Fortunately or unfortunately, community service has virtually become a requirement if you’re seeking a spot in a top b-school class. The good news here is that if you haven’t been involved in community service until this point, you now have additional motivation: Your MBA application is begging for you to step up, pitch in, and assume a leadership role in your community.
Below you will find helpful answers to three of the most commonly asked questions about community service:
1. Why do schools care about community service?
Elite business schools are quite open about their mission: to train leaders for the world. They want to see evidence of leadership. They want to see indications of initiative and caring beyond the immediate needs of your job. Community service presents an excellent opportunity for young professionals to show all that plus the organizational, motivational, and communications mojo leaders need. Furthermore, schools want active participants in both their own student and alumni communities. Since they believe that past behavior predicts future behavior, if you’ve been passive in the past, they have no reason to assume you will be active in the future. You need to provide the proof.
2. If I haven’t done community service until this point, won’t the adcoms see through my last-minute efforts as an admissions ploy? Don’t they want us to serve the community out of the goodness of our hearts and not simply to look good on an application?
Yes, the adcoms want community service to come from an innate desire to serve your community, but last-minute community service is still better than no community service at all. There’s no way to hide the fact that you only recently joined your church’s adult literacy outreach program; so you need to focus on how this new experience has suddenly enriched your life, and how it has motivated you to start your own adult literacy program in another underserved community across town. Or you can talk about how your new volunteering stint had helped shaped your goals by adding a volunteerism angle to your long-term vision.
3. Do I need traditional community service experience, like working in a soup kitchen or joining Big Brother/Big Sister?
Of course not! Since when has an element of the MBA application asked you to be common or traditional in any way? Community service comes in all shapes and sizes and is certainly not limited to the obvious. Maybe you started a community crocheting group that meets once a week to crochet hats for Ukrainian orphans. Maybe you bring your nine-year-old autistic nephew to a special needs yoga class twice a week, and have been doing so since he was four. And if you work in a soup kitchen, or better yet, manage a soup kitchen, then that’s great too. The best community service is the community service you do because it means something to you.
Are you worried that you don’t have enough community service experience to highlight in your MBA application? Learn how to ameliorate this profile weakness, as well as other potential deal-breakers, when you follow the professional tips in MBA Application Weaknesses 101.