In the last post, we talked about how important it is to be engaged outside the classroom and outside the workplace. But what if you decided to prepare for b-school a little late and have not really done much other than your job?
If you find yourself exhausted at the end of each day, and managing to just barely deliver your professional responsibilities while you eek out enough sleep to show up and do it all over again, you may not be able to even imagine joining a club or doing any volunteering. You may be more engaged than you realize once you do a few things in your application (and your daily life) to cast your extracurricular life in a new light.
Interestingly, we find that people who are involved in a relationship are amongst the worst offenders when it comes time to discuss extracurriculars.
Being involved romantically is time consuming and can sometimes eat up time you may have spent getting involved in other things. What people often forget, however is that sometimes, being involved with someone often provides bonafide community engagement fodder for an application that you may not have considered. For example, if you go to church with your girlfriend, you can list that as community involvement (particularly if you participate in church-led activities which often benefit people in need). Or if you are not into church, perhaps you exercise with your boyfriend? If so, you probably know that road races or triathlon events often have some sort of community benefit (e.g. raising money for needy organizations). Start signing up for those races and talk about how you exercise in part to support those organizations. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
The best thing you can do in order to convince the adcoms you are engaged in an area or activity when you are not all that engaged, is to revive an area of involvement from your past.
Let’s say for example, you used to work with special needs kids in college, but you stopped doing so when you graduated and you haven’t done so for the past five years. Get out there and find an organization where you can work with special needs kids again and voila! You just bridged your past involvement with your current involvement. Bridging this involvement can often translate to the adcoms as consistency or dedication—both good traits for b-school applicants. Bridging is far better than running out and doing something new, like working in a soup kitchen or volunteering for a Habitat for Humanity project when you have never done so before.
While there is no substitute for truly passionate involvement over time (especially where you are a leader or founder), if you work at it and get creative, you can probably piece together a few things which can hopefully indicate to the admissions committees that you’re someone who is willing to get engaged.