Applying to business school isn’t an easy process, and
neither is uprooting your life to move to a new city once you’ve been accepted.
Navigating this major life change can feel especially challenging for
international students – who can experience a few extra hurdles on their way to
matriculation. So what do international students need to know as they consider
applying to HBS and making this transition? We checked in with Esme
O’Neill-Dean (from New Zealand, MBA 2016) and Ibraheem Fahal (from Saudi Arabia,
MBA 2015) to see what advice they had for our international applicants. Here’s
what they thought you should know.
1. Sorting out a visa isn’t as tough as you
Ibraheem: Getting a student visa is not complicated anymore.
Most U.S. embassies publish the procedure for getting a visa and provide
assistance for people who have more questions. After getting admitted into the
MBA program, HBS was prompt in mailing me the I-20. The Harvard International Office and HBS Admissions provided a webinar on the visa application
process. Applicants can always reach out to the school staff or students if
they have any questions.
Esme: Visa-related issues can feel like a headache, but
HBS’s Prematriculation Checklist laid out exactly what I needed to do so it was
actually a pretty stress-free process in the end. Whenever I did have a specific question, I
just reached out to the HBS contact at the Harvard International Office. As long as you start early and follow the
instructions, you should be fine.
2. Learning about HBS can help you figure out
if it’s a good fit for you
Ibraheem: I was not able to visit the campus so I relied
heavily on the school’s website, webinars and current students from mine and
neighboring countries. The HBS website is full of rich information and
resources. The site also lists the events (such as an information session in
Istanbul or a webinar) designed for prospective applicants to learn more about
the MBA program.
Esme: I listened in to the admissions webinar for my home
region (Australia/New Zealand) to get an idea of how people like me were
experiencing life at HBS. Once I was
accepted I also joined the various Admit groups on Facebook and LinkedIn etc.
and was able to connect with others from home. I was also lucky enough to be able to visit the HBS campus and that was
excellent – it’s hard to replicate the “real life” experience of sitting in a
classroom and hearing the case unfold.
3. Financial aid doesn’t have to be
Esme: HBS’s Prematriculation Checklist is great – it lays
out exactly what you need to do and by when. I had a sponsorship offer from my employer but I still went through the
Financial Aid process to see what all my financing options would be. Again, if you start early enough and follow
the instructions, you should be fine.
4. Go ahead and reach out to our current
Ibraheem: From the time I applied to the moment I finished
the program a few weeks ago, I got to witness the magnitude and the strength of
the HBS network. Staff, students, and alumni will go out of their way to
provide assistance when needed. You just have to ask. When I decided to apply,
I had questions about the school and the MBA program and wanted to get the
perspective of current students. I had friends who studied in different schools
in Boston at the time. I asked some of them to connect me with students they
knew at HBS and they did. It also might be useful to reach out to leaders of
student clubs and organizations at the school. HBS publishes on its website the
names and the contact information of the leaders of the 70+ student clubs at
5. HBS is an inherently international place
Esme: I wondered if HBS would be international enough for
what I was after, but I have to say I’ve been pleasantly surprised since arriving
here. There are TONS of international
students in my section and throughout the whole first year class. I love getting to see my new ANZ friends as
well as meeting the other international students and, of course, spending time
with the Americans. It’s a lot more
international than I expected and I’ve loved that element of the experience.
6. Your family and partners will be welcome
moving to Boston, making friends was not hard. There is a large number of
students who come to school with their partners and children. Many students
with partners or families find the Harvard University apartments located around
the campus to be very convenient.
Esme: I didn’t come to HBS with a partner or family but even
I have been impressed by the amount of partner support there is on campus – the
partners are definitely a part of section life and we get to know many of them
as well as we do our actual classmates. The partners all know one another
as well and their kids– it’s a really familial atmosphere. There’s also an
active Crimson Parents and Partners Club on campus.
7. You’ll still be connected to your home
region at HBS
Ibraheem: I have been very involved with student clubs and
activities during my time here. I was an active member of the MENA Club and was
involved with the planning of the Harvard Arab Weekend Conference. It was an
excellent opportunity to get engaged in student activities and to meet people
from the Middle East region and from Saudi Arabia.
Esme: There are about 15 other students from my home region
across both the first and second years. We’re all part of the ANZ Club and get together for dinners and trips
away. It’s so nice having people from
home to spend time with – it feels really easy and relaxing. I also love interacting with the other
international students – there are many different presentations, events, and
treks to get to know one another.