Monday, January 25, 2010

Q1 Complaints

After my last post, several readers asked why I did not liked business school during the first quarter. I will try to sum it up, but because time seems to be a great eraser of discomfort, my memories of exactly why I was so unhappy are getting fuzzier by the day. Let's try a list:

1. Social awkwardness - constantly meeting people and having the same mundane conversations is not only tiring, it is downright depressing. With time comes familiarity and the awkwardness noticeably dissipates.

2. Posturing - it is very hard to get to know anyone and very hard to let your own guard down when you are worried about preserving your personal "brand" as the aloof heir or the high-fashion financier or the plugged-in media guy. Again, time seems to break down personas into real people.

3. Support - there isn't any official support and it can be very isolating and lonely. By second quarter, genuine friends are there for you; plus, Stanford offers stellar back-up in the form of WIM groups, 2nd year coaches, and student activities.

4. Bubbly - first quarter at the GSB covers you in a hard plastic bubble that doesn't let in news from the outside world (say good-bye to all your favorite blogs), friends from the past (even ones who live in the Bay Area), or connections to long-term goals (the one downside of the exclusive academic period).

5. Misaligned expectations - classes and schoolwork are both valuable and time consuming. Don't expect anything else.

6. Herding - MBA1s are pack animals. There is tremendous tension for independent-minded adults to constantly follow the flock or risk feeling left out.

7. Email overload - it's truly overwhelming. It doesn't let up, but you get a bit better at managing it.

8. Weather - Kidding.

I'm sorry for the heaps of negativity in this post. I really am much happier this quarter. In recent news, I applied to a couple summer jobs through on-campus recruiting and have signed up to help manage two activities I think are interesting. I still struggle with the Sunday night blues, but it's not so bad.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A new year, a new day

At some point during the winter break I stopped being quite so disgruntled about my business school experience. The curriculum started to make more sense, content that I learned in my first quarter classes actually seemed relevant, and I realized that I made a few friends during the first quarter who I like and respect. There was no "aha!" moment, but rather a gradual softening of my negative stance. (Sorry if you never got the memo that I wasn't loving business school, but sharing the bad news on my blog took a backseat to complaining about my experience in real life.)

Now I am back at business school for the 2nd quarter (Stanford is on the quarter system which means that each year we have three terms of classes and the fourth quarter is summer) and am busier than ever. This weekend, I started to feel the familiar and insidious grasp of anxiety to which I was so susceptible during the first quarter. And then I let it go.

One reason I can now let go of the worries is that grades don't matter. They truly don't--anymore. I say "anymore" even though second-years tell us from day 1 that they don't and we then first-years tell each other and our spouses and friends that they don't. Then we try to tell ourselves that grades don't matter. But as the achievement-oriented people who we all are, we cannot truly internalize this. How can we strive only to be in the top 90% of a given course (the level at which you must perform to "pass" a class) when the reason we were permitted to matriculate here is that we have always aimed to be in the top 10 or 5 or 1 percent of any pool to which we have belonged?

But after a quarter under my belt, I now finally know that grades do not matter. What matters is that I use the next 18 months to find people, classes and activities that excite me and that I find an internship that moves me towards my goals. I haven't gotten that involved in clubs and activities, but the ones to which I am committing, I care about and will allocate my time accordingly. I have classes that excite me (economics) and classes that are dull (statistics and modeling) and I will allocate my time accordingly. Grade non-disclosure gives me the freedom to do just that and for that, I am thankful.