A year ago, I was scrambling to read and reread my applications before pressing “submit.” Truth be told, there was not one application (with a set round deadline) that I didn’t submit before the actual day that it was due. Two months later, I was interviewing. Three months later, I was getting *the* letters. Five months later, I was meeting future classmates. As it turned out, the decision was pretty easy – but I’ll elaborate on that on a future post.
We, the Wharton Class of 2015, got our official start on August 4, almost seven weeks ago. And little did I know it would completely overhaul the way that I live. When I talked to b-school students and alums, I always heard that – it’s life-changing, you’re never going to have time for everything that you want to do, you’re going to meet amazing people. And I always believed the first and third points, but, as someone who has all kinds of loyalty to the word “multitask,” I secretly hoped the second wouldn’t be the case. But yeah, I was wrong.
In the seven weeks since we started, I still feel like I haven’t had a chance to catch my breath. But it has been so good.
Wharton starts at the beginning of August for the first year with three weeks of cluster-creating, learning-team-bonding, math-test-taking, teamwork-building, and t-shirt-procuring.
Our class of about 840 is divided into four clusters of about 210 each and then into 12 cohorts of about 70 each and then into learning teams of 5-6 each. These levels of subdivision are not just numerical – they allow people to be more focused on getting to know specific people within the large class. Activities during Pre-term happened within each of those groups precisely for that purpose. When we weren’t doing programmed things, we were getting together at student-organized parties and get-togethers. It was completely non-stop. And the advice was always to make an effort to get to know ten people you haven’t met before each day.
Pre-Wharton and the U.S. Open
Most of us got a head start on that. One of the great things about both the group interview during the application process and the Welcome Weekends that happen after you get accepted is that you start off with a base of people whom you’ve gotten to know long before you step foot into Huntsman Hall.
At the Welcome Weekends (yes, I went to both – a number of first-round admits did that, partly because we enjoyed the first so much and partly because it was a good idea to get going on housing options), I met lots of people, many of whom I saw again in student-organized get-togethers in New York. At one of those events, a few of us talked about the possibility of going to the U.S. Open, which would be taking place at the beginning of the semester. In June, I got the ball rolling, but little did any of us realize that it would balloon into the first huge event of the school year.
That was what almost 300 people – over a third of the class – going to the U.S. Open looks like. At the end of our first week of classes, we charted four buses and trekked up to Flushing Meadows for the event. By that point, we were having more interaction at the smaller cohort level, so it was great to get together as a huge group again. We are already talking about doing it again next year – bigger and better, first-years, second-years, maybe even alums?
And then you got classes
It was a lot of fun and games in Pre-term, but when the semester actually started, I don’t think any of us really know what hit us. Problem sets? Case write-ups? Daily readings? Having not been in school (as a student, at least) for six years, there was certainly transitional pains involved. But it wasn’t so much the classes – it was the clubs and events and conferences and everything that was quickly descending down upon us.
During the second week of the semester, we were bombarded by literally hundreds of emails about things we can do at Wharton. Do you want to go to the Red & Blue Ball, the first big part of the year? Do you want to go on a weekend club retreat? Do you want to run for student leadership? Do you want to play hockey as one of the Wharton Wildmen? Do you want to sign up for a life-changing Venture? Do you want to go to a potluck or barbecue hosted by one of the cultural clubs? (Do you want to write about your experiences for the MBA Student Diaries?) Oh, and between all that, when do you get your problem sets done, meet with your learning team to put together a team presentation, and study for the quizzes that keep rearing their heads?
So far, it’s been about making sure I don’t overextend myself – and though I keep telling myself that, I think I crossed that line a while ago. So as the eighth week threatens to begin, we’ll see how the experience continues. Somehow, I don’t think it’s letting up any time soon.