To the Class of 2018:
My freshman NSO experience is hazy in hindsight, but I do remember one thing fairly clearly: I fell in love. Not with a person, mind you, but with Penn. All of it — the ice sculptures, the museum parties, the beautiful campus, the never-ending list of name-dropped alumni and, of course, the dessert reception. The opportunities for indulgence were endless.
Like many highs, the exhilaration of NSO wore off. It was replaced by classes, listservs for far too many clubs to remember, hardcore Whartonites and the overwhelming pressure to “figure myself out.”
Many of you will go through the same process in the coming week. As you do, I encourage you to remember that this is but the beginning of one hell of an experience — one that you have the power to shape. Over the next four years, you’ll be making decisions about your classes, clubs, internships — the list goes on. Those may not be the easiest decisions to make. Oftentimes, you’ll question things that are far easier to take as given — your beliefs, your future, your character. But through it all, I encourage you to think about why you’re making the decisions you’re making and to make ones that allow you to grow as a person.
Don’t allow Penn’s attributes — the undeniable preprofessionalism, overwhelming number of student groups, resume obsession — to shape who you become. Instead, think about the person you want to be and use Penn (and its myriad resources) to become that person.
Now, that person — the person you are at Commencement and the person you are every step along the way — may not be the best at everything. He might not even be the best at anything. But if all goes to plan, that person will have made friends and challenged their beliefs.
He may not be the best, but he’ll certainly have become better.