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A head-and-shoulders illustrated portrait of Ceri Riley. She is smiling with her mouth closed, has light skin, and long light pink hair.

Dear Prospective 2020s by Ceri Riley '16

Passing on advice that good people have given me

Dear Prospective 2020s,

You’ve made it this far, and EA decisions are coming out in a couple hours. Yuliya K. ’18 made a lovely post compiling a list of distractions for the final stretch. Distractions are great – I use them often to reroute my train of thought away from worry or overwhelmedness – but I also find a lot of solace in kind, honest words. So that’s what I can offer, because that’s what has helped me most this semester. Most of this advice is paraphrased from people that I consider to be mentors, because I think I’m still a bit too young and foolish to be justifiably preachy about things I’ve learned so far. So here’s the most important thing:

You’re going to be okay.

It may not feel like it right now, if you’re a bundle of nerves and it feels like your future is riding on this EA decision. It may not feel like it if you get in, and you’re not 100% sure this is the right school for you but you have external pressures to comMIT. It may not feel like it if you get deferred or rejected, and your confidence is shattered and your heart is bruised and you need to pick yourself up and redraw your life’s trajectory for the next couple of months. But it’s true; you will be okay.

Take some time today (and every day) to breathe, to talk to someone you care about about their day or yours. Remember there is life outside a college decision, or a career decision, or any one email. Try to be present in your current life, and try to remember to take care of yourself because you can’t keep pushing that into the future. I’ve tried, and it’s not pretty.

I can’t quite empathize with the feeling of your whole life riding on a decision like this – maybe I’m finicky and my dreams shift and evolve too often, or maybe I’m more apathetic than the average person in the face of rejection. So for those of you who feel like a future at MIT is the only future where you will be happy:

Happiness is largely a choice.

It’s a choice that can definitely be influenced by aspects of your life, like your friends and your family and where you go to school and what opportunities you have. If you get accepted to MIT, while it will probably give you a boost of pride and endorphins, that moment alone won’t sustain a lifetime of happiness. Your happiness will come from a support system or passion projects or excellent mentors that inspire you. While you might be able to find these things at MIT, it’s also easy to forget to build them. And it’s equally possible to find these things, and happiness, at other universities.

To loosely paraphrase one of my favorite professor’s parting words to our class, “Be very very brave, be very very very kind, and go have lots of adventures.” You’ll have your bravery – the tenacity that inspired you to apply to MIT in the first place – wherever you go. And I believe we should all work towards being kind to other people, whether that’s being empathetic or supportive or trying to make small choices that make someone’s world a better place. Whether MIT is your next adventure or not, you still ultimately have your self and your broadest dreams intact.

Lastly, here’s a video my friends and I made last year for all MIT applicants. I haven’t rewatched it recently, so there might be a few dates and times that don’t apply to you guys, but the sentiment and words are there. Best of luck, and remember you have so much life ahead of you to do good things. We current MIT students believe in all of you, and are looking forward to making new friends and pseudo-families with whoever happens to come our way.