Everything Hits at Once

September 8, 2009

The first song on Spoon’s third album Girls Can Tell is “Everything Hits At Once.” I can’t think of a better theme song for my first two weeks at SOM. Universally, I had heard SOMers describe the core curriculum as intense, frenetic and generally overwhelming. Some even spoke of it with the reverence and awe usually reserved for harrowing accounts of planes crashes and natural disasters. Again and again I’ve been reminded that I would literally have no time come fall. I had remained incredulous though. “How difficult could it really be?” I had thought. It’s only class after all. Now I only know too well what they meant. Other than a few reprieves here and there for get-togethers with my classmates, during which we tend to commiserate about the tediousness of accounting and fickleness of solver, I literally have no time: no time that hasn’t been allocated (inefficiently, perhaps) to meet the demands of our coursework. My personal life—from unpaid bills to lagging email correspondence with old friends—has taken a decided backseat to my academic obligations. Today, I literally woke up trying to unravel the probabilities that a World Series between two evenly matched teams would end in 4, 5, 6, or 7 games. Colleagues have mentioned nightmares featuring unbalanced balance sheets and market equilibriums gone awry. While we are taking an arduous slate of courses that includes four demanding quant classes--Probability & Statistics, Spreadsheet Modeling, Microeconomics, and Accounting--that’s only half the story. For most of us, it’s been at least four years since we’ve seen the inside the classroom. In addition, the first core classes cover an exceptional amount of material in six short weeks. Still I find myself at a loss when attempting to describe the full brunt of the core to those outside the SOM bubble. The best analogy I can muster is to tell you to imagine condensing five of your most difficult undergraduate courses into a six-week window; then imagine you’re taking these classes with the study skills of a freshman and the expectations of an overachieving senior. The silver lining in all of this has been the camaraderie of my fellow first-year SOMers. Whenever you’ve hit yet another proverbial wall, there’s always a classmate nearby—in your immediate study group, down the hall, or within a short walk to SOM--to offer words of encouragement or nudge you in the right direction by re-framing the problem at hand. I don’t know if this inclusivity stems from the legacy of SOM’s mission, the keen judgment of our admission officers, or a grading policy that encourages cooperation, but I doubt that comparable environments prevail at other top-tier bschools.

About the author

Brian Cope