It’s never easy to turn people down from MIT. But sometimes, around decision day, I unexpectedly hear from students to whom we did not offer undergraduate admission in the past, who went on to pursue their ambitions elsewhere, and who write me, years later, to tell me how things worked out for them. Sometimes, with the author’s permission, I blog these emails, like I did here and here, as proof of what I usually say on Pi Day:
If you are among the many stellar students to whom we are not offering admissions, then all I can remind you is that success is not always a straight line. That your path isn’t something MIT sets you on, it’s something you make yourself. And if you spend the next few years trying to make wherever you are as amazing as you can (as you already are), then someday you’ll look back on this Pi Day and realize it all worked out okay.
Here is the latest in this series, from Pat, who wrote me earlier this week:
I hope you are doing well during this challenging time. My name is Pat. I am a first-year Ph.D. student at MIT Media Lab (after two years as a master’s student at MIT) working on space cyborg and wearable computing. You might have seen me on MIT’s home page earlier talking about my research during the pandemic.
I saw a blog post about the undergrad admissions today on MIT FB, and it reminds me of the time when I applied to MIT almost six years ago. Back then, I was an exchange high school student from Thailand in Oregon. I saw a TED talk from my current Ph.D. advisor, Professor Pattie Maes of MIT Media Lab, talking about the most futuristic interfaces I have ever seen in my life. I was determined to get to MIT Media Lab. The talk inspired me to do a computer project with my high school teacher, which I made a video demo and sent it to Professor Maes. She was nice enough to write back with a very encouraging message, and we exchanged a few emails. I was super excited to apply to MIT, and I even made a pop-up book portfolio that talked about all of my high school science projects.
However, I was rejected from MIT undergrad, which made me sad. But I ended up having a wonderful undergrad experience continuing my interest in research and human-computer interaction. 4 years later, I was accepted to MIT Media Lab, the place that I was dreaming of in high school, and it’s been really awesome and amazing!!!
Looking back, I think that MIT has the most friendly rejection letter with the most uplifting message. I want to share my story with you and thank you for all the amazing effort you and your team had made for all the candidates :)
You can go see more of Pat’s work at the Media Lab on his project page. And I hope his story, as he told it, is both a solace and an inspiration for prospective students whose path to/through MIT may take some unexpected turns.