Competition or Collaboration?

When I was first accepted to Wharton as a high school senior, I knew that I would be surrounded by many of the best students in the nation. Though I was excited to meet such brilliant individuals, I was nervous. As everyone reminded me, academics at Penn would be intense and everyone would be just as intelligent, if not more intelligent, than me. As the months before college started to pass, I realized that I was not ready for such a competitive learning environment.

From day one, however, I realized that I had no reason to be worried. Wharton fosters collaboration over competition. Management 100, the first class all Wharton freshmen take, groups students together to work for a local nonprofit. In this setting, I became much more familiar with other Wharton students and realized how fun-loving and ambitious they were. By putting our minds together, we came up with creative selling tactics and ultimately sold 218 pies and raised more than $5,400 for a local nutrition organization. This showed me that at Wharton, success is achieved by capitalizing on each other’s talents, rather than competing against one another. We also received a great deal of support from our team assistant, a junior who helped us adjust both inside and outside the classroom. Wharton continues to provide opportunities for group work throughout a student’s academic career, such as in Marketing 101 and Management 101, where teams work in virtual business simulations. Group work is a core part of the Wharton education and teaches students that the best results are achieved by collaborating.

Wharton also creates community outside of the classroom. Every freshman has a cohort, a group of sixty students with peer directors and social activities. Each cohort is named after a currency (e.g. Peso, Dollar) and competes for the Cohort Cup! My cohort directors, two sophomores, reached out to me over summer and I was able to ask them all my questions over video chat. We talked about everything from concentrations to clubs to roommates. Throughout the academic year, my cohort has been a terrific support system. We carved pumpkins together in October, ate Thanksgiving dinner in November, and decorated cookies in December. Our directors even shared tips about classes and reserved classrooms for study halls before finals. The cohort system has allowed me to meet sixty extraordinary peers and given me the resources to succeed. Though I thought that I would struggle to stay afloat surrounded by so many intelligent students, it turned out that these people are the reason I was able to succeed this past year.

Finally, Penn does not expect you to do any of this alone. The Weingarten Learning Resources Center offers academic support workshops, learning instructors, walk-in hours, and time management tools. Students are encouraged to form their own study groups and bounce test questions off each other. The Writing Center has tutors to help students organize their ideas and revise their drafts. Wharton offers academic advisors to help channel students’ interests into concentrations and job opportunities. Most of all, if you ever feel overwhelmed, Penn has organizations like Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Penn Benjamins, and Table Talks, to help you stay on track.

Wharton is friendly, collaborative, and adventurous. After coming here, I learned that the last thing to fear is competition. Instead, I learned to be inspired by my talented peers. Not every school has you sitting in class with a Rhodes Scholar or living across the hall from a serial entrepreneur. Wharton is full of the best and brightest, and you could be (or maybe already are) one of them too.


Shivani Komma is a rising sophomore in the Wharton School from Cupertino, California. She intends on concentrating in Finance and Mathematics. At Wharton, she is involved with the Wharton Undergraduate Finance Club, the Financial Literacy Community Project, the Social Impact Advisory Board, and Wharton Ambassadors. Outside of school, she loves discovering new music, traveling, and reading. Feel free to reach out to her at with any questions.