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MIT student blogger Jessie L. '07

Happy Holidays, and some advice by Jessie L. '07

Hi, all you folks out there in Blog-Readership Land! I’m at my mom’s house in Kentucky as I write this. Thanks to the people who wished me good luck on finals!

The reason I’m writing this entry is that by now, those of you who applied Early Action have received your decision, and those of you who applied Regular Action have begun your anxious waiting process. I’ve made some effort to keep up with current events in Admissions Blog World despite how hosed I’ve been, and I’ve been watching how applicants have reacted to their decisions, and what they’ve been saying in general.

A lot of you talk about getting into MIT as though it is your goal in life. Once you’ve achieved this goal, you figure, everything will be wonderful. Life will be good. I mean, you got into MIT, right? You’ve got it made, right? And it’s a perfectly understandable attitude. Many of you have been brought up to think that getting into a good school is one of the most important things in the world. Your parents’ friends have used the names of their kids’ schools as status symbols. You’ve craved an environment full of other intelligent people. When the going gets rough in high school, you think “I just need to get into [top college]. Once I get into [top college], it’ll all be great. I won’t have to worry anymore.”

I know that you are thinking that last bit because I do the exact same thing with grad school. ;)

But what you need to keep in mind, to keep it all in perspective, is that MIT is not an end but a beginning. I’m aware that this sounds horribly cliche. Its truth, however, remains even through the cliche. I’m sure there are some schools, and I’m not going to speculate about which ones they are, which are merely stepping stones, holding pens for bright kids to go four years reveling in how bright they are until they get that piece of paper that will open the gate into the “real world”. MIT is not one of those schools. It’s not a holding pen. You will learn and be challenged here, even if, to paraphrase a comment I saw in an old “Underground Guide to Course 6”, they have to draw out your understanding with a dull knife. What’s that you say? Learning and challenge are fun? Well, yes, they truly are, but not all the time. If someone ever tells you that their entire MIT career’s worth of learning and challenge, every challenge they encountered here, was fun, all the time, they’re probably lying.

There’s something very special about the students of MIT, and it’s not just that they’re smart…I’ve been around smart people before. It’s not even that they’re interesting, though they are certainly the most interesting group of people I’ve ever encountered. No, it’s that the people here have a certain kind of steel to them. They’ve struggled here, and cried here, and tried here, and succeeded here, and failed here, and watched the sun set and then rise again from inside an Athena Cluster here, and fallen asleep next to a window in building 26 after coming down from their Jolt-and-chocolate-covered-espresso-beans-induced high here.

You’ve got to have that steel, that keeps you grounded when times are good and keeps you going when times are bad. That gets you out of bed each morning to face the world even though you know that it’s going to be difficult, and holds you up when you feel like caving in, so that you can see it through and rejoice when life is happy and inspiring and fun. Why do you think you have to write essays about times when you struggled or failed? It’s not a trick question, it’s to show what you’re made of when life’s not perfect, because life’s not going to be perfect. This is a hard place.

Some people, it’s obvious what they’re made of. I have a friend who received her acceptance to MIT while she was living in someone’s basement, on the run from her abusive father. The fact that she has this steel is self-evident. But you don’t have to have it illustrated in such dramatic form, so young, for it to exist.

A lot of you have it. You might even already know it’s there. You just have to remember. Remember, as you wait for your decisions, that once you’re here you’re going to need it. You’re going to test it. Remember this, so that you don’t get caught off guard with your natural feeling that MIT is an end goal, rather than the next step.

That’s all for now. I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas/Chanukkah/Winter Solstice/Whatever You Do Or Don’t Celebrate. :) And please don’t think I’m trying to preach at you, or scare you! I am simply inspired by the combination of having just finished finals two days ago (Note: IhatefinalsIhatefinalsIhatefinals), and having read your comments.

3 responses to “Happy Holidays, and some advice”

  1. Shen Huang says:

    Thanks for the tip that acceptance into MIT isn’t a carte blanche to the creme of life. Learning, especially from mistakes, isn’t comfortable and when times are tough, like beating people down the lowest of lows, it’s easier to give up than keep going.
    I think however that getting into a good school is like a small reward/talisman–the memory of getting tubed reminds you that you’ve accomplished your entrance into what a teacher of mine calls the “kindergarten of real life.” This memory reminds you that you have to keep on climbing the stairs…indeed, climbing on for the rest of your life.
    Happy holidays and thanks for the advice! And I hope to meet you next year in the fall!

  2. Thanks for suggestion. geting into MIT is definitely a reward to what you did whole school career but the begining of a new challenge as well. It might be true that it is a status symbol for parents and family but an inspiration to student to prove and explore oneself. Nothing in life is a silver platter but the survival of the fittest. I think Darwin was right. I applied and hope will see you and others in fall 2006.

  3. Laura says:

    Ditto what she said about finals. They sucked. =(