By Tulsi Patel
During the Fall 2020 Semester, The Oppy will be publishing submissions from members of the Stern community about how the Covid-19 Pandemic has impacted their experience in and out of the program. This issue, we approached incoming students to learn why they chose to pursue an MBA knowing the pandemic would fundamentally change their entry in the Stern community. If you wish to write about your own experience, please e-mail us at email@example.com.
The following entry comes from Langone student Tulsi Patel.
Back in March, I was late booking a flight to Istanbul for a friend’s wedding. While the wedding date wasn’t until June, I ended up paying much more than I anticipated for the non-refundable ticket (thanks, United), and as whispers of coronavirus became more prominent, I figured if the wedding was postponed, my flight could also be adjusted.
The twilight zone we entered this spring was something I’d previously only experienced during my consulting days, when binge-watching TV shows while “on the bench” turned a week or two into a haze. Even then, the repetitiveness was broken up by going into the office, doctor’s appointments, or meeting friends for lunch. A meme declaring, “Everyone made fun of Rebecca Black for singing ‘yesterday was Thursday, today it is Friday’ but now I’d kill to have that much confidence in what day it is” summarized my feelings spot-on as a shut-in. Another meme stated if you didn’t learn a new language, skill, hobby, or other type of knowledge during the shutdown, you never truly lacked time, but rather discipline. This struck a bit of a nerve for me, and I decided to think strongly about applying to business school. I had been considering it for a while, though the aforementioned “inspirational” meme didn’t immediately goad me into action.
Then, my company filed for bankruptcy.
There appeared to be no end in sight to remote work and quarantining, and I nearly resigned myself to forever ordering fresh groceries online. My aunt suggested that, with life potentially staying this way for a couple of years, it was an ideal time to pursue graduate studies. She said by the time we were even close to a ‘pre-Covid’ world, I could have my degree completed. Knowing my classes would be virtual for the first year actually convinced me to apply – albeit last-minute – since flexibility with a demanding work schedule was critical to me. Moreover, as some semblance of a social life slowly opened back up, I wagered that business school socializing would also.
Part of my increasing comfort with a mostly virtual experience at Stern was that I had experienced plenty of other things for the first time in cyber fashion: baby showers, weddings, family visits, holidays, birthdays. While obviously not the same, they were sufficient to solidify my tolerance threshold for taking notes from a screen rather than a blackboard/whiteboard/whatever schools use in person these days. At the same time, my sympathy really extended to students who had planned on an in-person, non-covid MBA experience and were suddenly forced to alter their plans.
In all honesty, my decision to enroll in a program that wouldn’t be in-person now versus waiting until the pandemic was over, was almost entirely based on opportunity cost. A small part of my hesitation in years past with applying to Langone was putting much of my personal (and work) life seemingly ‘on hold’. I was wary of saying no to weddings, birthday dinners, housewarmings, service organization commitments and seminars, additional work projects, online dating (just kidding), or vacations with college friends so I could say yes to happy hours with new classmates instead of coworkers, weekend trips across the country, and office hours.
Time is one constraint that wasn’t as fully covered as labor and capital resources in my undergrad economics courses, but choosing to do one activity necessarily means that time (and money) isn’t spent on something else. Personally, I am not a woman who believes she can ‘have and do it all’. I can feel overwhelmed from too many choices and dejected from not meeting too many expectations. As quarantining wore on, my estimate was that at least starting my MBA experience, even if different than the ‘traditional’ part-time route, was 100% better than crushing through yet another episode of The Vampire Diaries after working at my desk all day, particularly once the virtual group meet-ups with college friends and extended family lost their initial appeal.
Even if the next few years don’t revert to the classroom setting and in-person social aspects, it will still be a one-of-a-kind experience. Maximizing my utils means a lot more to me as I age, and I am beyond grateful that I decided to re-evaluate my cost-benefit analysis to apply to Langone. And if that wasn’t enough for me, United ultimately refunded my flight to Istanbul. Things are already looking up.