Guide to Postgraduate Applications • Postgraduate

Social Service for Postgraduate Admissions: How to Leverage it?

POSTED ON 06/07/2023 BY The Red Pen

College students engaged in social service

Social service is vital in graduate school admissions and relevant across various streams, including science and finance. But as experienced postgraduate admissions counsellors, we’ve noticed a trend emerge in recent years. Often social science applicants organically showcase community service on their resumes. But our engineers, artists, financiers, and natural scientists focus more on talent development and industry growth, completely overlooking this essential application requirement. In this blog post, we answer four key questions that master’s applicants ask us every year.

1) Why is social service important for postgraduate admissions? 

Competitive universities worldwide place a significant emphasis on their role in society. Their mission statements often discuss preparing students to be leaders who can solve complex problems and positively impact the world. Therefore, admissions committees of prestigious universities look for applicants that align with their institution’s mission and are genuinely dedicated to working towards the greater good. Your resume must always show that you share the university’s mission. Berkeley, University of California, often requires applicants to demonstrate their social work towards promoting equal opportunities in higher education for women from underrepresented backgrounds. In this situation, when your recommender mentions that you spent every summer during college helping tribal women gain financial independence, while assisting them in constructing toilet facilities in their schools, it increases your likelihood of being admitted.

2) Why conduct social service beyond college requirements for postgraduate admissions? 

Applicants must convince a graduate school that their social welfare work is genuine. Every year, we see resumes of students who claim to have taught underprivileged children or spent time with seniors through college NSS programmes. Often these endeavours come across as superficial because they are an essential part of the college curriculum. Admissions officers at graduate schools tend to prioritise applicants who have strong social values and are actively involved in the community, which are not explicitly emphasized by their college.

3) How to effectively demonstrate your commitment to social service in your postgraduate application essays? 

Conveying your passion and dedication to work for society through a thoughtfully constructed essay is an excellent move. But our postgraduate essay experts have noticed that applicants often showcase their problem-solving abilities by crafting generic or lofty goal statements. It’s not enough to say that you want to change the world. While that’s a commendable emotion, it is crucial to present this aspiration tactfully, either as the central theme of your essay or as the driving force behind your philanthropic work and ambitions.

Starting or engaging in an activity that addresses a pressing need is particularly beneficial. For example, if you’re looking to pursue a master’s in computer science, writing about a delivery app that you developed for isolated senior citizens during the Covid-19 pandemic in your statement of purpose (SOP) showcases your skill and contribution to society. Here are some common mistakes to avoid in your master’s application. 

4) How does social service help applicants seeking postgraduate admissions in interdisciplinary courses? 

Interdisciplinary courses at the postgraduate level combine two or more disciplines, like economics with public policy, or computing science with finance, to create a unique learning experience. Pursuing such a course allows students to develop skills in multiple areas, which can make them more competitive in the job market. Social service goes a long way to demonstrate that you’re a worthy candidate. For instance,  an economics student can discuss their volunteer work with mentally challenged patients from marginalised backgrounds. They may mention how these interactions inspired them to investigate the statistics on causes and probabilities, eventually improving the facilities provided to the patients. In doing so, the economics student has positioned themselves for success in fields like public policy, health administration or data analysis and, in turn, has become an attractive master’s degree applicant. 

Social service experience is a valuable asset to your graduate school applications. By demonstrating your commitment to making a difference in the world, you can show admissions committees that you are an ideal, well-rounded applicant looking to make a positive impact. You may want to read about whether a master’s degree can help you get a better job or the seven things our head of postgraduate admissions learnt from past admissions cycles. However, should you need assistance with the various components of a  postgraduate application, please get in touch. Our experts look forward to helping you.