A Letter to the Wharton MBA Class of 2016

Sean Toolan

8 May 2014

A Letter to the Wharton MBA Class of 2016

Dear Member of the Wharton Class of 2016,

Over the past two years, I have thought to myself many times that I wish I could go back in time to tell myself certain things that I needed to be prepared for while at business school.  And while it is not possible for me to give my former self advice, I thought that you might gain something from me sharing a few of my insights about Wharton.  So, in an attempt to help you make the most out of your time at Wharton, I have compiled a few pieces of advice that I hope will help you make the most of your Wharton experience:

1. Savor the relationships

Wharton truly has some of the best people you will ever meet – some may be more like you than you ever imagined and some may be more different than you ever thought possible, but the sense of community here is amazing.  Get to know your classmates, your professors, your administrators, and the talented people who work in support roles at various departments and the cafes.  Some of the most rewarding relationships I have ever made have been with classmates, professors, administrators, and support personnel alike.  I have been even more surprised that some of my strongest friendships made here have been with people outside of the student body at Wharton.  Seek to get to know as many people as you can in the Wharton community and savor your time with them because the two years will go much faster than you ever expected.

2. Be prepared to fail – and sometimes bigger than you ever expected

I have to admit that when I came to Wharton, I had never really failed at much, and I expected that would continue while I was here.  However, the realization this would not be the case came very shortly after arriving here at Wharton, and I eventually came to understand that if you are not failing at something during your time at Wharton then you are not really getting the most out of your experience.  Everyone at Wharton experiences some form of “stretch” experience, just in different ways.  When you find yourself facing failures at Wharton, try as much as you can to embrace them and to find meaning in what you can gain from failures rather than let them eat at your spirit.  Be prepared to fail at something at Wharton, sometimes in ways greater than you ever expected. As a result, you will grow more as a person from those failures than you ever imagined.

3. Be honest with yourself and do not try to do everything

A very important lesson that I learned here at Wharton is that I needed to be honest with myself.  At Wharton, you will face decisions about career paths, academic concentrations, and extracurricular activities that at times may tempt you to try to be someone you are not.  Do not fall into the temptation of chasing something that does not match who you honestly are.  I did this with career recruiting initially and I realized things did not come together because I was not being true to who I was.  Discover who you truly are and seek ways to complement your interests and skills while you are here, which includes not trying to participate in every extracurricular activity possible.  There is something at Wharton for everyone and you will gain the most from involving yourself in those things you are most passionate about.

4. Enjoy the experience!

Wharton is an incredible place – you will gain more from it more than you ever imagined.  At the same time, try not to get so caught up in things like extracurricular activities or recruiting that you forget to have fun and forget to enjoy your time at Wharton.  For the amount of happiness and enjoyment that you put into Wharton, you will receive a great deal more in return.  Enjoy your time at one of the best places in the world and savor your time here – you will be glad you did when you graduate!

Sincerely,

Sean

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