April 08, 2015

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I was accepted this year at HBS and waitlisted at Stanford. The day I found out, I had (stupidly) forgotten to charge my phone, and as I stared at my Harvard acceptance letter, I realized I had about two calls left before my phone was going to die. I called my family, and then I called Katy Lewis. I had to tell her there was no way I could have gotten that letter without her.

Applying to business school is confusing and intimidating, but in every way I needed help, Katy was there. Two years ago, when I first called her for a consultation, she gave me one of the most important pieces of advice I ever got, about how to craft my nontraditional “story” in a way that makes sense to a business school. She has spent time at both HBS and GSB and has actually been an admissions officer there, so she was able to explain how they would see my background and what I would need to do to make it “make sense” to them. Her insight into how these schools worked was invaluable and helped guide my entire application process.

During that first conversation, I also asked Katy if it was better to apply that year or wait till I had a chance to spend time preparing. She was unflinchingly honest, and while everyone around me was saying “oh, go ahead, do it now, you’ll be fine,” she was the voice that advised caution and pointed out the potential pitfalls of applying too soon. It was a harbinger of one of the best parts of working with Katy: she is unfailingly realistic and honest (and also inevitably right). She was the one who told me what I needed to hear about my first GMAT score—retaking it on her advice was one of the best decisions I made. She steered me away from schools that were bad fits and helped me figure out what I most wanted out of my education. And, because I knew she wasn’t afraid to tell me the unvarnished truth, I knew I could really trust her when she encouraged me to take risks. She gave me the courage to apply to top schools despite my concerns about my quant score (which she helped me mitigate) and to move ahead with a relatively unconventional personal essay. Without her encouragement, I’m not sure I would have even applied.

Occasionally I had questions that no website or friend/family member could answer, like whether it was okay for a recommender to write a letter if they had gotten fired, or whether I could integrate a clarification of a bad answer into a post-interview thank you note. Katy’s answers and advice would always come immediately, by phone or by email, reflecting her seasoned understanding of what really matters to schools and what applicants can or should do. Katy was also freakishly accurate as a mock interviewer. Her HBS practice interview style was exactly what I found when I did my real interview a week later, so much so that it basically felt like the same experience.

For two years I have relied on Katy’s judgment and been buoyed by her confidence and kindness. To someone who is starting their own application journey, I can’t say enough about how helpful it is to have her on your side.

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