As I sit down to write this piece for the Harbus, I can’t help but remember my first few days at the HBS campus. HBS can be a scary place for a new student and also being new to the country can definitely add to that apprehension. The exhilaration of having made it to one of the best B schools in the world disappeared the moment I landed on the campus since here I was no different from 950 others who had also made the cut and worse, everybody seemed to be more capable and competent than I was. I wondered if I could even get through a few weeks without dying of exhaustion.
After a year of having survived cold calls, class participation, recruiting and sleep deprivation, I realize that the RC year has been truly transformative. It is here that I made some of my closest friends, met some great people (go Section A!), discovered interests that I never knew I had. Most importantly though, I have a lifetime of memories shared with some of the most incredible people I have ever met.
As I transition into the EC year and welcome the RCs into what I am sure will be one of their most memorable years, here is some advice that I have gleaned through my experience.
You are not the mistake in the admission process
A common feeling among RCs is that they are the so called admission mistake as they interact with and get to know what some of their fellow classmates have done prior to school. If you are ever plagued by self doubt, just remember that you are not alone in thinking this and more importantly, you are as competent and deserving to be here as the 900 odd others with you, whether or not you were a banker or helped combat malaria in Africa.
Academics and Class Participation: don’t sweat it
The law of diminishing returns holds perfectly for case prep. So, do not spend more than 2 hours on any case. Learn to accept that there are going to be insights from your section mates that you never thought of yourself. If you do not have a business undergrad, you might find the first month of classes incredibly exhausting but trust me you will get smarter as the months go by and will learn to handle 3 cases effortlessly by the second term.
FOMO: fight it
To experience everything that HBS has to offer you, you will have to spend more than just 2 years here. However, you only have 24 hours a day and about 18 months on campus, so while its important to test new waters, don’t spread yourself too thin. You have to let go of a few activities in order to do a few others and its perfectly ok to do that. Trust me, as you complete your RC year, you still will have done a lot more than you imagined possible.
Reach out for help
You would not believe how many resources the school has starting from academic services to operations and how incredibly approachable your classmates are to help you get through any of your problems. It’s not a sign of weakness to reach out for help and its almost foolish not to when you need it. Find out whom you can talk to when you need help.
You are here because of who you are and what you bring to your classmates and it’s important not to lose that. The purpose of the program is not for HBS to produce 900 clones who think and act alike. Hold onto your diversity and uniqueness and don’t think that you have to live or act a certain way in order to be successful here. Make some time for yourself everyday whether it is catching up with your family and non-HBS friends or indulging in your favorite pastime.
This is a great place to be and remains just a dream for a great number of people. The privileges you receive as an HBS student are never going to come back to you once you leave this place. So, enjoy the ride and have fun. Good luck to all of you!
Lavanya Manohar is an EC student from Section Old A. When not reading 3 cases a day, she enjoys blogging and watching movies.