We did this extensive series on volunteering and MBA apps recently, and it made us see things almost as an equation: What’s more important? What’s worth more? In essence, if you want to get into bschool this year, where should you be spending your time?
If you’re faced with multiple competing draws on your time and trying to figure out how to prioritize – and who isn’t? – well, put the focus on the GMAT first. That seems obvious, right? But that series on volunteering may have tempted you to get involved with a charity. Which we encourage!
Just not at a sacrifice to other important things.
It may sound like fun to suddenly dive into some sort of charitable effort – talk about a great distraction from all the other
crap critical tasks you have to accomplish to get your apps in gear!
We often see people employing such “justifiable procrastination” strategies. That is, they devote themselves to non-essential tasks that are more fun than the grunt work that is the truly important part, and then they rationalize it as acceptable, since the fun stuff is somewhere loosely based in the same domain as “applying to business school.”
(BTW, reading the EssaySnark blahg is often in this category – and even worse – MUCH worse – is dillydallying on those applicant forums. You know who we’re talking about.)
You can get into bschool without volunteer work. However, you are going to see some significant challenges in getting that admit if your core profile is off. (“Core profile” means basic stats of GMAT, GPA, etc.)
So a simple equation is this:
GMAT > volunteering
It’s still very early in the year. If you don’t have your GMAT locked up yet, DO THAT NOW! You totally need a solid score to have a solid chance at this MBA thing.
And the GMAT test takes way more time than people expect. You need to do some studying for that puppy.
In those other posts, we essentially said:
leadership experience > volunteering
What we mean by that is, it doesn’t matter what context your leadership experience is coming from. If your best stories are from the workplace, you’ll want to use those. If you have significant evidence of making an impact through your non-profit work, then that takes precedence.
The mere fact that you’ve clocked a few hours at a charity over the years doesn’t automatically make it significant. Yes, you want to have something to report on the app, to show that you give back to the world in some capacity (making a donation to a charity may be “giving” but it’s not volunteering – donations don’t count, they’re way too easy – the schools want to know where you spend your TIME). But in terms of PRIORITIES – priorities in what the adcoms will want to see, and priorities in terms of where you should be devoting that limited resource known as YOUR LIFE in these days and weeks – it’s the quality of experience that matters.
Lots of little here-and-there activities can serve as clutter in a profile.
Map out how much time you have from now till when those first apps will be due (hint: it’s likely to be mid-September when the earliest deadlines hit, and in some cases – like Columbia – you’ll want to apply earlier than that). Figure out what big projects you must complete by then – anything looming at work, any important personal/family obligations like a friend’s wedding, and of course your application success tasks like the GMAT. Weigh them out objectively. See where you’ll need to be spending your time.
Believe EssaySnark when we tell you this: The next few months will slip away FAST. The summer will melt into nothingness if you’re not paying attention. Now is the time to plan your success story. Otherwise you’ll be in the deadline-scramble, which basically means that your apps are at risk of being runny and undercooked (like eggs if you don’t know what you’re doing in the kitchen).
Don’t let that happen to you! Pay attention. Priorities matter. Time is limited – yet the opportunity is here to get it all together in time for a stellar performance with those Round 1 apps this year.
Good luck with it!