Let me start with a confession.
Last year, if you had told me that I was going to end up at MIT for college, I probably would have laughed in your face. Me, an MIT student? The concept was practically unthinkable. Throughout my entire high school career, I always considered myself a pretty average guy. Sure, I worked hard in my classes, I joined a bunch of clubs and extracurricular activities, I got involved within my school and my community, I did research at a local university. But in spite of all of those accomplishments, whenever I thought about applying to MIT, I kept coming back to the same conclusion:
What could possibly be so special about me, that MIT would ever want me at their school?
A year later, I still don’t really know the answer to that question. All I know is that I’m here now, and since Ben insists I wasn’t a mistake – yes, I really have asked him – it seems I have no choice other than to make the best of the situation.
My name’s Paul Baranay, and I guess you can call me the new kid on the blogs. I’m an official MIT freshman now, a proud member of the Class of 2011 – but most of the time I still like to think of myself as a normal guy who simply happens to attend one of the craziest universities in the world.
I’m proud to say I was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, a smallish city nestled in the very heart of the Midwest, most famous these days as the home of the University of Notre Dame. Although I’ve eagerly adopted Boston as my surrogate hometown, I still cling to a few Midwestern habits that seem more than just a little strange to my New England peers. For example, I insist on calling carbonated beverages “pop,” never soda; I still root for the Colts over the Patriots; and I love playing a little-known card game called euchre.
Enough about me, though – now let’s talk about you. Yes, you, you there in the back. If you’re reading this, odds are you’re in high school, probably a junior or a senior who’s in the middle of figuring out this whole “let’s apply to college!” deal. If that description matches you, don’t worry: you’re not alone. I assure you that there hundreds, thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of students out there just like you. I know this, because I’ve been there.
Less than a year ago, I was in the exact same place as you are now. Classes, clubs, sports, family, friends, community service, scholarships, competitions, applying to college – it’s a lot to handle, and I remember very well how juggling act feels. I also remember wondering how on earth I was going to get through it all. If you happen to be asking yourself the same thing, let me just say that succeeding in your senior year is doable. But it’s a question that no one else can answer for you. You will have to overcome these challenges by yourself, in your own way. But the good news is that you’re already more than three-quarters done with high school, and one more year probably isn’t going to kill you. If all goes according to plan, your senior year may even be the most enjoyable year of your life so far.
So relax a little. Breathe. I’ll admit it: the college application process is a lot to handle, especially if you’re applying to MIT. But you’re not alone, and you will get through.
With that said, let me officially welcome all of you to my blog. It’s not much right now, but I have a lot to say and I like to talk, so you can be certain you’ll see many more entries from me soon. In these pages, I hope to create something of a window into my world, a little cross-section of life at MIT. I’ll be taking you through the halls of the Infinite, inside the lecture halls and the labs, into the dormitories, even across the Charles. Of course, I’ll also be answering any questions you might have. You do have questions, right?
I only started blogging a few months ago. Although many things in my life have changed over the past several weeks, my motto is exactly the same today as it was then.
Claim your place.
Make your mark.
Live your dreams.
I know those are only words. But they are words I live by, and here at MIT, I’ve found that those nine words are much more than an ideal – they capture the indomitable spirit of over four thousand students. Each and every day, our passions, our hopes, our dreams drive us to push ourselves farther than we ever imagined going, to stand tall even when we’ve been pushed down, to never give up on what we’re working towards.
MIT is real. But it is also full of dreams. One day, some of those dreams may be yours.
Welcome, dreamer. We’ve been waiting for you.