I’m Soooo Busy! Extracurriculars, Balance, and Business


Christian West, Assistant Director for McIntire Undergraduate Admission

So you went to the student activities fair, gave 50+ organizations your e-mail, went to a few information sessions, and now you’re wondering what to commit to. During walk-in advising last week, four students in back-to-back meetings asked me this same question. Well, we have an answer, of course.

  1. Follow your passions and interests.

When students ask “What do you want to see students involved in on the applications for McIntire?” I quickly respond with “Whatever you are passionate about and interested in.”  There is no rubric for this. Students who get involved with opportunities they are incredibly passionate about are often the same students who can tell an incredible story about their impact and experience. Do what is important to you, not what you think the Admission Committee would consider impressive.

  1. You don’t have to be a member of a business-related student organization.

Although we suggest involvement in Commerce-related student organizations (CRSOs) and other business-related opportunities because they help to expose students to business industries, practices, and companies, you do not have to be a member of one. Fifty-nine percent of current Commerce students are a member of a CRSO. That may seem like a lot, but it also means that 41% of current Commerce students are engaged in other ways. CRSOs are one way, of many, to get an early exposure to business. If a CRSO peaks your interest, engage with it. If you find yourself drawn to other opportunities, passionately pursue those.

  1. Identify the transferrable skills and characteristics you are developing.

On the application for the B.S. in Commerce Program for current UVA students, you will have five opportunities to list co-curricular activities and engagements. External transfer applicants will have 10 opportunities on Common Application. Do you have more extracurricular activities than the five requested? Awesome! Make this list about the priorities. What’s most important here is that you are able to articulate how your activities can contribute to your success in the business environment. Leadership, communication skills, teamwork, a global mindset, and appreciation for diversity and inclusion are all characteristics we look for in applicants. Think critically about the skills and characteristics you are developing through your involvement and how they will contribute to your continued personal and professional development. We hope you will include aspects of this development in the description of your activities on the application.

  1. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Think depth, not breadth.

There are over 800 contracted independent organizations (CIOs) at UVA, and they cover a lot of ground in terms of focus and interests. There are also part-time job opportunities, internships, and other experiences to consider. Choose a few and develop a strong commitment to them. Consider opportunities for a leadership role. Identify ways to make an impact through the involvement and ensure it is a meaningful experience for yourself. While a long laundry list of involvement might seem impressive, you have only a certain bandwidth when it comes to balancing your commitments with your academic responsibilities. Excelling in both areas will demonstrate to the Admission Committee and future employers that you know yourself well and can effectively manage your commitments.

Every student has their own path to Commerce. Identify yours and go with it. We’re always here to help.

– C

Christian P.L. West in the Assistant Director for McIntire’s Office of Undergraduate Admission. He’s a Double Hoo and current Doctoral student in the Curry School of Education. During Walk-in Advising, ask Christian about the time he lived in California, his thoughts on Starbucks vs. Dunkin’, or his obsession with Husky puppies.