While business schools deeply value your academic background, GMAT score, 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 but also has other passions, and that you are well rounded.
Whether it is practicing sports, singing in your church’s choir, or helping at a soup kitchen, community service and extracurricular activities are extremely important for you as an applicant beyond their feel-good value. Why do b-schools care about these activities? Let us spell it out.
They create a more holistic picture of you
You are not just the two-dimensional person who goes to work every day and takes it easy on the weekends. Your extracurriculars show the school that you have other interests and that you’re not afraid to take on (mostly unpaid) responsibilities outside of your job.
They reveal traits that would probably not come out in the rest of your application.
These include your leadership, initiative, passion, and interpersonal skills. People that are used to acting for the benefit of others make for better team players, both in the community and in the corporate world. Those traits are indispensable to succeeding at b-school and later on in your career.
They indicate that you’ll be an involved student and alum.
Individuals who have a track record of community service are likely to be involved in clubs and school initiatives once they are on campus, and to later be active members of the alumni association.
What if you haven’t volunteered or committed significant time to a nonprofessional activity and are planning to apply to business school this fall?
Start today. You might think that adcoms will notice that this sudden increase in your extracurricular commitments and community service coincides with the start of your application preparation, and you would be right, 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? , that would give you about two months of service or participation. By the time the schools invite you to interview, you’d have around four months under your belt. Those are four 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 and have to reapply? No one knows what the future holds, and despite your hard work and dedication, there’s a chance you will get waitlisted or – heaven forbid – denied admission. In this scenario, you would have over a year of community service or nonprofessional commitment by the time you hit submit on your application 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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Esmeralda Cardenal is a former associate director of admissions at Yale SOM, director of MBA admissions at Michigan State University Broad, and consultant at Cardiff Business School in the United Kingdom. Since 2014, she has guided Accepted clients to acceptance in various graduate programs, including MBA and master’s in finance, business analytics, data science, sustainability, and public policy. Want Esmeralda to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!