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PROMPT: As we review your application, what more would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy for the Harvard Business School MBA Program? (no word limit)
This essay was provided by the experts at Admissions Gateway.
I remember my hands trembling as I clenched the scissors, and my mother’s gorgeous locks fell to the ground − I was six years old. Compelled to quit her studies after marriage, my mother resumed her masters in [course] after ten stifling years. With my father’s solitary income going into tuition for my mother, sister and me, a proper haircut was a wasteful luxury. My parents shielded us from their struggles, but the gravity of our situation hit home as I cut my mother’s hair.
When my mother finally cleared her examinations, I expected things to change. Instead, she declined lucrative offers to join public-services, catering to marginalized populations through [country’s] public healthcare system. My parents unwavering desire to lead a life of meaning, fuelled my own. Over the course of my journey, I have carved my own path to making a difference – one of spreading my ideas and impact, beyond what I could accomplish alone. I would like to share how three transformative experiences, starting over a decade ago, have progressively shaped this lifelong approach.
At 13, I was devastated to see my sister’s tiny frame shake violently as she coughed from asthma. What affected me most was learning that we had all contributed to these respiratory problems, by making [city] the most polluted city in the world.
I refused to remain a silent spectator and started an environment club, [club], at school. Digging-up compost pits and conducting tree-plantation drives, our team explored every opportunity to make our premises greener. The efforts of our small 10-member team indicated to me the potential to spur larger change by motivating all 1500 students to step-up. Our idea to achieve this, by integrating environmental-awareness within our curriculum, was dismissed by the administration for lack of resources. Undeterred, I started writing applications to garner financial support, and within months, led our team to the first place in a national competition. The $15K we won infused both resources and enthusiasm to implement our eco-friendly curriculum.
Juggling my graduation-examinations and endless hours of organizing activities for the entire school, we grew [club] five-fold. Students stepped-up to expand our efforts, from transitioning our school to using solar energy to organizing large-scale zero-waste campaigns. ‘Exponential’ was no longer just a graph I studied, I could tangibly see my impact multiplying by mobilising individuals around me.
Eager to replicate our success beyond school, I initiated environmental workshops for children from urban-slums in [city].
“Boys don’t need to save money for dowry, do they not have to conserve environmental resources either?” asked 11-year old [name]. Half-way into my first workshop, my analogy of saving money to explain the concept of conserving environmental resources, had derailed my session-plan.
Having witnessed the consequences of gender-disparity in my own childhood I started my non-profit [non-profit], during college, to promote holistic life-skills education to uproot such evils. I was happiest spending weekends in community-centres and public-classrooms, with my team of student-volunteers, conducting activity-based workshops for hundreds of children. I vividly remember when, beaming with pride, [name] told me that she had saved enough money to buy her house. She not only grasped complex concepts of banking and savings, but acknowledged herself as a financially-independent female – albeit in a game of Monopoly!
By graduation, we grew to a 20-member team and reached 1,000+ children. However, once I moved to join Investment-Banking, our student-volunteer model disintegrated and fundraising for a full-time team seemed impossible. While struggling to sustain momentum, I saw a class-teacher enthusiastically taking initiative to support our program, during a workshop. Watching her, it struck me that scaling-up [non-profit] was not the only way to further impact.
pullquote align=left text="Over the course of my journey, I have carved my own path to making a difference – one of spreading my ideas and impact, beyond what I could accomplish alone."}
Restructuring our workshops into a comprehensive curriculum, we showcased it to the state academic department. Winning their support, we trained 100 public-school teachers and principals to deliver the program. Within two years, these teachers extended our program to 10,000 children and even co-opted their colleagues. Their efforts reaffirmed my conviction that enabling change-agents at a systemic-level could accelerate impact at scale.
To steer my journey in this direction, I decided to quit my investment-banking job in [country] and return to [country]. Forgoing the financial comfort I was finally providing my family weighed on me, but I chose to follow my heart. I joined [foundation], a philanthropy focused on driving systemic change to tangibly impact India’s education landscape.
Innovative, low-cost teaching-aids developed by [company], my [foundation] portfolio-organisation, drastically improved learning for children in rural classrooms. However, their low-monetization potential generated minimal funder interest, threatening their existence. Their question, “How will we serve these children, when we can barely stay afloat?” echoed my own struggles at [non-profit].
Collaborating with the [state] government, I helped [company] reduce costs through subsidies and extend their program to 40,000 students. I was leading large-scale projects with public systems at [foundation], but I realized that empowering social-enterprises such as [company] to drive systemic change could create ripple-effects throughout the ecosystem.
My ten-year-old self wouldn't believe just how far I have come – my hands no longer shake when I take decisive actions, whose outcomes I cannot always predict.
Today, non-profit social-enterprises in India fail to reach their potential, owing to lack of financial and strategic support - the largest remains 1/100th the size of its global peers. So, I took on the mandate to launch an Accelerator within [non-profit], to ensure this support, even though this meant leaving my team and starting out alone. My path was uphill, given [non-profit’s] strategic shift towards working directly with governments − the initiative was peripheral for every decision, be it budget-allocations or team-building.
The eagerness of portfolio-organizations in leveraging every support opportunity kept me going. Months of co-creating monetization strategies and facilitating government meetings paid off, in one instance, enabling immense expansion for the portfolio-organization to reach 800,000 children. Such successes helped evangelize our potential and we are now raising an independent fund to support 30 entrepreneurs to help transform education for 5M children.
My ten-year-old self wouldn’t believe just how far I have come – my hands no longer shake when I take decisive actions, whose outcomes I cannot always predict. Striving to continually widen my impact has helped me progress from empowering school-students to supporting social-entrepreneurs, towards enabling an entire ecosystem of social change-makers.
Battling one constant challenge throughout, that of inadequate resources, has highlighted how social-finance could be the ‘driving-force’ towards my goal. Most importantly, I have learnt that beyond individual efforts, by spearheading thought-leadership and global alliances, I can mobilize the entire ecosystem, catalyzing robust social-investment markets in India.
My friend [name] described how assimilating diverse perspectives through the case-method at HBS helped him understand nuances of business across cultures, while the vibrant community provided access to global networks. HBS equipped him to launch and grow his company across eight emerging economies, through partnerships with local entrepreneurs. Similarly, I am convinced that the ideas, experiences and relationships built at HBS will help me realize my vision where every [club], [non-profit] and [company] can go on to create the change it aspires to.
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What is most compelling is how through the three examples, the applicant demonstrates leadership, initiative, and impact at increasing levels throughout the essay, starting from a very young age.
The essay is engaging, right from the opening paragraph, when the applicant takes the reader directly to the scene as a six-year-old cutting her mother’s hair. The applicant provides important personal context with respect to the experiences that have shaped her perspective and values, “My parents unwavering desire to lead a life of meaning, fuelled my own.” This in turn, has influenced the applicant’s own desire to take action and “[carve her] own path to making a difference,” which is so clearly stated in the applicant’s thesis statement.
Throughout the essay, the applicant demonstrates her passion for giving back to the community as well as her impactful leadership and initiative.
Throughout the essay, the applicant demonstrates her passion for giving back to the community as well as her impactful leadership and initiative, first in school by starting an environmental club, then by launching a non-profit in college, and finally, by creating an accelerator within the non-profit that she joined. In doing so, she shows the reader how she went about implementing change and the ensuing impact that resulted. However, these successes have not been achieved without their share of challenges and obstacles (“battling inadequate resources”), and so what the reader comes away with is the applicant’s humility and humanness. Moreover, the story-telling is very smooth as the applicant does an excellent job of transitioning from one story to another.
As the essay concludes, the applicant comes full-circle, referencing the opening anecdote, “My ten-year-old self wouldn’t believe just how far I have come – my hands no longer shake when I take decisive actions, whose outcomes I cannot always predict.” The last paragraph is a concise but insightful conclusion that weaves in how the applicant has gotten to know Harvard Business School and how the MBA program will help her achieve her goals.
The Crimson's news and opinion teams—including writers, editors, photographers, and designers—were not involved in the production of this article.