Making Dreams Come True

To those students who have decided on their dream jobs but don’t know whether they can afford to take a cut in salary, have hope: a new HBS fellowship program may solve your dilemma.

This is the second year that HBS will offer fellowships for students who want to work in lower-paying industries such as entertainment, retail or education, or may want to work in another country where MBA salaries don’t compare well. Previously, there weren’t many alternatives for similarly motivated individuals with substantial student loans to repay.
Fellowships are available both for internships and positions after graduation.

Andy Klump ’03 was a fellowship recipient last year and is now working for Dell in China. “Since I had enough obstacles in making a risky career move to a sales position in China, I’m very grateful that this program was established. While I was confident about the direction of my long-term career outlook, the fellowship helped to lighten the loan burden in the near term.”

Last year’s pilot program drew 63 applications and 31 were awarded fellowships. The average award was $16,000. The students were required to have an offer letter in hand and to apply before graduation day.

Career Services Managing Director Matt Merrick said the idea grew from the career counseling sessions his department conducted with students. “It became very clear that debt is an issue that weighs heavily on [students’] job decisions.”

“The problem is, what do you do if you want to go to Argentina and make [$40,000] in U.S. dollars? The international students can get here but they can’t go back,” said Brit Dewey, HBS Managing Director of Admissions and Financial Aid.

The average HBS student graduates with $75,000 in debt that must be paid back within 10 to 15 years. “Psychologically, owing $75,000 on graduation day can be significant for students,” added Dewey.

Merrick, Dewey and Financial Aid Director Susan Gilbert worked for 18 months to put together an innovative program, which was launched last spring. The effort was backed by Deans Kim Clark and Carl Kester who made the funds available.

This year, “we have about $1.5 million that is available. We could use it in a number of different ways, and we chose to use them for this [fellowship program],” said Dean Clark.

Bee Phanaphat ’03 participated in the pilot program last year. “I’m currently working at BCG Bangkok. Although the pay here is definitely below class average pay, since

graduation, I’ve been getting lots of exposures in the Thai market where I see myself building a long term base, and eventually giving back to the society. The supplemental fellowship gave me some flexibilities and allowed me to step back – to really think hard of what I want to do and where I want to be in life.”

Taking the time to reflect and decide on life goals is a luxury a graduate might have to postpone if s/he worked in another field first to pay back debt. Merrick said, “We very much encourage students to follow their dreams and we hope this will help them to pursue them now.”

It appears that they are doing just that. One graduate who asked to remain anonymous wrote:

“…without the extreme generosity of HBS through its supplemental fellowship fund, I would not be able to be on the creative side of television right now.”

What will the Harbus write about the program next year? It’s up to you.