Women In Business: Why This Harvard MBA Is Funding Her Studies With Prodigy Finance

Like many women, Sacha Karim was ready to postpone her MBA until she came across alternative loan provider Prodigy Finance

9,759 people applied to Harvard Business School’s full-time MBA program in 2015. Only 1,073 were successful. That’s an 11% acceptance rate.

Sacha Karim – then a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group - was one of the 11%.

She’d aced the GMAT, interviewed, got over the admissions hurdle, and was among an elite few accepted into the world’s most prestigious business school. But, like many applicants, financing her MBA was a struggle – Harvard’s full-time MBA costs upwards of $120,000 in tuition fees alone.

According to GMAC, the issue of funding may be more pertinent to women than men. In a recent GMAC survey, 38% of US-based female respondents cited financial issues as the key reason why they had not yet accepted their admissions offer, compared with 20% of male respondents.

Sacha – originally from Lebanon - was considering delaying joining HBS, until she came across alternative student loan provider Prodigy Finance. While banks are reluctant to lend internationally, Prodigy Finance’s borderless, peer-to-peer lending model gives international students – from 150 countries worldwide - access to the loans they need to study abroad.

Founded by three INSEAD MBA grads in 2007, Prodigy Finance has just launched a tenth anniversary $100,000 scholarship program for students accepted to study at UK and US business and engineering schools. 10 students will receive $10,000 in funding towards their studies.

Sacha only moved to the US a year prior to her MBA. Now, she wants to change career track from consulting into retail and fly the flag for women in business. With a Harvard MBA, she’s well-placed to do so.

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?

I wanted to expand my skills to be more versatile in the workplace and potentially switch career into retail. HBS provides you with a lot of clout when you’re planning on making such a move. The MBA allows me to learn the skills I did not acquire at undergrad and tap into the job opportunities that the school provides.

How big an issue was funding your MBA?

It was a big concern. An MBA – albeit worth it – is quite an expensive experience! And, as an international student, you do not get a lot of access to financing in the US.

I was considering postponing my MBA until I came across Prodigy Finance. Prodigy Finance provided me with the opportunity to go to business school when I did, and with the ease that I did.

What stood out about Prodigy Finance?

I was looking at multiple banks, but Prodigy Finance made the whole process a lot simpler. Whenever I would email a bank and ask a question about a loan, I would not get an answer for a couple of weeks. With Prodigy Finance, I would get an answer the next morning.

Rather than taking a loan from a faceless corporate, Prodigy Finance felt like a community that was trying to help you. I didn’t feel like there were hidden costs or fees that I wasn’t able to understand. And, as an international student, they definitely gave the best rates.

How far do you think an MBA is an enabler for women in business?

The biggest issue for women in business is that there’s a lack of female mentors; women in senior positions to look up to and emulate. With an MBA, you are provided with student and alumni mentors who can give you support in the workplace. An MBA really pushes the boundaries in that respect.

Plus, especially with an MBA at HBS, you’re pretty much guaranteed a good job coming out of school. On career treks, you get the opportunity to visit companies, talk to CEOs, expand your network, and potentially look for jobs. Last year, I was on retail trek in New York and I made great contacts which allowed me to get a summer internship in Milan.

What is the future for women in business? Will women soon occupy as many top-level CEO roles as men?

I strongly believe that things will change. I wouldn’t be pursuing my MBA if I didn’t! I think that companies are starting to realize the value of gender diversity in leadership, both culturally and in terms of productivity levels and returns. That being said, we still have a long way to go. Sexism in the workplace is still a prevailing issue.

Business schools play a role in developing new generations of female business leaders, and men get to work with women on a day-to-day basis - which may not be the case in their previous jobs. Looking at the women around me at HBS, I’m inspired by the strength of intellect that I see. That makes me really hopeful.

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