Embracing Uncertainty: Deciding the Path to Success

Day 1

On the eve of our first access weekend, I gathered my newly purchased school supplies, charged my laptop, looked in the mirror and thought to myself, “What on earth am I doing?” I had just spent the last month relearning math I hadn’t thought about in ten years and trying to remember how to take notes. It was hard, but manageable. Now, with the official start to classes upon me, my excitement started to wane. All I could feel was uncertainty.

Is this the right choice for me? Am I really willing to sacrifice some of my free time to study? Is it even worth the investment? How am I going to get everything done?

The questions lingered no matter how hard I tried to feel confident in my decision, the uncertainty causing me more stress than the classes themselves (and yes, that’s considering the aforementioned math class). I wanted nothing more than to know that an MBA would be the right path for me.

Day 2

Fast forward 24 hours and I still felt just as uncertain, but something important happened. During Basecamp, we were lucky enough to hear a keynote address from Ajay Agrawal, Chief Strategy Officer for Carrier and Tepper MBA Alumni Class of 1998. During his presentation, he articulated many of the hesitations that I felt, but with one key difference: he encouraged us to think of uncertainty as an opportunity rather than a detriment. After all, discomfort is as much a symptom of a challenge as it is of distress.

Day 7

Fast forward a week, and I’ve officially completed my first week as a part-time MBA student. I’ll be the first to admit that it was tough. I’ve learned more in the past seven days than I could have imagined, and I mean that in both the best way (this program is the real deal), and the worst (I studied a lot).

My uncertainty still looms large, but it has also taken on a different tone as well. I  find myself already impressed by my peers, who not only seem intelligent, engaged, and eager to learn, but who have also developed solutions to generate camaraderie despite COVID-19 and our current circumstances. The classes above us, part-time students set to graduate in 2021 or 2022, are equally as dedicated, sacrificing their scarce time to help us transition and make us feel welcome. And the staff and professors, who worked tirelessly to transform a four-day in-person weekend into a successful virtual event, their commitment was commendable. At every level, the dedication to the Tepper community is admirable, and perhaps more importantly, contagious.

So though I do not yet feel certain in my decision to return to school, nor do I know when I will, I do feel confident about the choice I made to attend Tepper. Yes, this is going to be difficult. Yes, learning to study again will be a painful process. And yes, I do hate the idea of sacrificing what little free time I have, but I know I’m in the right place. This community, its students and staff, have provided the perfect environment for feeling inspired and ready to take on any challenge. In this time of uncertainty, here’s to embracing whatever comes next.

Stacy O’Neill | Part-Time Flex MBA 2023
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