Being super successful often makes you hyper-involved. But does being an everything bagel help or hurt you when applying to b-school?
The most common type-A business school applicant appears to have superhuman energy, engaging themselves deeply in both work and extra-professional activities. They are typically on boards, members in civic or community organizations, feeders of the hungry, and all-around doers for the common good. At first blush, you might think it’s hard to compete with the applicant who is involved in everything, but you might be surprised at how the admissions committees view the everything bagel.
Nobody can truly do it all.
This truism is not lost on the top schools. They know the difference between authentic engagement and pure resume fodder. They see it all the time by the hundreds every year. What business schools are looking for is earnest engagement which stems from someone’s passion, not from their raw ability to out-engage others. If you are loosely engaged with a dozen organizations, but aren’t impacting any of them, your laundry list of activities might get tossed in the reject pile.
Authenticity is the key word.
Business schools know that we all have just 24 hours in the day and no matter how good you are at time management, you are only able to be in one place at a time. Everything bagels, while having no shortage of items to list on their resumes, have trouble speaking in detail about the depth of their contributions. If you can’t articulate why you do something in a way that is compelling or moving, you might consider dropping it either from your resume or from your life altogether.
MBA programs are seeking impressive, involved people who put their full effort into their passions.
Being passionate about something takes time---plain and simple. So if you have a list as long as your arm about things you are supposedly passionate about, somebody’s getting cheated on time. You can’t be “all-in” for half a dozen organizations. All-in by definition connotes a full measure of commitment. The best approach to remedy over-involvement would be to pick two or three things you are truly inspired by and dive deeply into making a true impact. Schools will be much more impressed with what you have done and why vs. how many things you have done. There’s nothing wrong with a sesame bagel or a wheat bagel. At least you know exactly what they are!