Free Advice

I read an article in the newspaper this morning as I sat in my favorite deli having lunch. I came back to my office and wrote the following email to my 51 juniors.

We have about 2 ½ weeks left together. I have a point I really want to make before you move on. It's free advice so you can take it or leave it.

I realize that you have already registered for the fall semester (but I also realize that the drop-add period will be available for quite some time). If you have a chance, go to today’s Wall Street Journal (April 5, 2012) and read the story on Page B-1 (“Wealth or Waste? Rethinking the Value of A Business Major”). It is quite interesting. I often think students select their nonrequired classes with almost no thought.

I occasionally have students who ask me why I teach solely through questions, why I don’t like to give answers, why I push students to go to the opera, why I ask about their best teachers and best books, why I give points for going to art museums. I think the fourth paragraph of this WSJ article kind of explains why I do things my way.

So, what’s my advice for you? I think Accounting or other undergraduate business majors are great. However, I think it is important not to get obsessed with piling business courses on top of business courses on top of business courses. I advise sophomores. I’m always taken aback by how many of them only want to take B-school courses as if that is the secret to a well-lived life. They should read the article in the WSJ.

Here’s my advice. Most of you have another year here. Wander through your dorms and ask the better students (the ones with those 3.5 GPAs and above) to tell you which of their teachers taught them to really think, which of their teachers truly inspired them, which of their teachers opened their eyes to the world. Then, in your last year here, make sure you take as many of those teachers as you can. I honestly don’t care what they are teaching. It is not the course that is important; it is the teacher. Don’t be so frightened that you’ll wander out of your comfort zone. In fact, push yourself out of your comfort zone. When you get to me an old person (like me), you can be cowardly. Young people should be more adventuresome.

You can fritter away your last year here or you can use it to grow into the kind of adult you want to be. The teachers you sign up for in the fall may make all the difference in the world.


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