Extracurricular activities, such as volunteering, can help boost your MBA admission odds.
“Extracurricular activities are not a primary factor when reviewing applications but they can matter — and especially help — when factors like GMAT, GPA, etc. fall below expectations,” Phil Miller, assistant dean for MBA and M.S. programs at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Carlson School of Management, tells U.S. News.
But on top of giving applicants an edge in admissions, experts say that volunteering can provide major professional benefits as well. Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, recently discussed how volunteering activities can boost both career growth and MBA admissions odds.
One of the major benefits of volunteering, Blackman says, is the ability to gain in-demand skills that you may not be getting exposure to in your career.
“Many volunteering roles will help you hone those always-desirable soft skills,” Blackman writes. “Think of areas such as communication, public speaking, emotional intelligence, and teamwork. You can also look for opportunities where you’ll make an impact with your existing skills.”
On top of developing key skills, volunteering experience can also provide exposure to relevant career experience — laying the foundation for a next career step.
“The key is identifying positions and organizations that align with your desired career,” Blackman writes. “That way, you can show potential employers that you have transferable skills despite limited or no formal professional history in the role. At the same time, it gives you valuable feedback on whether you enjoy the work and want to explore further.”
Another potential benefit to volunteering, Blackman says, is the unique network that it may provide.
“Unlike those typically awkward formal networking events, the volunteering environment is usually open and friendly,” Blackman writes. “It’s a place to forge meaningful connections with people who have shared interests without pressure or expectations.”
Those connections can provide both personal and professional benefits.
“Of course, your primary reason for volunteering is still to share your skills and give back to your community,” Blackman writes. “But why not also reap some professional advantages along the way?”