Last year I had the privilege of working with Tom*, an applicant to the Wharton MBA for Executives Program in San Francisco. After his first term, Tom has offered his insight and advice for those considering the Wharton EMBA.
1) What has surprised you the most about the program?
Tom: The biggest surprise was how much work this program really is. Even with all of the warnings from faculty and alumni, it was still a shocker to me. Term 1 was definitely the most stressful term since everyone was trying to adjust to the new lifestyle as well as proving that they belonged in the program. It felt very competitive (in a good way) and it took quite a bit of work just to keep up with the rest of the class.
2) What did you wish you had known before you started and what were the challenges that you faced?
Tom: The biggest challenge I faced was how to manage my time and relationships with family, friends and loved ones. Since it’s such a demanding program, sometimes I didn’t realize how much time I spent on school work. In the beginning, there was a lot of emotional stress between my wife and me. Eventually, we realized that it wasn’t just me who had to adapt to the new lifestyle. It took a while for us to find the right balance, and communication was key during these tough times.
3) What is your favorite aspect of the program and what is the best thing about Wharton?
Tom: As cliche as this sounds, it’s all about the people you meet in the program. When we introduced ourselves on the first day, it was amazing to learn how much people had accomplished in their lives and careers. Also, it was very easy for me to connect with most of the classmates. I love my study group and we just clicked from day 1. A lot of people have similar interests, so it’s very easy to make friends and have fun even with the crazy workload.
4) How do you balance work, life and school?
Tom: A good calendar definitely helps, and I made sure to share my school calendar with family and work. But the most important lesson was that I couldn’t possibly be perfect in all 3 areas, so I had to figure out my priorities. I am very fortunate to be in a very accommodating company. My boss fully understood my school situation, so he did his best to reduce my workload. In terms of school, I had to decide between grades vs. networking, and I chose the latter. As for personal life, I definitely had to say no a lot to friends and family. Just learn to apologize and tell them that you will make it up once school is over in 2 years. Also, forget about hobbies (half joking).
5) How has the program impacted your performance at work – eg. are you using what you learn in the classroom back at the office?
Tom: I think it depends on what type of work you do. For me, I initially learned quite a bit about people management and leadership, so I was able to quickly start applying some of that in my day-to-day work. However, most of the classes in year 1 are core foundational courses, so it’s hard to apply basic economics or accounting theories at this point. Year 2 will offer a lot of practical skills since it’ll be mostly elective courses.
6) What advice do you have for those considering the Wharton EMBA program now?
Tom: Most people in the program arenotexecs at this point in their careers. More than half of the class are in their late 20s or early 30s. For me, I felt that I was not qualified when I first started looking at the program. If you are uncertain, contact Wharton and they will let you know if you are qualified or not. Also, be confident and don’t ever think that you are not qualified. In addition, have your life and work in order before starting this program. Some people try to juggle all three at the same time. It will not work, and it will just create unnecessary stress. Finally, don’t think that only full time students get to party. We know how to have fun and we make sure that there is at least one event for every class weekend.
If you’re wondering whether the Wharton EMBA program, or an EMBA in general, is right for you, please reach out to us. We’ve worked with applicants to all of the top full time, part time and executive MBA programs and can help you think through your strategy.
*Tom is not this student’s real name. Due to the small class size, he asked to be unnamed in order to be more candid.