Weekday mornings, in a discussion group composed of a math teacher, beauty product strategist, and a pro-athlete-turned-investor, I tackled over a hundred watershed corporate decisions, ranging from optimizing operations at a Massachusetts hospital to leading transformational change in South African platinum mines. In my courses, I debated cases with classmates whose journeys to HBS are as remarkable as they are diverse, hearing from experts and case protagonists along the way. Outside of class, I listened to insightful and inspiring industry leaders, pursued personal and professional passions, and traveled with my classmates across the world. All this, and it’s only been a year since I came to HBS. 

Hailing from about 70 countries and 300 universities, each of my classmates took his or her own path to HBS. For some, business school facilitates taking the next step in a career, transitioning from roles that were more execution-oriented to bigger-picture decision-making. Others come to explore new careers, leveraging the perspectives of professionals across the spectrum of industries and geographies to chart their own course. Amidst the multitude of individual rationales for pursuing an MBA, common themes aren’t hard to see—not only financial and academic benefits, but also leadership development, opportunities for self-reflection and growth, and meaningful personal relationships. 

An MBA at HBS requires significant financial investment, so I’d be remiss to omit the financial benefits of the degree. As I described in the article “The MBA as a Finance Case” in The Harbus, the bottom line is that the degree quickly pays for itself and more, and alumni typically see increases in long-run compensation of many multiples of the investment required for the degree. The university’s generous financial aid, designed to ensure that financial need doesn’t interfere with deserving students’ ability to take part in and contribute to the HBS community, amplifies an already strong economic value proposition. 

Even more important than financial benefits, the HBS MBA facilitates an evolution from an individual who creates change through independent effort to a leader who inspires and drives change through coordinated action. Collective reasoning is inherent in the pedagogy at HBS; the case method demands thoughtful discussion and consideration of a broad range of perspectives. The result is that the MBA prepares students for roles that rely on contribution through interdependence rather than through independence. 

At HBS, there’s a mentality that some skills can be taught, but others can only be learned. Experience imparts value that a textbook simply cannot. The case method bridges theory and practice, stretches and hones future business leaders through the most complex and challenging situations, and provides a sandbox to take risks, fail constructively, and learn. This prepares students to succeed as agenda-setters rather than simply doers, to orchestrate broad impact through collaborative movements rather than individual efforts, and to leverage and contribute to a diverse community. 

Being an agenda-setter means developing a broad knowledge base, often in contrast with the specific, specialized competencies required to excel in many pre-MBA positions. HBS students find this both in our classmates, whose academic and professional backgrounds cover seemingly every field of study and sector, and in our cases, which every day involve deep dives into different companies around the world, each with its own set of industry dynamics and idiosyncratic challenges. While case discussions lend themselves to abstracting away general principles, the value of engagement with business issues of all shapes and sizes can’t be overstated. 

Similarly, personal traits and individual excellence might underpin recognition early in a career, but HBS elevates the perspective, shifting emphasis to broader results. The curriculum pushes us to think beyond asking how to individually contribute more in the workplace and in society, instead focusing on how to design processes that make entire organizations collectively more efficient, more innovative, and more impactful. Through hands-on engagement with real-life scenarios, we’re compelled to contemplate not just what should be done and why, but also how specifically to execute on ideas that matter. 

Above all, there’s something special about this place that fosters lifelong friendships. It’s powerful to find motivated, diverse, socially minded peers with big dreams for one another. Personally, I am grateful for a community here that has challenged my thinking, honed my aspirations, and shared unforgettable new experiences. We are lucky that in time, when faced with watershed decisions of our own, we’ll have the continued counsel of peers who have already tackled hundreds of such cases at our side.

Sumit Malik (MBA ’19) is Editor-in-Chief of The Harbus, President of the Global Business Club, and Trustee of the Harbus Foundation. Prior to attending HBS, he worked in private equity at Warburg Pincus and investment banking at Goldman Sachs. After graduating, he will be in private equity at Blackstone. Sumit received his Master of Science and his undergraduate degree, summa cum laude, from Harvard.