“Individually, you’re brilliant. TOGETHER, you’re dazzling.” These were the finely chosen words Deirdre Leopold, Managing Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid, used to describe my class during the Welcoming Ceremonies in Burden Auditorium last September. All through your Admitted Students Weekend, I’m certain that you’ll have the opportunity to meet some of the many amazing people that study and work here at HBS and come to agree that Director Leopold described the Harvard Business School pretty accurately. This is undoubtedly one of the most articulate, accomplished and driven communities that you’ll ever have the chance to be a part of. The question now is: Is this the right place for you? Two years is a long time and a lot of opportunity cost and I’ll agree that such a decision should not be taken lightly. So I’m writing now to give you an alternate, often-overlooked perspective on the HBS experience.
You know about the universality of the “Harvard” brand name and how it can open countless doors. You’ve heard about or even witnessed the dynamic case discussions in class and seen the uncanny ability of HBS students to carry a fascinating conversation. And of course, it’s hard to miss the beautiful and sprawling campus and facilities that make studying at HBS a joy each day.
Some might say- and maybe rightly so- that we live in a very privileged environment. We’re truly blessed and are eminently aware of that fact. Life has been extremely generous with the students of this school and that’s why we have a constant desire to give back to society. The Consulting, Investment Banking, Private Equity and Finance Clubs continue to be popular among students; however, many outsiders may not know that one of the larger organizations in the school is the Social Enterprise Club. Furthermore, a good number of HBS students have served or currently have responsibilities on the boards of nonprofit organizations around the world. Some have even established their own charities and have managed these together with the challenging demands of the MBA curriculum. Just recently, many of my friends placed the finishing touches on months of work for their submission to the Social Enterprise Business Plan Competition. Each EC and RC section is now busy with the annual charity auction that suffers no lack of creativity in what HBS students are willing to do for a worthy cause. In essence, this is a community whose underlying currents are intensely directed towards effecting meaningful social good.
And so, when you make that final determination of whether you will be attending this school or not this coming September, keep this pertinent insight in mind. The weight of expectation at HBS is enormous and nothing captures this better than the lofty mission of the school to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. Beyond the bottom-line, we are increasingly looking at the bigger picture and where we can deliver not only financial returns but build social capital as well. If your calling in life matches the type of leadership HBS seeks to embody, then the next two years of your life will not only be immensely educational but satisfyingly transformative.
In closing, here’s Deirdre Leopold, once again: Be good to yourself, but be excellent to others.
Welcome to the first year of the next 100 of the Harvard Business School.