“What if I’m not passionate about doing community service, like seemingly every other business school applicant? Does this make me a bad person? I feel like if I were to do this, it would only be to position myself for b-school and I wouldn’t enjoy it very much. What do these elite b-schools look for in terms of community service?”
This is a common problem, and we credit this applicant for taking a step back and asking the question that many applicants think but do not ask out loud.
If you’re not passionate about something, then you definitely should NOT do it! Keep in mind that community service is one more way for you to demonstrate the four core dimensions that admissions officers look for in every applicant: leadership, maturity, innovation, and teamwork. (These four dimensions are described in great detail in great detail in the MBA admissions book Your MBA Game Plan.) If you can demonstrate these with other activities outside of traditional community service organizations, then that’s terrific.
For instance, this applicant said he likes to coach children and young adults in sports. If that’s what he’s passionate about, then great! Helping young people have a positive experience with sports and competition is a terrific way to help one’s community. We could think of all sorts of great things that applicant could discuss in his essays, as long as it’s something that really matters to him.
Also, keep in mind that admissions officers always ask about every applicant, “How has this person made the community/organization around him better?” The obvious answer is with community service, but that’s not the only possibility. Mentoring a struggling co-worker or finding a creative solution to a thorny problem at work are two less obvious — but in some ways even more relevant to the admissions process — ways to demonstrate that you have a positive impact on others wherever you go. This goes for any type of graduate program, not just business school.