Recent grad Mallory Dwinal came to HBS after pursuing a PhD in education at the University of Oxford and working as a middle and high school Spanish teacher with Teach for America. Now a few months out of the HBS bubble, we asked her to reflect on her experience. Here’s what she thinks prospective students should know about HBS. 

1. First year is really hectic

RC year is a lot more work than people are willing to admit! There's a ton of new material to cover and exercises to complete, especially during the first term. It's interesting and 100% manageable, but I didn't know to expect it and wasted a lot of time feeling like I was behind.

2. Second year is a great time to take some risks

Make EC year work for you, and take the risks you want to take. There are tons of resources (financial and otherwise) to help you explore your interests - find them and take advantage. I was trying to pull together financial and political support to open a new kind of charter high school in California, and HBS was very generous. From grants to covering plane tickets, to Independent Project (IP) credit for designing the school, they made it possible for me to chase that dream. They want to help, so reach out and advocate for yourself.

3. It’s okay to say no

The people from my class (2015) who seem happiest with their time at HBS are the ones who were deliberate about prioritizing what was important to them and occasionally saying 'no.' You spend hours every day in open discussion with people - you will still meet colleagues and make friends if you skip some parties, clubs, and networking events. 

I wish I’d let go of the guilt I felt about not going to every single social event. Big, loud events were never my thing - but I often felt like I was passing up an important part of business school. Now, on the other side of HBS, I'm very happy with the choices I made, and wish I would have owned them from the beginning.

4. There are lots of different approaches to summer internship recruiting

Don't be afraid to get off the beaten track. For family reasons, I split my time in rural areas between Illinois and Kentucky and did research remotely for an education non-profit in New York; I also worked on school start-up funding on the side. Grants from Harvard University paid for all of that work. There is no prescription for careers outside of consulting, banking, and a few other traditional business school fields. Let yourself enjoy that flexibility. 

5. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and what you want to do with your life

I realized that I would probably never be happy working 1) in a routine role or 2) outside of K-12 education. This realization came through reflection over the course of two years of case discussions, simulations, and summer work; I'll be forever grateful for that opportunity to better know myself. Clarity about the field you want to be in - and the daily lifestyle you want from it - is half the battle.

6. The community at HBS is warm and kind

The people are down to earth and caring in ways I never could have imagined. My dad passed away a few weeks after graduation, and the outpouring of love and support was indescribable. It's easy to get caught up in insecurities about how successful everyone there is, but you soon find they're also some of the most generous and compassionate people you'll ever meet.