The business school admissions process was the most exciting challenge I have ever faced. I took the GMAT three times and my first attempt was in Kuwait, during my military deployment to Iraq. I joined a convoy into Kuwait City and found the testing center using GPS, and carried a personal weapon through the journey. I studied for the GMAT months in advance in my dimly lit trailer after hours on duty. After returning from the Middle East, I took the test during my reacclimation into the U.S. After finally reaching my goal score on the third try, I began building my application, personal essays and interview material. It was consuming and exciting. I knew how much I had sacrificed, but I also enjoyed the journey…the introspection and opportunity to connect with mentors and coaches. After getting accepted to HBS, I realized the challenge and reward I felt.
The event that changed my life? 9/11 affected everyone’s life to an extent. Longer lines at airport security, military conflicts overseas, rising costs of national security. It changed my life in particular because I decided after 9/11 that I would join the U.S. Army. It felt like the right thing to do at a time when our country called on the military to serve. My decision led me to 2-years of training: officer candidate school, Army Ranger school, and specialty training. Eventually I led a relief mission with the Army National Guard after Hurricane Katrina. I did a year-long tour in Iraq and Afghanistan, working closely with local authorities and British forces to improve stability and security. My life was changed by 9/11 in a very positive way. I felt very connected to the cause of my country when it needed me most.
The two things I’m most grateful for start with my health, my ability to see, smell, taste and hear every day. In the most simple and complex ways, the world is so beautiful and people are so incredible. I’m thankful for every day I have to live in this amazing earth and country. Next, I’m really grateful for my family and the blessings of encouragement and support they gave me every day growing up. I was never pressured to succeed or push myself. My parents and grandparents showed me great examples of balance, family values and love. I will always be thankful for them.
What adjectives describe Harvard? This place is empowering. It feels like your opportunities are limitless here. I’m so inspired by the people I’ve met. It often makes you want to think bigger for yourself. Everyone here is looking to make an impact, dream larger, and work on bigger problems. ‘Creating leaders who make a difference in the world’ is the motto here, and we’re trying to do it right now. At the Student MBA Association, we’re working on increasing opportunities for students to do community service while in business school to help Boston.
It’s also fun. It sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s just a blast. It feels like a buffet line and you want to put everything on your plate.
It’s eye opening. My mother and father raised my brother and I in Virginia Beach, VA. I lived in the state for 28 years, with the exception military deployments. Now, I’m in a class where 36 percent of my classmates are from outside the U.S. The friendships with the international students are amazing. They are fully integrated into the culture of the school, and they open their houses to everyone for dinner.
Harvard is motivating. People are all excited to do things. They are engaged. People take initiative. I was among 10 to 15 section officers and you don’t have to ask someone to do something here. They do it on their own.
Another adjective I would use to describe Harvard is intellectual. People here are brilliant. The intellectual horsepower is very high. People are interested in learning. They are naturally inquisitive.
If someone is interested in being a part of this, my advice is to start thinking now about what you want to get out of the experience. What will it do for you? Do you want to make a career change? Start a business? You want to come here with a plan to take advantage of all the school has to offer. And you need to come up with a good story to tell. Understand how what you’ve done ties together. Start connecting the dots and say what you want to contribute—not merely what you want to get out of it.
Other “My Story” features: