MBA admissions committees try to identify applicants who are constantly active, challenging themselves in all spheres of their lives. As a result, extracurricular and community activities are not only powerful in showing an MBA candidate’s benevolence, but they also help create the impression that the applicant is steadily pursuing goals and is therefore predisposed to success.
We regularly encounter business school applicants who say, “I have been so busy professionally that I haven’t had time to volunteer, but I was really active during college.” In almost all cases, however, as candidates get further from their college years, their undergraduate experience becomes less and less relevant. Although having a record of consistent achievement throughout college and into one’s professional life is best, MBA applicants are often evaluated on a “What have you done for me lately?” basis—meaning that contemporary community service is generally more important.
MBA admissions officers know that finding time to commit to external activities can sometimes be challenging, but they still see many applicants from the most competitive fields who indeed find time to give back to others. So, if you had a rich and rewarding college experience filled with leadership, in short, keep that trend going. You have a powerful complement to your contemporary involvements, but not a substitute.
Showing enthusiasm for your volunteer work is as important as committing to the work itself. If you are slogging through your time as a volunteer, you are certainly not helping yourself or your candidacy. “Time served” is not the most important factor of your community work in the eyes of the MBA admissions committees—what is meaningful and revealing is the impact you have on others. Indeed, the spirit with which you have served your community is what will impress the committees.
As you consider your options for community involvement (and we hope you began doing so long before now), be sure to choose a cause or group about which you are passionate and to which you can commit yourself entirely. By dedicating yourself to an organization about which you are sincerely enthusiastic (just as you would do in choosing a job), you will naturally find yourself in situations that will lend themselves to quality essays and powerful recommendations.