I had my heart set on attending HBS ever since I completed the Summer Venture in Management Program in 2005.  I appreciated the general management approach of HBS and the fact it didn't require a specific concentration on a particular aspect of business (e.g. training to be a CEO rather than a CFO or CMO). The MBA is, essentially, a leadership degree—and HBS trains the top leaders in the world. While I was intimidated by the prestige of HBS, I knew it was a place that would give me the tools to be a more strategic and thoughtful leader.  

After working in schools and non-profits for seven years, I wanted to learn more about how top corporate executives developed turnaround strategies for their companies and managed diverse teams. I also wanted to bring back those same strategies and approaches into social justice organizations.  

I knew that coming to HBS would challenge me and push me out of my comfort zone on a daily basis. Not only am I an introvert, but I also suffer from Imposter Syndrome – everyone here is so incredibly accomplished and I constantly think I’m the Admissions mistake.  First year I would spend hours preparing each case and would then go to class scared to get called on because I still wasn’t sure I had quite grasped the content.  

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I felt comfortable in classes that had a definitive right answer that I could explain, but in most of our classes we studied protagonists’ choices in a way that is more subjective, and the pressure of needing to defend my answer (often against an incredibly smart peer who thought differently than me) gave me a lot of anxiety – so initially I felt I’d rather just not speak up at all.  I often times felt like I could see all sides of an argument, so it felt hard to put a stake in the ground and argue for that side.  

As it turns out, it’s also been really amazing to speak up, take risks, and then see others back me up.  I remember a few times speaking in class feeling like I was saying something controversial or out of the box and then having classmates either agree with me or come up to me afterwards to say they agreed and wanted to talk more. It’s been really amazing to find my voice and speak up with confidence in front of my peers. 

It’s not just in the classroom that HBS has  challenged me. The HBS community is incredibly diverse – while there is always more work to do around inclusion and belonging, the representation of different cultures and backgrounds is certainly quite vast among the student body.  I’ve learned about so many different religions, tried food and recipes I likely would have never been exposed to, and found similarities in upbringing and family values with classmates from around the world.  

Also, I didn’t really have anyone else exactly “like me” (US minority, female, mom, over 30 years old, non-profit background) in my section, and we do so much with our section in RC year. I had no choice other than to branch out of my usual status quo to make friends and build community with others in my section.  By design, the emphasis on the section experience forced me outside of my comfort zone.  And I’m so happy it did. 

Being the Student Association Co-President has been my most rewarding experience here.  The role has pushed me to be a more visible leader (public speaking during START, ASW, Class Day) and allowed me to work behind-the-scenes on initiatives that matter most to me (mainly student advocacy work – diversifying curriculum, making the student experience more affordable, giving students more options, partnering with the administration and learning how the school runs).  

Managing a large, diverse team of my peers has provided a great learning environment to practice some of the management techniques we learned in RC year. I’ve also had many students reach out to me for one on one help navigating different issues they face, and being able to serve in that capacity really fills my heart.  

So to any of you who are nervous about applying to HBS, who suffer from doubts about whether you’re good enough...my advice is to just do it. Take the leap of faith and allow yourself to grow. It’s been incredibly uncomfortable for me, but that’s how I know I’m growing.  If you never push yourself, then how will you ever know what’s possible?