I recently received an email from a rising high school senior who was worried not about getting rejected from MIT, but rather what would happen if they did get into MIT by some miracle-lightning-strikes-a-unicorn-and-chris-peterson-and-scrambles-his-brain-to-send-the-acceptance-magic.
To address the worry that follows the question what if I actually get in—
I completely understand the fear and anxiety that comes with possibly getting into not only MIT, but to any rigorous, awesome school. Unless you are an international Olympian at being Kanye West (or uh, at Physics) you might be caught at some point, post acceptance giddiness, thinking that MIT might be too hard, too fast, or too something that makes you feel like you’re not actually the right fit.
To know that you have MIT in your sights shows that you must believe in yourself to some extent, but it is possible that you (like many others) worry that you can only do so much as a high school senior and almost-college freshman. But I want to tell you what I don’t think we hear enough: when someone puts their faith in you, they do so believing that there is potential in you, far beyond where you currently stand.
For the longest time I believed that getting into a dream college was a binary decision. I believed that on some gloomy judgment day after college applications were in, all my accomplishments and all my skills would be frozen in time and weighed. I found myself spending days and weeks trying to count everything up and figure out how I would measure up at that instant.
What I didn’t realize is that if someone decides to invest something in you—in this case, admission to a wonderful school—it is not because they think you are at an adequate level to pass xyz and abc classes in your time at that school. A college is a community, so it is unlikely they will simply admit you just so you can pass their classes. Instead, a college is interested in investing in you, believing that you will grow, learn, and contribute to their community.
tl;dr If you find yourself in the situation where wonderful places and people are giving you an opportunity, remember that it is an investment in your potential—so don’t worry about where you stand at any one moment. Don’t fear inadequacy, because that assumes you won’t grow or make the most of your opportunity. So the next question is… how do you make the most of whatever opportunity you seize next spring?