Business school is a valuable investment in your future. HBS supports this investment with generous needs-based scholarships. In addition to scholarships, many HBS students use student loans to help cover their share of the shared investment.
If you’re planning on borrowing to help fund your MBA, you’re probably thinking what the repayment might look like after graduation. HBS graduates pursue careers in a variety of industries and positions across the world. With a median starting salary of $ 148,750 and a median signing bonus of $ 30,000, HBS graduates are well positioned to repay their student loans. Yet incurring student debt to fund an MBA is an important commitment, and we recognize that personal circumstances influence how each student approaches this commitment. To better understand how HBS graduates manage and repay their student debt, we interviewed several alumni about their loan repayment journey.
Class: MBA 2018
Career: Author of The Unspoken Rules and Social Entrepreneur
Could you please share a bit about your education and background?
I was born and raised in Toronto to a single mother who dropped out of school at the age of 12 to work in a sewing factory. I was 14 when she was fired from her job in a sewing machine factory. Because I was fluent in English and had computer skills, I helped her search for another job, which included online research and writing resumes and cover letters. We applied to hundreds of jobs, but she received no callbacks. Eventually, she found a government program that allowed her to go back to school and become a childminder. The experience really marked me and influenced my life and the direction of my career.
What was your approach to paying for HBS?
I worked in management consulting for two years before joining HBS. Growing up in a family that prioritized saving for rainy days, I had contributed as much as possible to retirement savings. I was relieved to find that this would not detract from my consideration of financial aid to HBS. I received very generous financial assistance, but I also took out student loans.
Have you felt any anxiety or stress related to debt or how you would pay for HBS? If so, how did you deal with these feelings?
Finances have been my priority throughout my two years of school. I knew I wanted to become a social entrepreneur, so I prioritized how I spent my time and money around this goal. There are so many opportunities at HBS; you can literally have 3 opportunities for each time slot on your calendar, so I imposed a yes / no frame that helped me prioritize:
- Is this something that would help me go further, faster in a startup?
- Is this an opportunity that would help me meet more like-minded people?
- Is this something that I could only do at HBS and at no other time in my life?
As I imposed this framework on my decisions, I found myself saying no to many of the more expensive activities like weekend trips. I ended up doing more activities on campus and spent a lot of time in i-lab. During the summer, between my first and second year, I received additional funding through the Rock Summer Fellowship Program. I also signed up for every startup pitch competition I was eligible for and won modest amounts. I found ways to make it work financially.
How did you approach your career search? Was it influenced by concerns about loans or debt repayment?
I asked myself, “What does success look like the day after graduation?” Inspired by my mother’s story, my experience as a first generation college student and other first generation students I mentored, I realized that I wanted to give it forward – to help others. humble beginnings to reach their full potential. I had a sponsorship offer from my former employer, so there was a significant opportunity cost of leaving the board. I chose not to take the sponsorship. It was a difficult decision, but I knew that going all the way into social entrepreneurship, rather than leaving it for nights and weekends, would be the path of least regret. HBS financial support made the decision to engage in social entrepreneurship possible.
What has your experience been with paying down debt? What is / was your strategy?
My approach has been to “pay first” for my student loans. Growing up, we never bought anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. I kept this state of mind. So after HBS I was very disciplined when it came to personal expenses and debt repayment and it ended up being more manageable than I expected. I also took advantage of the Rock Center Loan Reduction Program, which was very helpful.
Are there any tips you would like to share with prospective or current HBS students regarding loans or debt repayment?
I have advised a number of first generation students to really explore financial aid programs at different schools. Many of these students have a strong desire to give back; to use this new privilege to uplift others. But financial realities may prevent them from continuing down this path. For those who think that finance or counseling is the only financially viable avenue, I encourage them to research the resources available and to be careful with their finances. It will require sacrifices, but it is possible. HBS is particularly generous to students from modest backgrounds.