To me, Huntsman Hall is filled with memories. The Forum was once a hall filled with 500 of my classmates listening to words of wisdom from upperclassmen and the administration. The Group Study Rooms were the battlegrounds of my encounters with the core classes. With a sigh, it’s almost hard to believe that my time at Wharton has come to an end.
Looking back on my Wharton experience, it was perfect in its own imperfect ways. My involvements with my various extracurriculars, ranging from the Black Wharton Undergraduate Association (BWUA) and the Wharton Ambassadors allowed me to grow as a leader. My interactions with professors and administration helped me gain insight into my own personal passions. And the core classes presented me with many, many challenges with even more rewarding victories. At the same time, Wharton is exploding at the seams with opportunity, so many that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to do it all. In retrospect, I wouldn’t have changed anything about my Wharton experience; but I do wish I could have done more.
Here are the 5 ways that I would have added to my 4 years at Wharton:
1) Join more industry-oriented clubs
Though I gained a lot of leadership experience and contributed to the larger Wharton community through my various extracurricular involvements, I felt like I merely scratched the surface of many industries rather than immersing myself. Organizations such as Wharton Finance, Private Equity and Venture Capital, or Marketing Undergraduate Students Establishment could have provided me with a more thorough understanding of each industry and help shape my career path after Wharton.
2) Spend a semester abroad
Being born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, you could say the past 4 years at Penn were an abroad experience within itself. However, after traveling to the Dominican Republic with the Wharton International Program, I realized that there is much more for me to explore globally. Since the Wharton International Program was only one week, I simply tasted the culture. A full semester is a true immersion.
3) Go to office hours and lunches sooner
Yes, schedules are busy, but going to office hours is crucial. Little did I know how valuable professors would be not only for the purpose of doing better courses, research opportunities, or potentially getting reference letters down the line, but also just to form strong relationships. Professors are there to listen to your ideas and provide you with great advice and guidance when needed. Even if you never took a class with a professor, they are willing to engage students who demonstrate interest.
4) Engage with the MBA Students earlier
Though they may occupy the second floor and above of Huntsman Hall from 9-5pm, Monday-Thursday, the MBAs are also invaluable resources for all students. Had it not been for programs like GUIDE or the mentorship program I established with BWUA and the African-American MBA Association, I may have missed out on great lessons about being a young professional. Undergraduates are great at planning the immediate step after graduation; but MBAs are there to tell you when things won’t go according to plan and how to act when they don’t.
5) Be more entrepreneurial
I realized too late that college is a perfect opportunity to pursue a venture or start a company. You have a social network of 10,000 undergraduates to help promote your idea, a safety net of pursuing a great education if the venture fails, and access to plenty of sources of capital to make your venture become a reality. Even though I may not have had any business ideas of my own during my time at Wharton, plenty of my friends did. I wish I had realized how I could have been the asset to them by working with them in some capacity. Now that I’m entering the business world as a young professional, there will be limited time to focus my efforts on building a company while trying to climb the corporate ladder.
Ultimately, each person’s Wharton experience is different. On top of that, what is truly deemed traditional at Wharton is a rarity in the real world. Though Wharton is overflowing with opportunity, all we can do is try our best to absorb as much as we can. No matter what path you may choose to follow at Wharton, it will be exceptional and will benefit you for years to come.