We started this blahg series on “What can I do to improve my chances?” by answering with “Not much.”
And then we proceeded to talk about things you could do! All on the GMAT front, but still, that stuff was “something”, not “nothing.”
So in the mode of that “something” answer, we’ll continue:
What can you do to improve your chances if you’re sitting here in March with plans to apply to bschool for Round 1 in the Fall?
The answer still remains, “Not much,” but today we’ll explore more of the possibilities under the “much” category.
One common source of anxiety among plan-to-be-applicants is the whole issue of volunteering and community service. There’s this long-standing myth that you need to have extensive volunteer work on your profile in order to be admitted to school. And maybe you haven’t really done a lick of volunteering from the day you graduated college.
While there may a smidgen of truth to the idea that a volunteer profile is useful in your MBA application, it’s nowhere near as important as most BSers seem to think.
If you have literally zero recent volunteer experience on your profile right now, then sure, you can start volunteering today, in advance of your plans to apply for bschool this fall.
But guess what?
Your adcom reader will instantly spot the start date of that volunteer experience, and they’ll know why you started it: To buff up your profile.
That undermines the value of the volunteer experience in the first place.
If the only reason you’re volunteering is so that you can say you volunteer, well….. that’s just not all that impressive. It totally negates the signalling value of volunteer experience.
When you volunteer for an organization, you do it because that organization inspires you, and you want to contribute. Whatever its mission, you feel that it’s worthwhile, and you want to add to their efforts and make a difference.
If you’ve been meaning to get involved in the community for years — no really, you have!! — but you just never got around to it till now, well okay, but still. The motives are suspect.
This is what some adcoms call “Just In Time Volunteering.” It’s a transparent attempt to pad the profile.
Does that mean it’s not worth doing it?
No, not at all.
Volunteering is always worth doing. The world needs your help! Please don’t ditch out when you haven’t even gotten started.
Who knows, maybe your volunteer activities will open up new vistas for you. You’ll learn something, or be exposed to new people, or new ways of thinking about stuff. You’ll learn a new skill, or bare-minimum, you’ll have the satisfaction of giving back for the great gift it is to be alive on this planet, to have a life that affords you such opportunities to be even considering going to graduate school for an MBA.
Maybe you’ll find your calling in the halls of the non-profit charity that you get involved with.
You never know where life will take you!
But please don’t think that putting in 2 hours a week in a shelter serving meals to folks less well-off than you is going to tip the scales when it comes to your MBA admissions chances.
Sure, it’ll be nice to have something to fill in on those fields in the app where the schools ask about extracurriculars.
But if you’re only doing it to tick a box on a requirement you imagine the adcoms have, you’re kinda missing the point.
We say, do it anyway! Any service is worthwhile, even when it’s inherently selfishly motivated. It’s still giving back.
Just have perspective, and understand that that’s not how it works in the admissions offices. That would be the opposite of the “authenticity” thing that many schools value the most.
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