I have to admit that before I applied to HBS I was slightly intimidated by the brand, and I wasn’t sure I would get accepted. Once I got in, I began to worry that I wouldn't fit into the traditional "Harvard-student mold."
I fell into the classic "impostor syndrome" trap, concerned that my admission was
really a fluke and that I would need to prove that I really deserved to be at HBS. I convinced myself that for a variety of reasons (because I got in off the waitlist, my lack of finance or consulting experience, the fact that I was black, etc.) I wouldn’t find my place here.
I'll never forget the moment that my perceptions of HBS turned around: my interview day. I expected most of the people I met to be quite pretentious and arrogant—to be sizing up each others' chances of getting accepted. However, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude from the other prospective students (many whom became my classmates). Not only that, but each person I met (from current students to staff to prospective students) was so much more encouraging than I expected. I really appreciated the level of humility that I was met with and it made me feel much better about the culture at HBS.
As a student on campus, I felt even more welcomed by becoming an active member of various affinity groups including the African-American Student Union (AASU) and the Africa Business Club (ABC), who had reached out to me before school even started to ensure that I felt comfortable as an incoming student.
I’ve been both surprised and impressed by how open people are here. My classmates listen closely to other perspectives and share deeply of themselves as well. I was fortunate to be in a section that felt very comfortable being extremely honest with each other about personal and sometimes controversial topics, and I appreciated the opportunity to learn so much about my friends and classmates.
HBS has also been much more collaborative than I expected. I had heard rumors that classroom discussions would be dominated by "finance bros" who just wanted to show how smart they were in the more difficult subjects. However, in my section, the very people who I assumed would be that stereotype were very willing to give their time and talents to ensure everyone in the class understood the material. They held individual and small group tutoring sessions, and even held review sessions open to our entire section before exams. This actually extended across all subjects that a lot of students struggled in, so it wasn't even limited to just finance.
So, to any prospective students who are concerned about applying to HBS I’d say this: that line of thinking can only hurt you. If you're too intimidated by the people, you'll only limit your opportunities to learn, grow, make friends, and maximize your experience to the fullest while you are here. If you're too intimidated to apply, you'll miss the chance to get in and come to HBS. I think that’s a chance worth taking!