My First Quarter At Wharton: Definitely Not The Place If You Struggle With Quant

MBAOver30Wharton has been an unbelievable experience. When I last posted,  I was just getting my druthers after a fun but exhausting Pre-Term experience. I had also deluded myself into thinking that I’d do a couple posts last month. Negative. Out of nowhere, I was blind-sighted by a flurry of quant problem sets, group projects and papers along with mammoth amounts of reading.

I can only speak for Wharton when I say this, but this is definitely not the place for someone who struggles with quant or rigor.  While the professors in classes such as Statistics and Managerial Economics (which we call “Magic” due to its course abbreviation MGEC) lead very engaging lectures, those lectures are largely conceptual. You’ll need to do a good deal of reading and attending office hours and recitations on your own or with your learning team (or a hired tutor; but we’ll talk about that later…maybe) to be prepared for the exams.

This is only exacerbated by the fact that 40-60% of the people to your left and right in a place like Wharton already know the information cold and will be driving up the average for the curve. A buddy of mine who is a second year told me about one of his MGEC exams last year that had a mean score or 94 having been a fairly difficult exam (as a point of reference, he had worked in banking prior to Wharton). Fun times indeed. According to the 2nd years, my class won’t care much about grades past Christmas once it hits us that A) this isn’t undergrad and we are here to network with future power players and set up our next career moves–which takes a ton of socializing–more than one could ever imagine or plan for and B) Wharton has grade non disclosure and perfect grades won’t really give you a better result in recruiting or in your start up. In fact, they could make said results worse since you’ll need to be hitting the books while everyone else is going on excursions, meeting for brunch, out at pub and happy hour and working 8 to faint on start up ideas.

The Beauty of a Large Program

A year ago when I was an applicant, I wasn’t too fussy about the size of a given program. I seriously considered programs such as Haas and Tuck that had about 250 or so students up to the 800-900 Wharton- or HBS-sized classes. And even though I chose to go with a larger program, I still do see the benefit in either; however, there are some strong benefits to a larger program that I have begun to appreciate.

The biggest benefit (as I see it, of course) is the sheer depth of talent, interests and experience across so many areas of professional and personal endeavor. One of the concepts taught in my Innovation class taught by Christian Terweisch is how having A) a larger number of entries , B) more variation among the entries and C) some pre-screening/selection process that encourages the best/most motivated entrants to come forward in the first place gives you a better shot at a higher quality output in a tournament of selection. All business schools have such a process; and you can really leverage the knowledge and resources of your peers to an astounding degree in large programs.

I’ve seen this play out firsthand as even the most random and obscure requests for information, contacts, industry experience, geographical/cultural knowledge, startup resources, or even impromptu weekend getaways are soon met with anywhere from several to a flood of respondents on my class’ Facebook group. I’m quite sure that if I wished to arrange a last minute healthcare startup trek to Tel Aviv with 5 company visits, I’d have a set of names and emails for not only the company visits but hookups on airfare, hotel accommodations and food within the hour.

Concentric Communities

Another benefit of a program this size is the many sub communities that it is comprised of. As somewhat of a loner, I initially though that Wharton might be a bit too loud and rah-rah for me. I was certainly overwhelmed with all the partying, handshaking and talking during pre-term. For me, that lifestyle would have not been sustainable. However, once we were introduced to the broader community, we began to be broken up into smaller and smaller learning groups for core classes.

Most recently, the clubs all did their spiel and we had the opportunity to join more intimate ecosystems based on interests. It is in this stage of my social journey at this school that I feel I have flourished most. Some of my most rewarding experiences thus far have been as a result of my interaction in groups that I have chosen to be a part of such as AAMBAA (the African-American group), RugbyThe Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative (WCAI), and The Founders Club. Those are at least the groups in which I have chosen to spend the majority of my time. I’ve also joined a few other groups that I will interact with more at a later date as what they have to offer becomes more relevant to what I want to get accomplished at a given time.  Those groups include the entrepreneurship club (the Founders Club is a more intense sub group of the e-club), the technology club, the golf club, and the scotch & whiskey club.

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