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Real Humans of the Harvard Business School MBA Class of 2023

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harvard business school mba classGabrielle Porter, Harvard Business School MBA Class of 2023

Age: 26
Hometown: Corning, NY
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Spelman College, Economics
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): Four years, CPG brand management 

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
I decided to attend business school because I knew it would equip me with the skills I need to successfully run a global enterprise and drive greater social change. I deliberately worked for four years before attending so I could gain a variety of experiences that would enable me to contribute substantially to classroom discussions and enhance my recruiting opportunities. 

Why did you choose HBS? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
HBS has been my goal for years. As a rising college senior, I attended HBS’ Summer Venture in Management Program (SVMP), which is a one-week residential, educational program for rising and graduating college seniors designed to increase diversity in business. During that time, I saw firsthand the power of the case method and of a HBS MBA to grow networks, advance careers, and broaden exposure to different industries. That led me to apply to HBS via the 2+2 program, a deferred admissions process by which undergraduates in their final year of study apply to HBS and, if accepted, can defer for two to four years to gain career experience. I also knew HBS’ use of the case method would challenge me to fully engage and push me out of my comfort zone – and it is.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
I am one of few students who comes from the consumer packaged goods industry. That enables me to contribute experiences and insights to classroom discussions that may not have been previously considered.  

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I was a foster dog mom through my local animal shelter. I fostered, trained, and rehomed a very cute red bone/pit bull mix. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had and I am looking forward to doing it again.

Post-MBA career interests:
My goal is to become a product manager at a mission-driven tech organization, perhaps in healthcare or sustainability.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:

What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Be my authentic self. It’s important to stay true to who you are, not only during the application process, but once you attend school as well.  

– What is one thing you would change or do differently?
HBS was the only school I applied to. While I wouldn’t change my decision, in retrospect, I should have done more research to broaden my understanding of the many facets of business school.

– What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I would have skipped GRE prep because studying for it is extremely time consuming and exhausting. What kept me motivated was the anticipation of receiving my acceptance letter.

What is your initial impression of the HBS students/culture/community?
I am impressed by how engaging, diverse, and collaborative my classmates are. Everyone has such a wealth of experience that I take away something substantial from every conversation.

What is one thing you have learned about HBS that has surprised you?
I was surprised about how much HBS fosters a strong sense of community. They place a strong emphasis on reciprocity, which is enhanced by the peer-to-peer learning model, discussion groups, and the case method. It’s helped me build solid relationships with my classmates in a relatively short period of time. 

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
I had already planned to defer for four years so COVID-19 did not affect my plans.  

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
I am most anxious about balancing academics, recruiting, social life, and extracurriculars. There is always so much going on at HBS that it can be hard to prioritize. 

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
This may sound cliché, but I am most excited to build lasting relationships. HBS is full of intelligent, driven, accomplished, personable, and collaborative people; I look forward to connecting with as many of them as possible. 

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.