To the Class of 2005: Congratulations and welcome to the Harvard Business School! I am sure your head is spinning as you try to settle into a new home, a new school, a new city and for some of you, a new country. Never worry, it will finally stop spinning somewhere close to the end of your first year.
When I got my admission into HBS, my biggest worry was how I would fit in with the rest of the student body. I dreaded going to class everyday with people who believed they were masters of the universe and the rest of the world was supposed to worship the ground they walked on. I planned to spend as little time as possible within the HBS community and purchased as many weekend tickets to Philadelphia (where my husband lives) as I could afford. However, the more involved I got with HBS activities, the more I realized that there was a lot more to HBS than my narrow preconceived notions. So, I decided to share some simple insights from my own experience.
First, enjoy the section experience. My section experience was nothing short of excellent. From class participation to organized events on behalf of charity to impromptu parties in Harvard Square, the mutual respect and camaraderie of sectionmates never failed to create an inspiring environment. Some rituals that appeared silly at first actually turned out to be just what we needed to form a cohesive unit. Don’t expect everyone in your section to be your best friend but be open to finding people who share your values and interests and be prepared to engage in respectful debate with those who don’t. You might learn something new about yourself and your world.
Second, seek out avenues for renewing old interests and developing new ones. There are so many wonderful student clubs within HBS that you might be tempted to participate in everything. I have learned from experience, however, that it is better to participate fully in a few organizations rather than to try to be everything to everyone. The academic requirements during the first year of HBS are stressful enough that your participation in student clubs should be fun and enriching. HBS student clubs, owing to the nature of most HBS students, are incredibly ambitious and it takes hard work and passion to fulfill those ambitions.
Participating half-heartedly in a lot of organizations will only frustrate you and your club-mates.
Finally, be true to yourself in everything that you do. This will be most important during your career search when so many interesting opportunities pop up in the Job Bank and half your classmates are heading in one direction. I knew that I wanted to work in the entertainment industry when I came to HBS and relied heavily on the alumnae database because I knew that very few, if any, entertainment companies came to recruit at HBS. This determination led to a lot of heartache during Hell Week and the weeks after when my classmates got offers and I had yet to interview at a single entertainment company (all of which just refused to follow the HBS timeline!). The determination also eventually led to two internships at leading entertainment companies despite my lack of experience in the industry.
You have worked hard to get where you are today so relax and have fun. You’re in for an incredible ride!