Everyone fortunate enough to be admitted to HBS gets to share a unique and life-changing experience on this idyllic campus. While we may have ended up at the same institution, we certainly did not all start from the same place.

Students at HBS come from diverse backgrounds and upbringings that continue to shape both our experiences and decisions. When it comes to diversity, things like race or gender can be readily apparent. But there is a dimension of diversity that isn’t so evident, the socioeconomic one. To ensure that the School continues to grow promising leaders who hail from all types of communities, the Forward Fellowship was developed. 

While the School is undoubtedly filled with impressive people, what makes this place truly special is the opportunity we have to get to know our classmates intimately. As we do, we see how important it is to acknowledge not just where each of us is now, but where we started from—and how far we have come.

From the classroom to the dining hall, HBS stories impact and transform you.

I met someone who considered herself blessed to have both the capacity and privilege to support a family who depended on her for groceries every week. A good friend of mine wonders how he’ll juggle the financial responsibilities of the children he hopes to have with those of his parents who were unable to save for retirement. Another classmate spent a portion of her childhood living in a homeless shelter with her mom, couch surfing between homes of generous church members before they got back on their feet. 

My own father has worked in the heart of Times Square for more than three decades since immigrating to the United States. He isn’t a business executive in one of New York’s skyscrapers but an earnest waiter who works six days a week. I am incredibly proud of him and my mother, and how they have provided everything my siblings and I ever needed.

Stories like these can easily go untold. Thankfully, many students at HBS take time to candidly and openly share these narratives, which are becoming an increasingly important part of the dialogue. I know I am made better because of these individuals. The Forward Fellowship fosters these moments by ensuring that the highly qualified applicants who come from these types of beginnings are not deterred by the price of an MBA.

During my time at HBS, I was privileged to have the opportunity to assist in establishing the Forward Fellowship. I was drawn to helping the School launch this kind of funding—a first for business schools—because of what it helps facilitate.

The Fellowship is meant to enable the convergence of experiences that enriches our entire community. I found it particularly interesting when I learned about the different things my classmates worried about and how different they were from what kept me up at night. I appreciated the honest sharing of what we were concerned about, be it our family, careers, relationships, etc. These kinds of conversations were made all the richer when we meaningfully connected with people we otherwise might not have met.

Also, it’s difficult to be a leader who makes a difference in the world if we feel financially compelled to pursue roles that we don’t truly love. Following opportunities in entrepreneurship, the public sector, or the social sector may not be financially judicious when debt is among the many obligations to consider. The Fellowship may allow us to pursue careers spurred by passion rather than money.  

HBS is committed to admitting and supporting individuals who hold tremendous promise for affecting positive change in society, regardless of their ability to pay for tuition. Neither your postal code nor the amount in your savings account precludes you from a transformative two years here. If you hold any doubt, I encourage you to explore and to apply to Harvard Business School—and to see if the Forward Fellowship can help drive you and your future forward.