Erica Santoni (MBA ‘19) is the co-President of HBS’ largest club – the Women’s Student Association (WSA). Erica is Italian by birth and received her undergraduate degree and Master of Science from Bocconi University in Milan. Prior to HBS, Erica lived in Milan, Paris, and London and worked in management consulting fostering gender equity through Women@BCG. After HBS, she plans to focus her career on promoting Diversity & Inclusion in the workforce.  

When Erica was considering pursuing her MBA, she discovered that she was the largest barrier between her and her dreams. Erica shared with us her fears about applying and how she overcame them. 

I was so close to not even applying to HBS. Being admitted seemed so unlikely that I thought it was a waste of time to even try.  

Before I even applied to HBS, I felt a mix of deep respect and reverential fear toward the HBS Admission Officers. I didn’t think I was good enough to pass their judgement. But as I look back on the application process, I realize that my harshest critic was not sitting on the MBA Admissions Committee: it was me. 

The possibility of pursuing an MBA had been on my mind since college, and Harvard was without a doubt my dream school. Nevertheless, when the moment came to apply to B-school, I did not feel ready. I was finding excuses to postpone the application like:  

“I am on an intense project with very limited time to craft my application.” 

“My resume isn’t strong enough!”  

“None of my friends are applying to b-school." 

And so on... 

I told others that it was not the right moment, and I told myself that I was not the right person. 

The people around me who believed in me most were the ones who ultimately talked me into applying. My partner ended up dispelling my self-doubt with a series of very convincing arguments. For me, that moment was a tipping point that I will remember forever.  

When I was recently talking to him about writing this article, I found it quite interesting that he could not recall that moment. To him, it was such a no-brainer for me to apply that he did not realize how crucial his intervention was.  

One of the reasons I wanted to write this is to assuage the fears of other prospective applicants who are going through the same thing. Many of the doubts that you have about your abilities are truly only inside you. If you are reading this blog because you are thinking about applying to HBS, please do – it is absolutely worth it.  

Here are some of my personal key takeaways from the HBS application process that helped me stay the course: 

1) You don’t need to be “perfect” to be admitted 

It is a false myth that perfect scores are a must-have for being admitted. For the Class of 2020, GMAT scores range from 610 to 800. HBS evaluates candidates holistically going well beyond standardized tests, so do not let this stop you from applying. 

Being your authentic self is much more important than perfect scores. The unique perspective you bring to the conversation and your motivation to shape the world are what count the most. 

2) The application process itself is worth the ride 

I walked out of my HBS interview with a huge smile on my face. I had no idea how it went, but I was so happy nevertheless. I realized that I had gotten so much out of the journey already that, no matter the result, it was all worth it. 

The application process had been an introspective journey and gave me the ability to think bravely about my future – free from social constraints and expectations. Even the less pleasant moments of the application (in my case, the GMAT prep) were an investment in myself. I was doing it for me so that I could achieve my dreams.  

3) Believe in yourself 

Many people like me struggle more than others with recognizing their self-worth in situations like this and coming to terms with the idea that they belong at such a prestigious Institution.  

Talking with many friends, I know it’s a shared experience, especially among women. But ultimately it is not your job to decide whether or not you will get into HBS and you will never know if you don’t apply. A lot of insecurities and fears are just in your mind: don’t let them hold you back.