From FGI-Harvard to Harvard Undergraduate: A Conversation with Shelsie Jean Laurent
Shortly before her senior year at Boston Latin School in Boston, Massachusetts, a close mentor informed Shelsie Jean-Laurent about the nearby Harvard chapter of First Generation Investors. Although she had some experience in basic trading, she was excited by the opportunity to learn more about investing and personal finance. Through FGI, not only did Shelsie affirm her passion for investing, but she was also welcomed into a resourceful community of Harvard students that helped her during her own college decision process. Taking her infectious “let me just go and do it” attitude with her, Shelsie excelled in FGI and decided to apply to Harvard. She will now attend the university in the fall, planning to major in Environmental Science, join the Harvard Business Club, and return as a mentor to FGI to work with students who were once in her shoes. Here’s Shelsie in her own words:
Elizabeth: Could you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you discovered FGI?
Shelsie: Definitely, I’m Shelsie and I just graduated from Boston Latin School. I’m a rising freshman at Harvard. I learned about FGI through my mentor actually. He used to work at my old school and, through Seven (the founder of FGI’s Harvard Chapter), he heard about this program. He told all my friends and me and we kind of do everything together, so all four of us did FGI together last fall.
Elizabeth: And how would you describe your knowledge of investing, personal finance, or the stock market going into the program?
Shelsie: So my sisters and brother-in-law have been trying to get into the stock market. Back when quarantine started, we heard the news about Tesla going up and Amazon stock as well, so they started to do some petty trades. They weren’t all that successful, but it was fun for a while, just to hear them say things like “I made five bucks today!” So then when my mentor, Mr. Smith, told me about FGI, I thought it would be cool to learn more.
Elizabeth: Definitely. Having a general understanding of personal finance is so important, especially when going into college. Are you planning to do anything in business or finance related in college?
Shelsie: I plan to join the Harvard Business Club. I know Seven was part of that and I think that’s kind of interesting. I plan to join but you have to sign up and get accepted, so we’ll see.
Elizabeth: Well, you seem like a great candidate. Are you undecided as far as a major?
Shelsie: So far I’m doing Environmental Science. I know it seems totally unrelated, but there are a lot of things between business and environmental science, especially with sustainability, all these businesses want to become more sustainable. So I think they kind of do overlap at some point. I’ll figure it out when I get there, but that’s what I plan on doing.
Elizabeth: That’s very forward-thinking and really exciting. If you can get on the early side of ethical investment or environmentally conscious business operations, there’s an opportunity for a lot of growth. So do you have a favorite part about FGI? Maybe something that you remember learning that was interesting or just a highlight from your experience?
Shelsie: Yeah, I think I remember this one lesson where we talked about index funds versus mutual funds. And I didn’t even know about index funds because all my sisters had ever done was trade and not actually invest. So I kind of felt like the stock market was a scam, like that people lose money or they get money and then lose it right after. And I was like, “I don’t know how people make money out of this!”
But then I learned about index funds and how you can just put your money on the side and then hope to grow it naturally. It’s been pretty cool to see that there are other sides of the stock market besides just trades.
Elizabeth: I agree, and I think FGI incorporates a lot of those more complicated aspects about personal finance and money management in a really digestible way.
To shift gears a bit, congrats again on your acceptance to Harvard! When did you know that you wanted to apply there?
Shelsie: Okay, so when I tell people this they don’t actually believe me, but I did not plan on going to Harvard and I kind of applied on a whim. So it was December and the application closes in January. And I was just like, “let me just go ahead and do it.” It was one of the last few admissions decisions I received. I actually thought I was going to NYU for like a good two weeks of my life. And then I was accepted to Harvard and was pretty shattered between New York or staying close in Boston, where I’ve lived almost all my life.
Then I actually reached out to Seven, and he gave me a campus tour. And he was pretty convincing. He was actually one of the major reasons why this I like, okay, I could see myself here.
Elizabeth: So, would you say that you felt more comfortable learning about Harvard through the FGI community?
Shelsie: Oh, yeah, I texted him. I was just like, “Hey, dude, I’m kind of freaking out.” And then he texted me back. And then he was like, “Yeah, come on campus. I’m going to show you around.” And then he took a whole day off!
Elizabeth: That’s amazing. Well, last question: What are you excited about in this coming year? Do you feel ready to go?
Shelsie: I’m not sure I’m completely ready, but I’m definitely excited. I reached out to some students that are already going and even met with a few of them in person. And I just, you know, can’t wait to make new friends. I’ve been in my high school since seventh grade, so since I was 12 years old. I’ve known everybody there for the past six years. So I’m just ready for a new environment, new people, and classes. I can’t wait to begin some of the classes I plan on taking.
Elizabeth: It’ll be very interdisciplinary and a great mix of subjects — I really hope you enjoy it! Is there anything else you want to say or add?
Shelsie: Just that I was surprised at the end of FGI in general because you talked about the stock markets and like that side of stuff, so they’re serious, but their assignments were pretty understandable. And like any high school student from any background could understand that — they broke it down pretty easily. Everyone seemed like they were friends with each other and it was like a very chill environment. I never walked in like, “I’m gonna go to this thing.” It was more kind of like, “Okay, I have this next.”
Elizabeth: That’s so great. There can be this odd cloud around finance like you said, where people picture an intimidating environment. If you can bring the information and a sense of understanding back to the people, though, it’s very simple and so beneficial in the long run. I agree with you on that sentiment definitely. This is really gonna be great, thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Best of luck!
Shelsie: Of course. Thank you. Bye!