While business schools deeply value your academic background, GMAT, and work experience, they also ascribe significant weight to your extracurricular and community service activities. Why? Because they want to see that you are an individual who is not just focused on work, that you have other passions, and that you are well rounded.
Whether it be practicing sports, singing in your church’s choir, or helping at soup kitchens, community service and extra-curricular activities are extremely important for you as an applicant beyond their feel-good value. Why do b-schools care about these activities? They:
1. Create a more holistic picture of you. You are not just the two-dimensional person going to work every day and taking it easy on the weekends. It shows them that you have other interests, and that you’re not afraid to take (mostly unpaid) responsibilities outside of your job.
2. Reveal traits that would probably not come out in the rest of the application: your leadership, initiative, passion, and interpersonal skills. People that are used to acting to the benefit of others make for better team players, whether in the community or the corporate world. Those traits are indispensable in order to succeed at b-school and later on in your career.
3. Indicate you’ll be an involved student and alum. Individuals who have a track record of community service, once they are in b-school, are likely to be involved in clubs, school initiatives and later, the alumni association.
What if you haven’t volunteered or committed significant time to a non-professional activity and are planning to apply to business school this fall? Start today. You may think that adcoms will notice that this sudden increase in your extra-curricular commitments and community service coincides with the start of your application preparation, and you would be right. They’ll notice that, but they won’t hold it against you. If anything, your initiative will help you.
As the saying goes, better late than never. A little bit of community service is better than no community service at all. Why start right now? If you plan on applying to Round 1 deadlines, that would give you about three months of service or participation. By the time the schools invite you to interview, you’d have around six months under your belt. Those are six months of experience and anecdotes that can bring color to your interview. By your enrollment date, you would have done over a year of community work, an invaluable experience that would give you an advantage when you meet recruiters and start interviewing for internships.
What if you don’t get admitted this time around? What if you have to reapply? No one knows what the future holds and in spite of your hard work and dedication, there’s the chance that you will get waitlisted or, heaven forbid, denied admission. In this scenario, you would have 15 months of community service or non-professional commitment by the time you hit your application submit button next year, and that might make the difference the second time around.
So, go and serve. You’ll become a better applicant, and most importantly, a better person for it.
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By Esmeralda Cardenal, previously the Associate Director of Admissions at Yale SOM, Director of MBA Admissions at MSU Broad, and consultant at Cardiff Business School in the UK. She is happy to help you showcase your achievements in your MBA application. Want Esmeralda to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!