The HBS Forward Fellowship helps support students from lower-income backgrounds who carry significant financial burdens or obligations to family. We hope to ensure that students from all socioeconomic walks of life continue to be part of the rich diversity that fuels our community.

Acknowledging just how far an individual has come

HBS actively seeks out students from a wide range of cultural, professional, and socioeconomic backgrounds. We established the Forward Fellowship to acknowledge not just where individuals are now, but also how far they have come. And we do not want someone’s ability to pay for the MBA to prevent them from applying to HBS.

Applicants carrying significant financial burdens or obligations include (but are not limited to) those who meet the following criteria:

  • Grew up in a lower-income household and contributed to household expenses during that time
  • Provided parents with financial support prior to and/or will provide support during their MBA program

We award Forward Fellowships in addition to, not instead of, need-based HBS Scholarships to further assist students during their transformative two years at HBS. The award is intended to reduce their MBA loan debt and to help them make an investment in themselves.

Forward Fellowship awards and evaluation criteria

The Forward Fellowship award is $30,000 ($15,000 each year). Unlike regular need-based HBS Scholarships, we consider students’ family circumstances and financial history in addition to their individual financial situation.

To apply, admitted students must complete the HBS Financial Aid application and a complementary fellowship application that provides parent and family information. This helps us identify incoming students from lower-income backgrounds and ensures that the grant goes to those who need it most.


This fellowship was created in 2018 by John C. Phelan (MBA 1990), to ensure that students from all socioeconomic walks of life continue to be part of the rich diversity that fuels the HBS community. Mr. Phelan, the Co-Founder and Co-Managing Partner of both MSD Capital, L.P. and MSD Partners, L.P., holds a BA from Southern Methodist University and a General Course degree from The London School of Economics in addition to his MBA.