I had no idea what an MBA was merely eight months before I was accepted into Harvard Business School. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. My only plan post-graduation from college was “go live in Africa.” I had been awarded a generous fellowship from Rotary International to study in Ghana, and that was the extent of my plan. I didn’t know what life held for me beyond that year.
However, one of my mentors saw great potential in me. I was volunteering at her nonprofit, hustling donations for food and door prizes from small businesses for a concert we were holding for the local youth. “You have some great business sense,” Mona said to me. “You should think about getting an MBA. One of our board members just graduated from Harvard Business School.”
And then it turned out that the person she was referring to was someone I knew and had volunteered under with HOBY. I knew someone who graduated from Harvard Business School! This piqued my interest, and I then Googled “Harvard Business School” or as it is often referred to “HBS”.
I landed on the homepage, and I remember reading:
Do you want to lead people and make a difference? Do you want a transformational experience?
Yes and yes! All of my prior internships had been in the nonprofit sector. I considered myself somewhat of a changemaker and a social activist. Of course I wanted to lead people and make a difference! Of course I wanted a transformational experience!
Then I somehow found myself on the salary statistics page for HBS graduates, and I was astonished. After just two years of what looked like a pretty amazing educational experience, I would earn more than both my parents combined. I had to know more about this degree.
With just a few more minutes of investigation, I learned that the year I was applying was the first year HBS was accepting seniors right out of college. I took this as a sign that I had to apply. Six months before the deadline, I decided I was going to apply to Harvard Business School.
Now that I am in my last semester here at Harvard Business School, and starting my own coaching company, I want to let all of you interesting types know why you should consider getting an MBA:
1. You’ll understand how business works. In lots of creative industries, there is a separation between the business employees and the creative employees. Actually understanding business strategy—how companies effectively compete and make money over time—as well as the technical parts of business (like how to read and interpret an income statement) is a huge advantage in creative industries. Creating art is a beautiful thing. Actually knowing how to make money from that art is even better.
2. Your perspective will be valued and appreciated. Many business schools use the case method of teaching. Harvard Business School uses the case method for all subjects, which means we learn from reading and discussing real-life situations as a class. Every student teaches her fellow students. My classmates are extremely diverse and very interesting. They range from Olympic medalists and former models to opera singers, military officers, and writers. Nontraditional work experience is welcomed by both professors and recruiting employers.
3. There are special programs in Social Entrepreneurship. If saving the world is your dream, Business Schools are scrambling to meet your needs. Harvard has a thriving Social Enterprise Initiative, which includes things such as generous fellowships for students to take on summer and full-time positions with nonprofit organizations.
4. You’ll make a lot more money. MBAs make lots of money. And having an MBA does not mean that you have to go into a job in Corporate America. What it does mean, however, is an ability to command a higher salary due to the additional skills you bring to the job. You aren’t just a middle school principle. You’re a middle school principle that knows how to create the cash flow statement for your school. And people will pay more for those elusive MBA skills.
5. You won’t necessarily graduate with lots of debt. There are a ton of MBA fellowships that you can take advantage of. There’s the Consortium of Graduate Schools in Management, the Zuckerman Fellowship, and the Reynolds Fellowship just to name a few.
6. You’ll learn new skills. If you went to a liberal arts college like I did, at a certain point, you get really tired of writing research papers. It has been a wonderful change of pace to use the other side of my brain for two years. I’m still a writer at heart, but now I know what all that jargon in the Wall Street Journal means too!
7. Business is becoming more accountable. Several of my friends at Harvard Business School are leading the effort to create and spread the MBA Oath. They’re trying to promote a business culture of ethics and accountability. In the wake of the events leading up to the recession, it’s become obvious that we have to find a more honest, transparent, sustainable way of doing business. This is a great time to be a social activist in Business School, and shape the direction of the MBA of the future.
8. You can earn a joint degree to feed your other side. I’m a joint MBA degree with Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). HKS was the natural fit for my interests in global cultures and eradicating poverty. It was a no-brainer to me to apply for the joint HBS/HKS degree. However, if policy isn’t your thing, there are joint degrees in Medicine, Education, Public Health, Law, and other fields at all the top business schools.
So if you aren’t convinced by now, join me for a free one-hour conference call on Wednesday, Dec. 23rd at 8:30 pm ET to address any questions you may have about applying to Business School. No question is too basic, too specific, or too strange to ask! Just keep it interesting!