In June I’ll be celebrating, along with my MIT classmates, a pretty major reunion and I’ve been spending much of the time recently, when I haven’t been reading your folders, working on plans for the big event. At one point during that weekend I’ll be talking with my old friends about how admissions is different today from when we received admit letters quite a few years ago. Seeing the MITLeaks announcement on Monday reminded me even more about how things have changed over the years. That said, as much as things have changed, the worries are still much the same.
Before the magic of the internet we actually got a real letter announcing our fate, in fact, everyone got a letter and you pretty much knew if you were admitted or not by the size of the envelope…the bigger the envelope, the better the news. My envelope from MIT was very big and contained a red t-shirt. I was very excited and wore the shirt the very next day to school. Even in those days MIT announced their decisions earlier than many other schools but we didn’t have the luxury of knowing what day we would actually find out. I’m told that all the letters were mailed at the same time, so kids in Massachusetts knew several days earlier than I did that they had been admitted. I had to wait until my envelope got all the way to California.
Every day for weeks I was the one who checked the mail at my house, not because of a fondness for the mailman, but because I was waiting to hear from the various schools. I applied to only three schools and in fact when I originally told my guidance counselor I had five on my list, he nearly fainted…that meant he would need to make five copies of any letter he wrote and that was two, too many as far as he was concerned. I ultimately did trim it down to three, completed my applications and then the waiting began. I’m sure I drove my family nuts, would I get in or not, if I did which would I pick, and if I didn’t what would I do with myself the following year…I’m sure there were moments that they could hardly stand being in the same room with me that spring, let alone the same house.
In the end, it all worked out. I got into my safety school…a UC campus which shall remain nameless but didn’t get into another school (it shall remain un-named as well for these purposes). That…gulp…rejection (yes, it was a very difficult word to say even then) was actually probably a good thing because I think that particular school was probably my parents first choice. It was much closer to home than MIT and I was the first child in my family going off to college. I was nervous, I was afraid I would make the wrong choice, and I was mad that I didn’t get into that third school…maybe MIT wasn’t the best place for me to be, I kept thinking to myself. But, in the long run, what turned out to be disappointing, scary, and exciting, all at the same time, turned out tremendously well and I jumped into life at MIT with both feet. I had a great experience here, but I’m also convinced that I could have a great experience at any of three colleges to which I applied.
So…why have I decided to tell you about this now…I’m sure you’ve figured it out. Decisions come out next week and you’ve all applied to lots of great schools, in fact some of you have applied to four times as many schools as I did. Yes, the times have changed…more kids than ever before have applied to more schools than ever before and that means that more “rejections” than ever before will be received by applicants in the next few weeks as all the schools release their decisions. It’s not fair, it’s not fun for the applicants, or for admissions officers, but it sadly is the way things are…and there really isn’t anything that Admissions Offices can do about it.
You’ve poured your hearts, souls and dreams into your applications and I’m thrilled to have had the chance to get know you through what you have shared. You’ve shared with us exactly why MIT would be the perfect place for you, but I know you’ve also done that for all the schools on your list, or you wouldn’t have applied to them. And in truth, you could have a great experience at any of those schools, just like I could have had a great experience at any of the three I applied to.
Your challenge in the weeks ahead is to ultimately select a school from the list of places where you are admitted. Once you hear from all your choices you need to get on with the process of deciding among the schools that have admitted you. That’s where your choices truly are, and you need to concentrate on figuring out which one will be the best one for you and not continue to be frustrated about those that didn’t admit you. Sadly, we are going to turn down many times more applicants than we will admit. We already know that we’re going to turn down lots of you and it’s going to be difficult for us, and even harder for you. Every year my colleagues and I say “goodbye” to applicants that we would love to have admitted to MIT. But spaces are few, and lots of truly amazing and very qualified students will not be joining us on our campus in the fall. Some other school will however be fortunate enough to have them.
If we admit you, I’m going to be so thrilled to welcome you to campus in September. I know you’ll have a great experience here and you can be assured that we believe you belong here. But for the rest…it’s not that we didn’t want you, it’s not that you did something wrong…we just couldn’t admit everyone we wanted. It really is that simple...it’s not fair, but it is what it is.
So…no matter what happens, be happy about where you are admitted, embrace your final choice and know that we wish you all the very best. After getting to know each of you so well in these last few months we know you will have an amazing college experience!