“At Wharton, you can truly customize your experience and tailor it to your goals. I realized there were so many things I could do and consider, but having my top priorities in mind at all times helped prevent analysis paralysis and maximize my time effectively.” – Sara Ganz, WG’24 and MBA Leadership Fellow

As new academic years unfold at the University of Pennsylvania, the Wharton School continues to engage in the annual back to college season. While an air of festivity settles across campus in Philadelphia, it’s understandable that some students might feel occasionally overwhelmed as they get into day-to-day life at Wharton. 

How does one navigate this new ecosystem? Just ask MBA Leadership Fellow, Sara Ganz, WG’24, who is gearing up to mentor Wharton students stepping foot on campus for the very first time. 

“From the get-go, understand that Wharton is ever-changing. In the beginning, your week-to-week experience can and will change,” says Ganz. “There’s so many people who find their core group of friends during the second term instead of their first, while others discover their niche clubs and passions right away. Trust the process, and know this: everyone is on their own journey.”

Miami-native Ganz, who considers herself as the “unofficial hype squad of the MBA Office of Student Life,” shares her tips-and-tricks and best advice for first-year MBA students looking to kick-off their inaugural semester on campus. 

Sara Ganz, WG’24, outside of Wharton’s Steinberg-Deitrich Hall. (Image: Sara Ganz)

Why Wharton + how to avoid FOMO at School

“At Wharton, you can truly customize your experience and tailor it to your goals,” Ganz advises. Also noting that everyone is on their own journey in terms of what and with whom they connect right away, Ganz seeks to reassure other MBA students that they have more time and space to figure out exactly what they want to prioritize in terms of their overall Wharton experience and to make meaningful connections. “I recommend that everyone make a list of their top three priorities at Wharton and to weigh every decision against those three main criteria. With an over-abundance of career opportunities, clubs, treks, and classes to choose from, having my top priorities in mind at all times helped me to maximize my time more effectively and avoid analysis paralysis”

Each semester, Ganz evaluates the order of importance for those three goals — which include her social priorities, building entrepreneurial skills, and maintaining excellent academics, though not necessarily in that order every semester — which shift depending on Ganz’ short-term goals.

Wharton Professor Adam Grant (left). (Image: Sara Ganz)

Maximizing your MBA Orientation experience

So far, some of Ganz’ most profound Wharton experiences came during her first semester at Wharton, where she learned to develop her personal leadership style during her early weeks on campus via the School’s venerated Management 6100 course. A required weeklong course for all MBA students, Ganz experienced eye-opening moments that enlightened her perspective. 

“My biggest takeaway from Wharton is to always assume good intent.” Ganz says. “Everyone is fighting their own invisible battle, and the frameworks we learned in pre-term and Management 6100 continually help me to reframe and navigate through conflict from a place of greater empathy, understanding, and willingness to address and resolve personal blind spots.” 

During her own Orientation Week, Ganz especially appreciated how Wharton intentionally structures multiple touch-points to help MBA students connect with their classmates. 

“Rather than dropping you with 900 other MBA students, Wharton does a phenomenal job connecting new students on a more intimate level during pre-term,” Ganz explains.” “Whether it’s small group dinners, your cohort, pod or Learning Team, there are really beautiful moments to connect with classmates at the micro-level before being thrown into the macro.”

In this same spirit of slowly-walking one’s way into the MBA Program’s immersive experience, Ganz also recommends that first-year MBA students not feel a need to lock into commitments too quickly. 

Orientation Week is a wild ride for most. A self-described non-athlete, Ganz was still eager to participate in the Wharton Olympics, a beloved Orientation Week activity. As a member of her class’ Lion Cluster, Ganz championed the African board game, mancala, during the Wharton Olympics; she also wrote the lyrics and music-directed her cluster’s rendition of the “Circle of Life”  for Wharton’s Got Talent. By fully embracing the silliness, the connections, and diving into every opportunity, any incoming MBA student can ensure that they will genuinely enjoy the beginnings of their Wharton experience.

Proud members of the Lion Cluster, Ganz alongside her learning team members, Najib Zgheib and Hannah Zhang, all WG’24, at the Wharton Olympics. (Image: Sara Ganz)

– Grace Meredith

Posted: August 22, 2023

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