I recently received an incredibly uplifting message on LinkedIn from a prospective MBA applicant named Harley, whose impressive initiative offers an excellent way for other rising business leaders to get involved during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I read your March 30th article Extracurriculars In Quarantine: Building Your MBA Leadership Profile and it sparked something in me. After having already browsed around and finding only activities that required a long-wait or specialty I did not have, your article got me to start thinking like a leader,” wrote Harley. “Two days later I began forming pandemicprofessors.org, a free tutoring service for children whose education has been impacted by the shutdowns. Two weeks ago, I began recruiting and we are now almost 30 strong.”
Pandemic Professors is a terrific example of a timely, relevant, and coordinated response to an urgent need that families and communities – especially the most vulnerable – are experiencing amid widespread school closures. It has a clear mission, compelling promo video, and offers an easy and elegant matchmaking service between prospective learners and volunteers. If Harley is ultimately successful in delivering on its promise, Pandemic Professors will be emblematic of what’s possible when you apply your expertise to serve a higher purpose.
And MBA Admissions Directors are paying attention. Six months from now, the question of how you responded during Covid-19 and what you did with your time in quarantine will be front of mind to the admissions committee who reviews your candidacy for business school. It’s a theme that emerged across the Admissions Director panels hosted by my Fortuna colleague, Matt Symonds, last month at the virtual CentreCourt MBA Festival.
“I think any big disruption, like the financial crisis or like the Covid crisis, creates opportunities for people to really show how they lead and how they lead with heart,” remarked Berkeley Haas Admissions Director, Pete Johnson, in this panel with fellow heads of MBA Admissions at Stanford GSB, UCLA Anderson and UW Foster. “It doesn’t mean necessarily that in your professional life you’re going to have the opportunity to suddenly lead the big team. It might be something you’re doing outside of work altogether. And I hope to see a lot of really interesting essays next year about how people have used the opportunities that have presented themselves.”
For MBA hopefuls without extracurricular involvement, my Fortuna colleague, Brittany Maschal, believes Covid presents a special opportunity for what otherwise would be seen as a last-ditch effort – and one that is too late to be meaningful. Getting involved now can fill a gap in your application that would otherwise be harder to fill.
“I have a few candidates with no extracurriculars other than internal/company work, who are now taking this time to reconnect with their alma maters and get involved in their virtual efforts as a volunteer,” says Brittany. “Colleges need extra support right now with admissions and recruitment efforts given the changes to that landscape, so it is an easy gap to fill.”
“I’ve been really impressed by what MBA students around the world have been doing to try to contribute to the ongoing crisis and to try to address it,” said Harvard Business School Admissions Director, Chad Losee, in this Admissions Director panel with Fortuna Director Matt Symonds at the recent CentreCourt MBA Festival. Losee lauded a cross-program initiative started by current MBAs at HBS, Ross, Kellogg, and others, called MBAs Fight COVID-19, which matches MBAs with small businesses, nonprofits, municipalities, and other organizations in crisis. Says Losee, “I remain convinced that it is going to be business school students among others that are coming up with solutions beyond our political leaders.”
As I wrote in my earlier article, the next best idea may just be the one that you come up with during a mindful pause from your work. But it’s also possible that your most important opportunity to make a positive impact may start very close in, and that doesn’t make it less worthy of your dedication and time.
Judith Silverman Hodara, EdD, is a Director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Wharton acting head of Admissions. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.