By Laura Morrison, July 2014
You've been told for ages by parents and teachers that participating in extracurriculars may help you enhance your resume. But you may be wondering whether or not you will have time to participate in extracurricular activities while you are enrolled in a graduate program. Isn't graduate school a time when you are supposed to buckle down, focus on your studies and forego any fun activities in the name of hitting the books? You may have gathered that extracurriculars could be beneficial when it comes time to put your graduate application together, but you might be surprised to know that they might also give you an edge while you're in school. In case you were harboring any doubt, here are some reasons why extracurricular activities are important not just while you're applying to grad school, but while you're studying as well.
Boosting your application
Sure, when you're getting ready to apply to graduate programs, it's important to make sure your grades, test scores and admission essay are solid. But including information about extracurricular activities that you have participated in on your resume may help to enhance your application. After all, grad schools aren't just looking for the smartest candidates; they are seeking well rounded individuals who appear to be equipped to deal with the challenges of earning a post-graduate degree. The ability of an applicant to demonstrate qualities like interpersonal skills, leadership potential, and a diverse range of interests may help set a candidate apart from other applicants. For example, according to an article from Kaplan Test Prep many medical-related graduate programs value applicants who can demonstrate that they have accumulated some clinical experience, through volunteer work, shadowing, or on the job training.
Contrary to what you may believe, the grad school post-admission period isn't the time to drop all of your extracurricular activities. In fact, your advanced studies could benefit quite a lot from maintaining a healthy student life outside of the classroom and the library.
Research studies and mentorships may present fantastic opportunities to rub elbows with some of the movers and shakers you may one day be working alongside. Private tutoring or teaching an undergraduate class may seem like an extensive commitment, but it also provides you with valuable teaching experience, which may be particularly important for those who wish to stay in academia where professorships are the end goal.
Finally, studying abroad may be a fantastic way to earn academic credit while experiencing a new culture. Not only can exchange programs show you new parts of the world, but studying abroad might also present potential opportunities to work with international professionals and highly regarded academic figures. Such programs can be valuable academic endeavors, help you build important life skills, and expand your network.
Gihan Fernado, executive director of the career center at American University told the Chicago Tribune:
"Employers are looking for people who can problem-solve, and the study-abroad experience goes directly to that."
Students interested in pursuing study abroad opportunities might want to make sure to do so in a location that will bring them the most benefits post-graduation. Knowing where and when to go international is an important decision that should be considered carefully. If you're worried about the impact such a trip may have on your course load or research, consider doing a summer semester overseas between years. As for the where, according to the Chicago Tribune, employers tend to be attracted to areas that are bursting with economic growth potential including; Asia, Eastern Europe and South America.
About the Author: Laura Morrison is the Web Content Manager for GradSchools.com. She earned an MBA from the Rutgers School of Business in 2010.