracurriculars and Awards - App Tips Summer Series - August 10th, 2018

Let’s talk about Extracurriculars and Awards. These sections help us better understand what’s important to you.
Extracurricular activities: What are you involved in outside of work? What impact did these activities have on you, and what impact did you have through these activities?
Sometimes future applicants wonder what activities they should participate in so they will “look good” when they apply. While I understand this means they are really interested in HBS, this approach to extracurriculars doesn’t usually help an application. Here’s why: if you do things because it might look good to someone else, you naturally won’t be as dedicated or learn as much, and your impact will be smaller. You’re busy, and it’s likely that “going through the motions” with an activity is going to feel superficial to us on the Admissions Board—and worse, it will feel superficial to you.
Besides, there is no one extracurricular experience that we look for—we want to build a class of diverse and authentic leaders.
My advice, instead, is to pursue things that are meaningful or exciting to you. Do them well, with energy and, yes, with passion. You’ll learn a lot more, likely have more impact and probably enjoy yourself too! Many strong applicants have “common” extracurriculars, but they pursue them with uncommon purpose or persistence. That kind of approach bodes well for the impact you can have at HBS and beyond, and it will come through naturally in your application and in your interview.
Of course, we recognize that many of you are very busy with work and/or family commitments. We give you space to list three extracurricular activities, but don’t worry if you don’t have three to list; better to have 1-2 that are really meaningful to you. And, yes, totally fine to list extracurriculars from college too.
Awards: This section should be pretty straightforward. We give you the chance to list three awards from any part of your life. You’ll have a small bit of space (200 characters) to give us more detail on how you were chosen for the award or honor (the “basis of selection”). Again choose the awards that are most meaningful to you personally. I can’t think of more advice to give you on this part of the application :)
When you step back from these sections of the application, ask yourself if the things you chose to list give us a good sense of what’s important to you outside of work. Does it give us a sense of the impact you’ve had? If you can answer “yes” then check these two parts of the application off your list!


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