MBA ESSAY ARCHETYPE: Personal Drivers
HBS MBA | Application Year 2014-15, Class of 2017
Essay Question #1: You’re applying to Harvard Business School. We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy? (no word limit)
There is no word limit for this question. We think you know what guidance we’re going to give here. Don’t overthink, overcraft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don’t know your world can understand.
They say laughter is the best medicine! Rather than beginning medical school after his postbaccalaureate, this MBA candidate built a successful nonprofit that delivers improvisational comedy to the sick and the elderly. He uses the HBS essay to give the Adcom insight into how his interests and entrepreneurial spirit connect his career trajectory to date (nonprofit and finance) with his short-term goal to work in a capacity-building role at a larger-scale nonprofit like the Clinton Foundation.
Performer’s line: ‘I opened my eyes and all I could see were…’
Resident of NURSING HOME chimes in: ‘Goats!’
By then, the NONPROFIT’s improv troop had already recruited two audience members to the stage. In turn, each would fill in a word of dialogue when tapped on the shoulder.
While I had spent my classroom time at UNIVERSITY majoring in philosophy, outside of the classroom, I was involved with improvisational comedy both on and off campus. With my undergraduate degree in hand, I decided to pursue a postbaccalaureate program in life sciences at IVY LEAGUE UNIVERSITY. While there, I founded a nonprofit that allowed me to combine my passion for people’s physical and mental wellbeing with my love for improvisational theater. NONPROFIT delivers free comedy performances and workshops at elder care, physical therapy and substance abuse recovery centers. By the end of our second year the organization boasted a nominal presence in CITY.
For the first time I felt that I was in the right place. Professionally, being the founder of NONPROFIT allowed me to combine my talents and interests while leading the organization allowed me to move outside the ivy tower into the world of social entrepreneurship. However, by YEAR, I realized that I lacked some of the skills and savoir faire necessary to grow the organization beyond CITY. Later that year I found myself at a crossroads: I was on the verge of completing my postbaccalaureate program and reflected seriously on what direction my career should take. Typically graduates’ enroll in medical school or a doctoral program, but after working in several university departments, I had the wherewithal to recognize that I didn’t have a calling to either the medicine or academia. Instead I accepted an Associate role with X Financial Group, a financial services consulting firm in the regulatory and risk management space.
I saw parallels between NONPROFIT and X Financial Group in that both organizations demanded an entrepreneurial mindset. As an Analyst Consultant at Promontory I found myself in an unfamiliar setting and a high pressure work environment. I reached out to colleagues and my supervisor for guidance in order to ramp up my finance skills and to understand the technical models and the company’s procedures.
In YEAR, I returned to NONPROFIT as the full-time Director. To date, I’ve successfully lead expansions to CITY X, CITY Y, and CITY Z, significantly increased our volunteer base, strengthened our brand awareness through marketing and social media, and built out our fundraising apparatus. I am proud of the accomplishments I’ve achieved working alongside NONPROFIT’s talented team of volunteers but I continue to face professional challenges in areas such as capital generation and organizational funds management.
My short-term post-MBA goal is to work at a nonprofit like Community Wealth Partners or the Clinton Foundation, were I would secure a role that allows me to focus on capacity-building and further develop my skills in nonprofit finance and management. In the long-term I hope to advance in seniority within the non-profit sector and would dedicate my personal time to NONPROFIT – continuing on as Director and further scaling the organization across the U.S.
The formal management education and practical experiences of an MBA program are a necessary next step in my career trajectory. An MBA will provide with the fundamental business and finance knowledge, along with practical management skills that I lack. In turn, my business education would accelerate the career in social sector management that I envision for myself.
During my visit to the HBS campus this fall I felt more strongly than ever that HBS would fulfill my need for theoretical instruction, lively discussion and hands-on application of business case studies. Professor T’s course, on Entrepreneurship in the Social Sector, and Professor J’s course, on Social Marketing, are just two of the many offerings at Harvard Business School that would complement the core curriculum and prepare me to apply my classroom learning in the business world. Being located near Boston, while still on a campus that promotes student bonding and personal growth as much as it does academic growth would be ideal. As a skier and hiker, weekend outings with classmates, would be high on my list of leisure activities.
I’ve learned through NONPROFIT that creative modalities such as humor and improvisational comedy can help improve health and well-being in communities if supported with good business decision making and a solid financial planning. When the staff at a care facility thank my team at NONPROFIT for bringing comic relief to people who are suffering, I am truly humbled and amazed to reflect on how an idea, supplemented by a strategic vision and hard work, can leave its mark in the world. As an alumnus of HBS I would hope to continue to create impact on a greater scale within the not for profit world.