I had been reading the admission blogs all through high school purely for recreational purposes, and when I decided to apply I went back, but this time I read them imagining myself as one of the students here. I liked what I saw so much that I decided to submit my application. Yes, I had everything ready already, but hitting the ‘Submit’ button takes a special kind of courage. I know some of y’all may be in my shoes in this application season, and if so, then this post is for you!
First I’d like to list some of the fears you may have (which I had) about going to college abroad, and the answers I’d give with the experience I now have, (which is admittedly limited, this being my first semester here):
- I’ll miss my family.
Yes you will, kiddo. You’ll also get over it really fast. I guess it helped that I went to a boarding high school so I was used to being away from home for months at a time, but I also believe the general atmosphere at The Institute totally drives homesickness out of your mind simply because there is so much to be done at any given time. Get excited for all the new stuff you’ll learn!
- Making friends is hard! I’m already certifiably socially awkward at home, it’s going to be unbearably bad in a new environment.
My first few weeks here, everyone was so nice and understanding that I was shocked. It’s something you really have to experience to understand. Also, this is MIT- most people are certifiably socially awkward as Abby mentions here. Classes, mid-terms and p-sets provide great incentive to work with other people. Choosing a dorm that fits you is also important as well. After rush, I settled in my dorm pretty quickly and got to make really valuable friends. We went for grocery runs together, explored a bit of Boston- and when the cold October winds blew, they gave me their spare warm boots and coats (turns out all the ‘warm jumpers’ I packed for winter were actually only good for early fall). Hall buddies are important.
- The curriculum is different in my country. I haven’t done AP anything and I won’t be able to catch up.
Not true. I am probably the best suited person to talk about this since compared to the people who come to MIT, I probably had the worst background in, like, everything. There are beginner level classes for every subject, and although sometimes even those beginner classes seem a bit advanced, there are the always-going-out-of-their-way ever-helpful TAs who will take time in and out of office hours to help out and friends who will explain stuff in a simpler way when it somehow just doesn’t sink in. You will catch up, slowly but surely. Also, taking beginner classes doesn’t disadvantage you in any way- I’ve had people ask me if not testing out of anything means you graduate later than everyone else- no, it doesn’t.
- I can’t afford MIT!
MIT is one of the only five need-blind admissions schools, meaning you get awarded financial aid after you gain admission to the school. Financial aid is also need-based, so you will only pay as much as your circumstances allow you to. Sometimes people get awarded less aid than they need- you can always appeal and explain your circumstances and Student Financial Services will do all they can to make sure you can come to school. Over 50% of undergraduates are on need-based financial aid, and there are lots of ways to sustain yourself while at school, so you shouldn’t worry too much about that.
- Boston is cold in the winter.
It truly is. I’m just starting to feel that now. The International Students’ Office is aware of the climatic adjustments international students have to go through, and they organise an annual Fall Fashion Fair which is basically an event where you get free clothes for every occasion (including winter clothes, boots and just about anything else you’d like), Halloween costumes, cookies and candy. No kidding. This was probably the best thing that happened to me since the semester started.
There’s a recurring theme in the answers to all the questions here- adjustment is a process, and you won’t have to go through it alone! I like to think of MIT like Hogwarts, in Dumbledore’s words: “Help will always be given to those who ask for it.”
This wouldn’t be an admissions-related post if I didn’t talk about The Big Elephant in the room for all college applicants-college essays. The best advice I can give is also the most cliché: be yourself! If your college essay isn’t truthful and doesn’t resonate your own personality and voice, then that’s not the essay you want to turn in to Admissions. While writing my essays (oh how time flies), I thought they were mundane. Being an applicant from Africa, I thought admission officers would want to read about how I walked five kilometres and warded off lions to get to school every day. I was a victim of the danger of the single story without even knowing it. It took me some time to realise that my experiences and circumstances are different, and that’s okay. No two stories are the same, and none is less valuable than the other.
So go ahead. Shoot your shot, and I hope to see you on the other side!