4/9/08

Will volunteer work make you stand out when applying to top MBAs?

Comments (30)

4/9/08

That is what matters...and where you went to for undergrad. I dont think volunteer work helps you stand out all that much unless you have been doing it for 4 plus years and you can talk about it in your personal statement.

Accepted.com
4/9/08

uhm....essays and work experience? are you kidding that gmat and gpa are the most important things? have you looked at the 80% ranges for bschool lately?

4/9/08

how important are extracurriculars in college? prefer a response from someone who's been through the process.

4/9/08

GPA is the most dated piece of information on your application. Your GMAT can keep you out of the running, but it cannot get you in. Work experience and essays are by far the most important.

4/9/08

ECs during college are not nearly as important as ECs post-graduation...adcomms want to ensure that you are a well-rounded candidate who is proficient at time-management and interested in things outside of work. Obviously, adcomms are cognizant of the absurd hours in IB but they still expect that you get involved in something outside of work for a few hours a week.

I would agree with mlamb that W/E and essays are the most important aspects of your application and GPA/GMATs are often deal-breakers if you are not within a certain range.

4/9/08

thanks for the input guys.

4/10/08

How the hell am I going to find time for ECs...working 80-90 hour weeks

4/14/08

You do it in college.

That's why if you're a banker, your chances at certain b-schools are already "set" by the time you start the job right out of college, because your analyst stint will be more or less comparable to every other analyst, and it won't be the thing that sets you apart -- other than "brand" of your employer (i.e. bulge bracket vs. middle market, etc.).

If you didn't do much in college and are a banker, then all you can do is just put in your applications and hope for the best -- or, quit after your 1st or 2nd year analyst stint, and do something else for a year or two (i.e. work at a nonprofit, join the Peace Corps, work in brand marketing, etc.).

It's not about community service for the sake of community service -- from a b-school admissions standpoint, it's showing that you're not just a one-dimensional finance geek -- to show that you are more than your job (and if you don't have much outside of work or in college, then it's going to be much harder to show that).

Alex Chu

Accepted.com
4/14/08

alex - what sorts of ECs help? i mean it's it pretty irrelevant 4 years down the road if i was president of my sorority in college or if i was on the board of a nonprofit isn't it? i can see things that are more tangible - ie starting a company or athletics being more helpful...?

4/14/08

As mlamb93 said, you can't rank order extracurriculars.

Put it this way. You've either done something worthwhile and interesting with your time, or you have not. There is "busy work" , and there is "fulfilling" work when it comes to extracurriculars. You don't do "fulfilling" work as resume filler. You do it because you want to do it.

Your resume is a reflection of who you are, not the reason for who you are.

If you want to build a legacy or a life that has an iota of meaning or fulfillment to you, you have to stop thinking about "what looks good" to an adcom, employer, etc. and start working on what you want to do, period, regardless of what others think.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who spend all their time window dressing themselves with superfluous things and external validation (whether it's their resume, their zip code, etc.), and there are those who can cut through the bullshit and focus on what's important to them. Choose.

The "what kinds of extracurriculars should I do?" seems to be one of those common questions that comes up, and when you really think about it - that's something only you can answer, because it's your life. We all have different talents and values -- go live them.

And you know what? That's what adcoms in some sense look for too - or at least that's what they try to do. It's business school after all - you're going to get your share of shallow, superficial and vacuous drones looking to punch their card, but they do want to minimize that all they can. By presenting yourself as "window dressed", you don't do yourself any favors.

So the most helpful activities are the activities you genuinely want to do - because that will come through in your actions, enthusiasm and even how you express yourself either in writing or in person.

Alex Chu

4/14/08

you really can't rank EC's in terms of which is better on an application. anything that stands out that you've excelled in aside from work is a positive.

on that note, i wouldn't recommend citing a startup business as an EC. if you're trying to sell the admissions committee on the notion that it was (or is) ultimately successful, why would you want to leave the workforce for 2 years to get your MBA? if that were the case, the opportunity cost of you sitting in a classroom is huge. remember: b-school is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

4/14/08

Alex, thanks again for dropping the knowledge. Always appreciate your posts here.

4/18/08

Great advice, Alex. Don't ever be cookie-cut!

4/18/08

Peace Corps for a couple of years? You obviously can't work during it.

4/18/08

There are a ton of posts on this board about this exact subject, including a few by me. Do some searching around and you'll find a much more detailed analysis. I would ask what your interests and background are, and then say do something that ties into that. I was in your situation a few years ago, and someone that was in b-school put it very well: "think about the one thing that you've wanted to do outside of work, and do it".

For me, that was getting involved again in sports, and I ended up doing a few things around that. A couple of them turned into very solid essay/interview stories that went far beyond checking the community service box on applications. They also made sense with my background and my goals, which made them stronger.

I wouldn't be a fire fighter or anything else unless you have a desire to do so.

4/18/08

Teaching impoverished and malnourished children how to read is always a good box to check.......

4/18/08

Whichever one you can demonstrate passion for and deep commitment to. Beyond that, it doesn't matter much. Pick something that little sliver of your soul might actually enjoy.

4/18/08

Thank you all for the insights

4/18/08

Big Brothers Big Sisters - two buddies at my bank did/are doing that

4/18/08
ke18sb:

Big Brothers Big Sisters - two buddies at my bank did/are doing that

That seems so cliche.

"I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcom

4/18/08
ke18sb:

Big Brothers Big Sisters - two buddies at my bank did/are doing that

How worthy is that regarded by the top 10~15 MBA schools?

4/18/08

It really depends on your interests, the amount of time you have, and whether you are willing to invest in an opportunity. For example, any number of mission trips or overseas trips would be great if you had an interest, a bit of capital, and, of course the time. You can find some with Habitat for Humanity or a ton of opportunities in several fields on Idealist.org (links and such are on my site as well to other volunteer sites - www.bankonbanking.com - under Giving Back links).

If you don't have that level of interest or lack one of the resources necessary, move on to whatever interests you most. If you want to be a mentor, go with Big Bro/Big Sis, or some other avenue in a similar capacity. If you want to help students, then look into tutoring - there are numerous opportunities here. If you want to build something with your hands, you can always go with my favorite - Habitat for Humanity through one of its many affiliates across the country (or on a 1-week or 2-week mission trip overseas). There are administrative opportunities with United Way and others and a host of other opportunities across many different fields.

Honestly, find what you like the most and can give yourself to with the most ease and passion - that is where you will find the most support in your business applications and life in general.

Let me know if you have any other questions and good luck. Remember, think of yourself as a complete person, don't just think B school - the incidental result will be a much stronger point to sell your B school apps anyway.

4/18/08

As a banker, do you really have time to develop leadership in your activities, maintain your social life, maintain an adequate fitness level, etc? I feel like one way or another, there will have to be some significant sacrifices.

How does everything balance out? Excuse my naivety, I'm about to start full time in the fall.

4/18/08

how well would a top mba program regard an applicant starting a highly successful/nationally recognized nonprofit before going into banking (ie during undergrad and just after)?

4/18/08

Big Brothers/Big Sisters, United Way, etc. are very common on MBA applications. They will check the box but they won't stand out.

If you want to stand out for your volunteer work -- you have to pick something that is very personal and unique to you.

4/18/08
sparked:

Big Brothers/Big Sisters, United Way, etc. are very common on MBA applications. They will check the box but they won't stand out.

If you want to stand out for your volunteer work -- you have to pick something that is very personal and unique to you.

Can you give an example of what is defined a unique/personal experience?

4/18/08
4/18/08
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