If you’re applying to ISB, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the ISB application has both an awards and an activities section. The awards and activities for ISB section is both pretty straightforward—just list your 5 most impressive accomplishments and 5 most impressive extracurricular activities. I’m sure you have plenty to choose from if you’ve been reading along with us. And if not, well, I guess you can make something up. Just kidding! But seriously, while many applicants find these sections to be more time-consuming than difficult, others have struggled with the thought of coming up with five awards and five activities. With this in mind, we created this article to help you tackle the awards and activities sections on the ISB PGP application portal.
Tackling the Awards section on the ISB PGP application
The awards section allows applicants to showcase their achievements at various points of their lives. In addition to a listing of your awards (or, below average awards), this section also is a place to see what level you have performed at. While you can always mention some significant achievement in an essay, this is the only place in the entire ISB PGP application that showcases your accomplishments at one place.
In listing out your awards, make sure that you begin with the biggest awards first. This is not about chronology. You need to think about the professional, personal, and talent-based (music, arts, sports, or other talents) awards you have won, and first list those down for yourself. Then, list the most significant ones first (on top).
Another question we frequently get is that on recency of awards. Should you list down high school accolades or achievements, and do awards from the time you attended college count? If you are an EEO or YLP applicant, then school awards are also okay, provided they are significant. If not, and you have a number of years of experience, you should focus more on professional awards.
Is the ‘level’ of the award a huge differentiator? Does ISB only value those applicants who have national or international achievements? While such achievements can certainly add to your application, don’t worry much if most of your awards only fit into the lower level categories.
Some applicants also get confused between the awards section and the achievements section in the work experience tab of the ISB application. Remember, work achievements are results obtained, and awards are formal recognition. That should help sort out the difference and make things clear.
Should you leave the awards section blank?
Finally, some ISB applicants feel that the awards section is irrelevant, and it is probably okay to leave it blank. We don’t agree. We have yet to come across an applicant who had no awards, though we have come across several who did not want to take the effort to enumerate or list them. Remember, any opportunity that ISB gives you to mention anything should be grabbed with both hands! Leaving this section blank or sparse does create a point of weakness for your ISB PGP application.
Filling in the Activities section on the ISB PGP application
There are plenty of things that you can potentially list here. Creative activities, scholarly, philanthropic, extracurricular—it’s hard to run out of ideas for this section. And why stop at fifteen? The more you put in here, the better your application becomes. There are no hard-and-fast rules about it. We may not be able to be Phi Beta Kappa or a famous artist, but there is no reason that we can’t do our best in all of these other areas. ISB is no different–the more impressive your extracurriculars and awards are, the better impression you’ll make on ISB’s admission committee.
By solidifying your involvement in organizations or projects that have allowed you to explore your passion and improve professionally, you show the admissions team who you are and that you have the drive to learn more, grow, and achieve in the future. So take a look at this list of categories and start thinking of ways to list some of your professional, academic, student life and personal interests. The bottom line: don’t be boring. Show that you are passionate and have a deep commitment to your craft, life, friends, a fun extracurricular activity or anything at all that is a part of who you are. You are applying to business school after all, where collaboration and personality count for a lot!
Do hobbies matter on the ISB application?
“Do you really think a business school cares about my hobbies?”
We get this question a lot – almost every week – when ISB is accepting applications every year. The quick answer is – yes. The longer answer is – still, yes!
Don’t think of hobbies as awards. They are your interests, not your accomplishments. It is fine to have hobbies in common, strange, or minor things. The only thing that matters is your passion. While it is acceptable to hear applicants say that they cannot think of more than 1-2 awards, it is never excusable to say that you cannot list out 3 hobbies! Sometimes, these hobbies have made for very interesting conversations in ISB interviews, and even given that personal touch to help the interviewers better connect with applicants.
Having a hobby does not mean that you are an expert in a particular area, or that you need to know everything about that domain. Dabbling in hobbies is fine. The only thing you should ensure is that whatever you mention is actually a hobby. Stay miles away from misrepresenting anything or simply mentioning something that you do not have anything to do with to ‘impress’ the admissions committee.
Oh, and about mentioning ‘Watching and playing cricket’ as one of your hobbies? Worried that it is ‘too common’ or ‘too boring’? No worries, as long as cricket is really among your hobbies, go ahead.
What if I don’t have much for any/all of these sections? (!!)
We get it. You’ve done your essays, got your recommendation, and filled out the rest of the application. Now, the awards and activities section on the ISB application have become the last remaining obstacle between you and the ‘Submit’ button. You reason that you’ve never been the awards or activities kind of person, and it’s probably better to skip these sections.
We’ve lost count of how many applications we’ve seen with immaculate credentials but blank pages on the awards and activities sections. Now, if you’re like most people, and have won a multitude of awards in terms of academics, work, extra-curricular, etc., then you’re good. But if you haven’t – don’t worry.
This section is meant to be fun. With that being said, it’s a good idea not to take yourself too seriously here. Remember, you need not list out earth-shattering recognitions or activities. Simple recognition and contribution is fine. But leaving these sections blank? No!
What do great ISB applicants do?
By now, we’ve helped thousands of our clients make it to the ISB PGP, across YLP, EEO, and regular PGP admissions.
The most important thing that our top ranked applicants had in common was a good, solid strategy. In all cases, the awards and activities supported their entire application. The second important thing was variety. All of the top listed awards fell into the different categories (results are likely to differ depending on what you have done and where you have lived). Great applicants make these sections their asset. You can too, with a bit of effort.