Good at Grades, Better at Google Calendar

Was a packed schedule hurting her education? Or was it an education all on its own?

By Olivia Nelson

As my Advanced Corporate Finance professor reviewed the syllabus, it seemed as if the topics, such as “valuation using multiples” and “discounting flows to equity,” were in a foreign language. As someone who fares better in qualitative classes, I find quantitative classes to be anxiety-inducing, even before work gets assigned. As I flipped through the syllabus on this day, however, I didn’t feel as nervous as in previous quant classes, such as Introductory Finance and Accounting. Yes, numbers were involved, and, yes, I would have to work hard to master the concepts, but simply put, I knew I was not going to end up with a bad grade.

Don’t be fooled: I wasn’t used to this feeling of academic assuredness. It was new, only coming to me at the start of junior year. Throughout freshman and sophomore year, I would lose sleep from calculating the potential decrease in my GPA if I didn’t receive an A as my final course grade. This was largely the result of going from easily receiving straight A’s my whole life to studying for days for exams at Penn and still not getting the grade I hoped for.

The night before my first day of junior year, however, I reviewed my transcript, and I forced myself to see that I am a good student and more than capable of getting decent grades. So even though I don’t always get an A, I am certainly intelligent, competent and hardworking enough to fare well in Wharton classes.

So I gained a calm in regards to academics, sure, but to be honest, I still felt harried about everything else—namely, my involvement in student organizations and jobs. I was setting the bar high for myself in junior year, adding on extra time commitments such as being a resident advisor in Harrison College House and co-president of the John Marshall Pre-Law Honor Society. This was all on top of the time commitments I had managed since my first two years. Additionally, I was determined to secure a marketing internship for the summer before the semester ended.

“The lack of white space (free time) in my schedule amazed me—even though I was the one managing it!”
Olivia Nelson, W17
My Advanced Corporate Finance class ended, I opened my Google Calendar to see what was next on my schedule, and as usual, I had several hours of meetings and events lined up. The lack of white space (free time) in my schedule amazed me—even though I was the one managing this calendar!

Since high school, I have always dedicated my time to several clubs and organizations because they align with who I am. For example, Wharton Ambassadors allows me to share my Wharton passion with prospective students, and by being involved with the Social Planning and Events Committee (SPEC), I get to channel my love for music through planning concerts on campus. But while I can’t envision being anything but super involved, I do not like having to choose between having time to eat dinner and going to a meeting. Nor do I enjoy the stress that comes with not being able to start my homework until 10 p.m. on Mondays after classes and all my meetings are over.

oliviaI wrestled with the idea of committing to so many things as I made my way to Huntsman Hall on that day my junior year. Can I make this happen? Can I really be this involved, get good grades AND find an internship for the summer?

I passed the Sweeten Alumni House on Locust Walk. Upon seeing the Penn pennant and “Proud Donor” stickers on the window, I thought about life post-Wharton. Presumably when I became an alumna, most of my time would be occupied by my profession, but I would also be managing the various responsibilities that come with being an adult, right? With each day, I was closer to entering the “real world.” I knew that I wanted to be ready for whatever adulthood would bring about. How can I make that happen? Will I actually be prepared for life after college?

Suddenly, my phone vibrated with a pre-event reminder, signaling that my next meeting—and a four-hour block of running from that meeting to the next meeting to the next—would start in 10 minutes. There was no worry in me though. It suddenly all made sense. I was organized. I was prioritized. I was capable.

I realized that it was how I managed grades and everything else that would prepare me for adulthood. As a well-rounded Wharton student juggling countless responsibilities, I would be equipped with the skills I develop during my time here, especially those gained from being involved with extracurriculars.

As cliché as it sounds, upon realizing this, I felt that weight lift off my shoulders. My obligations were the same, but how I felt about them was completely different.

With this mindset, I went on to achieve my best semester academically, secured that summer internship and gained a new outlook on the rest of my time here at Penn. While there is still barely any white space on my Google Calendar, there are plenty of opportunities in my future to demonstrate how being so involved has prepared me for life after college.


Olivia Nelson is a junior from Scotch Plains, N.J, concentrating in Marketing at Wharton and Spanish in the College. Aside from Wharton Ambassadors, SPEC, the John Marshall Pre-Law Honor Society and Harrison House, she is a member of the Penn Colleges Against Cancer/Relay for Life and the Joseph Wharton and Benjamin Franklin Scholars Programs.

 

Published in the Spring/Summer 2016 issue of Wharton Magazine.
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