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MIT student blogger Kirsten L. '15

Average by Kirsten L. '15

The benefits of challenging yourself in high school

As a freshman in college, one of the most important things I do is reflect on my experiences here at MIT. How am I doing in my classes here? What could I be doing differently? Am I asking for help when I need help? Do I leave my dorm room enough? Am I taking the most advantages of the opportunities I have here? Am I happy here?
During one of my reflection times, one thing that dawned upon me was the concept of “average.”

Being average is a strange idea. No one ever wants to be average. Society says that we should try to establish ourselves as individuals by being the best in something or by defining ourselves with certain characteristics. For example, I remember being average was “BAD” in high school because you needed to be different than everyone else to get into a good college. You needed to be a leader with drive to change something about your community, an academic scholar with good SAT scores and solid grades, and an individual with spunk and character. As a result, I strived for A’s, worked hard to become really involved in different clubs, and tried to establish myself as an individual at my school. Simply put, I wanted to be the best in everything I did.

Then, I came to MIT.  Here, everyone is the best of whatever high school that they went to or the best in an activity or the best in some competition. I’m not saying that here at MIT, we don’t strive to be the best we can be (because some of the people here are probably the hardest workers I know). But I am saying that striving to be the best of the best will definitely cause some serious burn out. Accepting that it’s okay to be average (academically) is something that’s hard to grasp, but a part of being a student at MIT. Being a freshman, my initial mindset was “I have to get As on everything, I need to be involved in everything, and I need to try hard to be different than everyone.” But let’s be honest, this is Sparta MIT. It’s physically exhausting to get A’s on every test, paper, and problem set. Plus, there’s not even enough time in the day to really get everything done and be involved in everything. Now, I know it’s actually okay to be average sometimes.

But don’t think that this means that everyone here is the same. This would be a bad misconception to make about MIT. As a school, we consist of some amazing, high-achievers who are extremely talented in a wide range of different subjects and activities. Yet despite our differences in the passions we pursue, we all share the same dedication to our passions, which creates a diverse but unified culture here on campus.

All in all, I just wanted to end with a message to all the high school students out there reading the blogs: Strive to be the best you can be in high school. Take the hardest classes you can take, get involved, and love what you’re doing. People at MIT love a good challenge. Obviously, we wouldn’t have come to MIT if we weren’t up for a battle over the next four years. Taking challenging classes in high school is one of the best things you can do to prepare for college. Not only does it keep your mind sharp, but it actually does prepare you for what lies ahead. Although I can’t say I remember everything from every AP class I took in high school, I do feel like I’ve learned the problem solving and studying skills that I needed for classes that I’m taking here. But you only go to high school once, so academics shouldn’t be the only thing that defines your high school career. Get out and try new things!! Get involved! In high school, I tried robotics and science olympiad for the first time and got hooked. Those two clubs were easily the defining activities of my high school experience. Through those clubs, I was able to learn what I loved to do. Lastly, the path to getting into a good college isn’t about filling out the lines in your resume, but rather finding what you’re really passionate about doing. The college activities and essays will come easily once you’ve spent four years doing what you love.

Best of luck to the seniors applying for college!

10 responses to “Average”

  1. raghav says:

    Thank you so much for the wonderful advice, Kirsten

  2. Arianna Nasser says:

    Thank you for the wonderful advice… I really do believe that you can’t go wrong pursuing what you’re passionate about. And you know what? When you have given it your all and you know you did the best you could, the grade matters less and less. So, cheers to all seniors out there (like myself) trying to put all their passion and drive and ambition onto a few pieces of paper. May you find a place where you can challenge yourselves and occasionally be average.

  3. S says:

    Super-like! Just this morning I was wondering whether I should drop out on any course or activity as I know if I give up on any one activity/course, I’ll be able to devote more time to the others and, as a result, perform better. But then I scratched the idea because even if I don’t get the grades I would like to, at least I’m enjoying what I’m doing! =)

  4. Anthony L. '15 says:

    +++++++

  5. Nat Hunegnaw says:

    Hey Kirsten

    I’ll like to start of by saying my name is Nat Hunegnaw. Your paragraph really stood out to me. I’m a freshman in high school. It’s been my dream to study at MIT since 6Th grade. Right now I have a GPA of a 3.8. Language is’t really my thing i’v got all high B’s so far,but my math and science grade are great (97-100). I was wondering if there’s any advice you can give to help to get in the institution. My dad is proud of me for now ,but i don’t want to mess it up.
    Thanks

  6. Phoebe '15 says:

    This is a great post, but for all the high schoolers reading it, allow me to add: if your high school for some reason doesn’t offer many AP classes or science olympiad teams or cool things like that, DON’T FREAK OUT. Just do the best with what you have, and not only will it not affect admissions but you’ll do fine. GIRs are MIT classes, yes, but they’re also meant as introductory…

  7. DanielG says:

    Phoebe is right on the money. I know a guy who got accepted to both CalTech and MIT on full scholarship with only 3 AP courses. MIT admission officers take your situation into account.

  8. Chris S. '11 says:

    lol, it’s okay to be BELOW average at MIT. staying above average started becoming an achievement esp during my junior and senior years, haha.

  9. Arnav S. says:

    I’m in 8th grade right now, in Long Island. It’s been my dream to study at MIT since mid-6th grade, and today we went to Boston and I got to visit the campus. I heard about MIT from my uncle, who is the leader of a software engineering team at Wells Fargo. I’m still deciding what program language I want to learn first between Python and Java, and I want to be able to code a USEFUL program by the time I’m a senior in high school.

    That’s enough about me, though. Your post here was pretty cool to read, and even though I’m not in high school yet (not even close, I’ve still got a year to go before I’m a freshman there), the whole college experience sounds really appealing to me, especially because I don’t know anyone else in my grade that shows any interest in coding, computer science, etc.. I also don’t know of any clubs/activities in the high school I’m going to that I particularly want to join, but I guess I’ll see about that when I’m actually there.

    P.S – Reading over this seems like it’s more of my own blog post than a response to yours… sorry o_o

  10. Kirsten L. '15 says:

    @ Nat:
    Glad to hear I’m reaching out to some freshmen smile Sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you! My advice to you is to just try different things your freshmen year and chose one or two things that you really enjoy doing and stick with it! Also keep those grades up and take whatever challenging classes your high school offers (like Phoebe said if your school doesn’t offer AP or IB, no worries). That all being said, there definitely isn’t one single “right” way to get into MIT. But doing what you love can make the journey there more fun smile

    @Arnav:
    That sounds great! If you’re interested in programming, those sound like excellent goals. Definitely keep an eye out for different activities you can do to learn more about CompSci. If you can, try robotics competitions like FIRST and VEX. Teams can always use people interested and passionate about programming! There’s also quite a few summer CompSci camps for high school students! Best of luck in high school.

    PS: No worries! I enjoy reading long comments smile They make this job really rewarding.