I have failed countless times at Wharton. I didn’t get on a venture last year, let my learning team down in marketing on more than one instance, and had to practice about 60 cases before I was even close to “on par” with my classmates interviewing for consulting. But I believe that my biggest and most public failure at Wharton to date is when I ran for Cluster President.
After the first cluster supper, I was certain that I had crushed my speech and was confident in my chances of being elected. Luckily, not enough people agreed that I’d “crushed” the speech and Cluster 4 ended up with a much better President. However, losing left me a little shaky and unsure of where I was supposed to leave my mark at school. I talked to Eric Morin and he said that my speech was much more focused on student life; based on that, he encouraged me to run for Student Life Rep. I was a little unsure that I actually wanted to be a Student Life Rep, but threw my name in and was elected. I didn’t realize this at the time, but not getting elected Cluster President sent me down a path that has been much more fulfilling and focused. I got to experience the nuance and intricacies that come at the intersection of the student body and the administration and I helped plan cluster cup events that brought the clusters together. Through the position, I realized that I appreciated the student life role more than I ever would have as Cluster President.
My failures at Wharton have not stopped at the Cluster President elections and all of my classmates have similar stories to share. Everyone fails at something at Wharton. They say that the best lessons come from failures. My failures at Wharton taught me three important lessons:
First, there are 850+ different ways to be a leader and have an impact at Wharton. The idea that there is one textbook model for leadership and to have an impact here is absolutely wrong. There are more things to get involved with at school than just following the herd into the most visible positions. Failing at things here serves as an opportunity to reflect on how you make a difference and what you value out of your education.
Second, just because you didn’t get selected for something at first doesn’t mean you won’t get that next position later. There are many Student Life Fellows that weren’t on the Welcome Committee, people in SSF who didn’t get a tech club board position, and people who didn’t get to go on the Andes Venture their first year that are paying their deposits for the coveted Antarctica Venture right now. Continue to pursue what you find interesting and opportunities here will continue to grow. For me, the Student Life Rep position and my engagement with it helped to open up some awesome opportunities for me later such as SLF, Admissions Fellow, and WGA.
Third, regardless of how much you fail, you will find something you are passionate about here. Everyone I know is extremely busy and fulfilled with what they have gotten engaged in; the activity types include school, fellowships, internships, recruiting, Oktoberfest, club board positions, and more. There are as many paths through Wharton as there are students here. Continue to apply for the positions that interest and excite you and think about what you want to get involved with here and what drives you. I will guarantee that you will find the opportunities for growth you are looking for.