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Asking For Help

Most of us aren't very good at asking for help. In the business world, there is a fear of being perceived as weak or less competent if you are unsure or don't understand something and need a colleague to assist you. In graduate school (especially business/management) I expected to find the same thing. Truth be told, I actually expected it to be a lot worse given the potential for a competitive Type-A student environment. I could not have been more wrong about how SOM works. The CPA brings one set of skills, as does the Teach for America alum and the management consultant. But, contrary to what we may have wanted the admissions office to believe, none of us has the entire package. How does this play out in the SOM academic environment? For starters, it is important to emphasize that interpersonal competition is almost nonexistent. Our motivation and drive is very personal and is not generally influenced by others in a competitive manner. Do we work our butts off? Absolutely. However, everyone is doing it for themselves. (That context is important when discussing peer-to-peer help.) The first Economics problem set was incredibly difficult. There is no way that any one of us could easily navigate the entire assignment on our own. Personally, I spent the first three days just trying to understand what was being asked! (Really.) In our formal eight-person study groups and even extending to informal groups, we worked together to break down the salient parts of each question and come up with a strategy for explaining the answer. That took a long time, as each of us only understood small portions of the thick questions. Together we struggled through, often taking small revelations from other groups and seeing if those insights helped us make more sense of the material. In the end, all 240 of us got through it because we were able to ask each other for help. This problem set was a humbling exercise and because it came right at the beginning, we are all now very comfortable asking each other for help. None of us has any qualms about walking up to a fellow first-year student to ask for clarity on Accounting, Economics, Spreadsheet Modeling, etc. You don't have to be in the same class with the person and you don't even need to know them well! This culture of helping is both welcomed and expected at SOM. You won't master everything on the first go around, and neither will anyone else. But, you will be able to help fellow classmates understand concepts from your own area of expertise and they will gladly help you in return. Everyone has something to offer and no one at SOM is ever without a great academic support network.