Fridays from the Frontline: The Art of Perseverance and Resilience – Reapplying to HBS
In this week’s Fridays from the Frontline, we bring you a story of hope, perseverance and resilience from a current Harvard Business School student. Omar Aboulezz, HBS MBA ’21, shares his journey of applying to the program three times before finally finding success.
The Art of Perseverance and Resilience – Reapplying to HBS
By Omar Aboulezz, HBS MBA ’21
My name is Omar Aboulezz, and I’d like to share with you a bit about my journey to HBS and how I persevered through multiple setbacks. Nearly four years elapsed between starting my first HBS application and stepping foot on campus starting as an MBA student in 2019.
I first applied in 2017, was invited to interview, but was not admitted. I tried again the following year with the same outcome, but this time without an interview. Both of these rejections were tough.
However, I learned a lot about perseverance, and I hope what I learned could help you. One of my favorite movie quotes sums it up well (and has since become a personal mantra):
“Hitch: Do you know the definition of perseverance, Miss Melas?
Sara: An excuse to be obnoxious?
Hitch: Continuing a course of action without regard to discouragement, opposition or previous failure.”
People who are crazy enough to persevere and continue to grow and improve are often the ones who have what it takes to succeed. My path to HBS – including my two rejections – allowed me to experience failure, grow to overcome this failure, and finally succeed. To me, these lessons in personal development are as valuable as my education.
As I worked through my two failed attempts, I realized I had the privilege of time to define my professional goals. This allowed me to tell an authentic story in my final application to HBS. I went from trying to impress the admissions committee in previous applications to laying out an authentic vision that I am now pursuing. I wove a narrative of an audacious moonshot dream, of literally going to mine the moon–combining my professional and academic experiences as a mining engineer and my personal interest as a space enthusiast. Now, as a second year MBA student, I am writing a case as an Independent Project on commercializing space and immigrating to America to actually realize my “moonshot” using the skills and perseverance I developed through previous setbacks.
My perseverance has also set up me to navigate some difficult times as a student at HBS. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I realized that the MBA experience I had worked so hard to obtain would look quite different, with remote or hybrid classes and some missed opportunities, like international courses. However, I knew that lamenting the unfortunate timing of a global pandemic went against all the self-work I did in 2017 and 2018 to discover my calling. I used the tools I had learned to navigate this setback and ask for help from friends, which has been especially important in this disconnected era of COVID.
In conclusion, if you just got dinged from HBS, I invite you to consider framing this temporary setback as a growth opportunity. My heart goes out to you. Yes, HBS attracts perseverant and resilient people, but it also helps you cultivate these qualities. You can learn perseverance and it will serve you as you move through your life. I am better off for my application journey because I chose to be resilient and persevere. If you choose to reapply, do the self-work necessary to continue to grow, and you’ll be better for it. I believe in you. You got this!
And as always ladies and gentlemen, wishing for you: