I was born and raised in Nigeria and moved to the United States 12 years ago to pursue my university education. Growing up, I was very independent and ambitious and upon graduating from high school, I convinced my family that I could survive on my own in the U.S., even though I was 16 and had no family in the U.S. at the time.
After graduating from college I had a technical background, experience as a management consultant, and a keen passion to become an entrepreneur and a change-maker in Africa. But I didn’t have any business experience or knowledge - so I decided to get an MBA.
HBS seemed like the natural choice for a couple of reasons. I wanted a program that was focused on delivering a solid general management and business education, and one that had a history of developing leaders.
I also wanted to attend a school that pushed people to take risks in and out of the classroom, provided resources for potential entrepreneurs, and one that gave me access to world-leading experts in business topics. Given my ambitions in Africa, I also wanted to pick a program that was revered in the African community and that had a strong alumni community in Africa.
I hope the points I’ve outlined below will be helpful to other prospective students from Africa as they think about applying to business school and attending HBS.
1. Learn as much as you can about HBS and the application process
Overall, the application process was very straightforward for me. Prior to applying I came on campus for a class visit and attended an admissions event in New York where I asked members of the admissions team the questions I had. I also spoke to a couple of current students and alumni to learn about their experiences at HBS. Doing all this research upfront made it easy for me to put together my application, as I knew the required components of the application early on.
For those not able to visit, I recommend joining webinars hosted by the Admissions office, attending prospective student events in your city, and checking the website for detailed information on the program, clubs, and classes.
Also be sure to contact the Africa Business Club (ABC) to be connected with current students and alumni who can answer questions and provide relevant insights into what the HBS experience is like.
2. Decide if HBS is a good fit
Research the program thoroughly to see if it’s a good fit for you based on what you’re looking to gain from an MBA program and your future career goals. If it is, you should not hesitate to apply, notwithstanding financial concerns. Keep in mind the quote “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – applying is the only way to get considered and to have a chance of being admitted into the program.
Once you’re accepted, make a list of what you want to get from the program and make sure to revisit the list frequently and to make a targeted effort towards achieving those goals. Once the program starts, it goes by fast, so keeping those goals constantly in mind is the only way to ensure they get accomplished.
3. Get connected with the Africa Business Club
While applying to HBS I had the chance to attend the Africa Business Conference and participate in the conference’s prospective student event. The event composed of a mock case study on Nigeria, a Q&A session with current students and representatives from admissions, and a campus tour. This really gave me an opportunity to get a good understanding of what life was like at HBS.
As a student I am very involved with ABC. I am currently a Co-Chair for the 2016 Africa Business Conference, and I was involved with the planning of the conference last year. We are a very close-knit club so through that I have always felt like I had a family at HBS.
My involvement with the club has kept me busy but it has also helped me understand more about my leadership style and what my strengths and weaknesses are as a leader. It has also allowed me learn more about business in Africa and build a strong network of future leaders in Africa.