My first thought after getting accepted to HBS was, “I can’t believe I got in! I need to call my mom!” The second was, “How am I going to pay for this?”

I grew up thinking debt was unequivocally bad. Many people in my life discussed student loans negatively as if they were sure to become an insurmountable burden. With that in mind, I attended the college that awarded me the best scholarship and sought out external scholarships and work-study opportunities to avoid relying on student loans.

So, when I was admitted to HBS, my concern turned at once to narrowing, as much as possible, the gap between the funds at my disposal and the total amount I needed to attend my dream school.

I wanted to know how others bridged this gap. I began to reach out to HBS alumni who I knew to ask how they financed their education. I asked tough questions about whether they thought it was worth the price tag. Everyone I spoke to told me the same thing: “Think of it as an investment in yourself.”

Reframing the cost of attendance to view it as an investment was a game-changer for me. I used various lender-provided calculators to estimate the required monthly payments if I were to borrow various amounts. I used a range of potential post-HBS salaries to determine the impact of the loans on my income. From that information, I set a maximum for how much I would be willing to borrow. HBS provides its own loan calculator that includes average salaries provided by HBS Career & Professional Development. There is also a calculator that allows you to estimate the amount of financial aid you might receive.

I knew before I applied that HBS offered need-based financial aid, but I was not sure I would qualify. My financial situation was nuanced. Despite working as an engineer in a high-paying industry, family circumstances had prevented me from saving as much as I could have otherwise. I was both unsure of how to convey this in my application and embarrassed to have to ask for more money. I was not embarrassed that I had been fortunate enough to be in a position to help my family, but on some level, it felt exploitative to use our circumstances as a reason to ask for more funding.

In my financial aid application, I shared details about my finances that, at the time, I debated whether to include. To my surprise, my financial aid representative at HBS not only acknowledged that information but inquired further to see what options he could offer that might increase the amount of aid I received.

During the spring before I enrolled, I received my first financial aid decision letter. I was initially disappointed because I would need to borrow more than I had hoped that I would. A few weeks later, I received an email about a new award called the Forward Fellowship. This award would consider extenuating circumstances, and the separate application would provide an opportunity to convey my need for further aid. More importantly, it would provide me with enough funding to put me within my desired budget.

The added support from the Forward Fellowship significantly reduced my anxiety as the first day of school approached. I was able to articulate my potential financial constraints, and this fellowship was an indication that Financial Aid recognizes that all “need” does not look the same. Most importantly, I did not feel pressure to alter my career goals to be able to repay my student loans.

Don’t get me wrong. Attending HBS requires a substantial financial commitment, and it is a decision to be made only after careful consideration. At the end of the day, you have to decide your comfort level with taking on a meaningful portion of the financial responsibility.

As a recent graduate, I hold no regrets over my decision to invest in myself by utilizing student loans to finance my HBS education. I met lifelong friends, created memories that will last a lifetime, and developed a skill set that will directly benefit me in my career. When I receive questions about financial aid from new HBS admits, I tell them three things: don’t be afraid to invest in your future, be thorough when explaining your financial situation, and apply for every fellowship for which you qualify.