Decision Trees of a Recovering Overachiever

Prior to Sloan, I was a researcher focusing on contemporary Chinese society, and in college I studied comparative literature. When economics and statistics came into the equation, so to speak, they were parts of dialogues on humanity, not of homework exercises. Midterms in these subjects having been managed, I’d like to apply some of the many things I’ve learned so far this semester in this blog post, starting up with some decision trees:

Two Thursdays ago I had a choice: I could start drawing out a Five Forces diagram for my Strategy midterm or I could bike over to a cozy wine bar on Newbury Street to meet a few of my classmates.

Last Saturday, I had another choice: I could start building a regression model for a DMD assignment (“Data, Models, and Decision-making,” for you lovely readers out from under the Dome), or I could try salsa dancing with newfound friends from a Camp Sloan hiking trip in the White Mountains.

Last Wednesday, the night before my economics exam, I had one more choice when the clock struck 11: I could keep studying subsidies and supply shifts or I could go to sleep.

In all these cases, the latter choice won out over the former. Speaking the lingo of DMD, the E(x), the expected value, was greater in the second choice. Though not from a grades consideration:

That extra hour over wine let me talk to some incredible women about their lives and experiences in a way that case-based class discussion rarely allows.

Those extra few hours of salsa dancing pushed me into my “stretch zone” as much as building a financial model–and reminded me that for all my “leadership” ability, I could really benefit from learning how to be led. (More on that in a future post).

That extra hour slept was the best way to spend my time for my overall well-being, based on my newly-acquired (and perhaps mis)understanding of opportunity cost.

A recovering overachiever, I had to ask: What would have happened if I went with the first choice instead? Would I have learned more in those courses? And would I have done better on those assignments and exams?

A slowly-learning Sloanie, I have to answer:

From an accounting perspective, I got valuable intangible assets by better connecting to some of my classmates.

From a strategy perspective, I captured some nonacademic value on the MIT value chain.

And from an economic perspective, I can say worrying about last week’s grades is useless. At this point, it’s sunk cost.

 Beautiful Sloanies of the Pacific Ocean rocking plaid after our last midterm! We did it

Beautiful Sloanies of the Pacific Ocean rocking plaid after our last midterm! We did it

Originally published at mitsloan.mit.edu on October 21, 2014.

Perspectives for Prospectives

Brief disclaimer that all things written below are my own thoughts, opinions, and feelings and do not represent those of the Admissions Committee.

If you’ve made it to this post, you probably fall into one of the following categories:

1. A fellow 2016-er who saw the link to this post on Facebook and decided that reading was the perfect way to procrastinate on problem sets.

2. A friend or family member outside the MBA community who is relieved to see me alive and writing after two weeks since I re-entered the academic jungle.

3. A b-school hopeful applying to MIT Sloan.

If you’re in 1 or 2, glad you’re here, and if you’re in 3, especially glad you’re here because this post is mostly for you.

Whether you’re ready to press ‘submit’ on your application or are still deciding where to apply, there are a few things I want to share with you that I wish I’d known in the application process.

I want to tell you that this process is intense

Studying for the GMAT is work enough without having to clock in 14-hour days. Trying to write memorable essays about your life experiences is challenging enough when you can barely recall what you ate for lunch or what time you put your laundry in the dryer. But if it were easy everyone would do it.

I want to remind you that you are not alone

If you’re anything like me, you probably feel that this entire process is overwhelming. And fairly so–this is your future we’re talking about here. But I was in your shoes barely a year ago, and they still fit. I feel you. We feel you. We did it and you can, too.

I want to promise you that it will be worth it

B-school applications are a prelude to two years of being pushed to reflect on who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. Wherever you end up studying, you will come out of this application process knowing yourself more deeply and prepared to push your personal limits in ways you’d never have imagined. You’ve been presented with an opportunity to engage in some deep and deeply-satisfying self-evaluation.

With that, use your mens and put your manus on the keyboard, and get personal. It’s time to write your story, and I wish you the best of luck.

Originally published on September 15, 2014