Valuation is a popular topic within Huntsman Hall. In just two years, I’ve been exposed to any number of techniques to derive a value for any number of things. But, for all the formal education we have on the subject, valuation is as much an art as it is a science. In many instances it involves judgment calls (i.e., what discount rate to apply, what growth assumptions to use, what sensitivities to explore).
Valuing your MBA experience is tricky business. Put simply, you are never going to arrive at the “First Year Budget” figure ($109,450) published by Wharton’s Financial Aid Office by adding up all of the tangible costs associated with the degree (i.e., books, beer, etc.). And, ultimately, that’s not really what we are paying for. As has been repeated to me time and again, we are paying for the shared experience; we are paying for the growth opportunities; we are paying for the network (read: you people).
And, in conversations over the past two weeks and in editing the other articles in this edition, the judgment in valuing your MBA is assessed through reflection. Introspection and self-critical analysis has been an oft-prescribed tool to comprehend the world around us. Yet, despite all the advantages we have at the moment – few responsibilities, ample free time, advisors/peers/confidants all concentrated in a 3 mile radius – we often lack a “guide” to reflection. But fear not, for yours truly hopes to give you just that.
Below you’ll find a few questions followed by a brief explanation about what they are trying to elicit from you. I’d encourage you to genuinely take a few minutes to think through these questions. They are the ones I’ve asked myself constantly throughout the MBA experience. And, they help you see how far we’ve come in two seemingly non-stop years. Best wishes and I hope to read about many of you in the years to come as you continue on your journey to the head of the pack!
Question: Why did you come to Wharton?
This question should unpack a lot more than “well, because I got accepted.” I’m asking if you can remember the time when you decided business school was in your future. Did you come here because you were in a rut at work and needed a break and/or wanted to explore other options? Was it because you had reached a natural ceiling after 2-3 years and it was necessary to continue advancing in your career? Did you come from a ‘non-traditional’ background and were hoping to bolster your finance/accounting skills? Was it because you hadn’t really partied since undergrad and just needed to blow off some steam?
Question: What did you accomplish here?
Again, this is going to elicit a very different response depending on who is answering. Don’t just list everything you did. Think about what you consider to be accomplishments. What are some things you are proud of? And why are you proud of them? Did some activities/groups/projects/competitions seem to be bigger deals than others? And, importantly, did you accomplish what you set out to do in the first place? (See: Question 1)
Question: If you had one more quarter at Wharton, how would you spend it?
Personally, I feel like I’m just hitting my stride in some aspects of my MBA experience. There are lifelong friends I met this time last year that will be ripped from me far earlier than if we had the luxury of 18 years together as kids growing up or four years of college. If you feel that way, maybe you regret not spending enough time with friends. Or, maybe (again, like me) you’re bummed you never did the FDNY excursion. There are so many opportunities here and simply not enough time. Your answer should help you reflect on how you spent your time and if there are any adjustments you’d like to make in the future when faced with similar competing priorities.
Question: Did I learn something about myself?
Learning at Wharton can be very different for each person (outside of the fixed core). There are so many opportunities and resources that can teach you about yourself, if you’re thoughtful about seeing what behaviors you have modified and enhanced over the two years.
Question: Did I have fun?
Probably the most important question I’ll ask at each juncture of my life. Sometimes, I feel like this group of people have the most difficulty letting themselves enjoy life. We are so committed/programmed to attaining promotions, salary bumps, and status that some of us come to get an MBA for two years just to decompress. With every decision, try to ask yourself if it was fun. If you jump off from there, you’ll find the self-reflection can help you find what parts of the experience you found valuable and what you wouldn’t do next time.