Angela Guido is back with more MBA application tips! This week she’s talking all things community service, volunteering and charity work in your MBA applications, as well as what to write if you haven’t been able to do any.
Business schools look for community service or charity work in applications for specific reasons and you need to know what they are if you want to prove yourself to your dream MBA school. (Spoiler: all that community service, volunteer experience and charity work in your business school applications has a lot to do with showcasing MBA leadership development).
You Might Have More MBA Volunteer Experience Than You Think…
I'm Angela Guido, founder of Career Protocol, and I'm bringing the MBA hits to you one week at a time. Today's question is about community service. Does it matter? OK, so this is an interesting topic and I speak to a lot of people who come to me and ask me to assess their MBA candidacy. And one of the first things they say is “I have a huge weakness. I haven't done any community service.”. While it's true that schools look at everything you're doing in your community and they do love to see that you're involved in some kind of community service, community service is not a prerequisite for business school. You're not going to school for social work after all, you're going to school for business. So, what does community service mean in the context of your whole business school application? Most people take community service literally, like if you don't have any community service, you are a bad person and you're not a good candidate for schools. But it's not so literal. What schools actually do want to know is that you're someone who challenges yourself and who seeks to contribute beyond your mandate.
So, if you think about what it means to challenge yourself, you could do this in all different areas of life. You can do it in sports. You can do it in community service. You can even do it at work taking on stretch projects or through volunteering experience at your job that you're not being paid to do, taking extra classes, taking a hobby to a point of obsession. There are all kinds of different ways that you can challenge yourself in life, and the school is interested in all of those because they are really looking for leaders of consequence. And leaders of consequence are people who seek to go beyond and to grow with every step of their career. The other thing that they want to know is that you seek to contribute beyond your mandate.
So, in other words, you're not just going to work, punching the clock and going home. There are all kinds of other ways that you can make contributions beyond what you're being paid to do. Lots of people get involved with recruiting or affiliation events or charity events that are associated with work. They bring people in their workplace together for different kinds of activities. That's not technically community service, but it's absolutely contributing beyond your mandate, even things like mentoring someone at work or mentoring a friend or a family member through a challenging time. All of these are examples of contributing beyond your mandate. So if you don't have any community service, don't worry, it's not the end of the world.
It's Not Too Late To Get Involved In More Charity Work!
If you're applying to business school in the next six months, then I recommend that you use this time to do as much contributing beyond your mandate as you can, to have a lot to talk about in your essays and your interviews regarding your contributions. If you have a year or more before you apply, then it's a good time to go out and see if there are any community activities that you care about where you can seek to contribute beyond your mandate, because for sure, community service looks really good. And on top of that, it's just a good thing to do. Most people who care about the world are looking for ways to add value to their communities and to other communities as part of their natural day to day life. So, if you still have time to cultivate community activities, absolutely go for it. But if you're applying and you don't have time to build a community profile, don't worry. Schools understand that everyone makes different choices. You know, some people even have jobs where there's no way they would ever have time to serve on a board or to do any kind of sustained activity because they're traveling all the time or they're working really long hours.
Schools understand that. They're not going to hold you to the really strict standard of “You must have community service or you're screwed!”, but at the same time, they do want to know that you are a leader in your own life and in the communities that you're a part of. So look for new ways that you can contribute and lead at work and beyond and you'll be in great shape.