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November 1st is coming up! by Mimi S. '22

What not to do as it approaches (and after it passes)

October 26, 2018

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since I applied to MIT! For many of you applying EA, the deadline is fast approaching! I’m going to share my experience with applying early, and for anyone applying next year, hopefully teach you what not to do. I started early. Like, right when the application came out I jumped on it and was like, “I’m gonna get this done so early! I’m going to put so much time and energy in to this application! These essays have to be the best thing I’ve ever written!” and I wrote like crazy!

I don’t enjoy writing very much (good thing I’m a blogger) and I can take hours to write a paragraph (<_< >_>), but this time I was doing great! I finished up a few drafts and was ready to show them to someone to get some feedback. My older sister read them and provided some nice feedback. That feedback was essentially “write it again”. Oops! Looking back they were super terrible! I just listed things I liked to do/did for my community. It was incredibly boring to read. I started to re-write them and that’s when it hit me! No, not inspirition. The opposite. I realized “if I only have to change the style but keep the content, I can just do it later!” So, I didn’t re-write it yet! I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited, and waited, and waited, and waited, and, wai-oh look! the deadline to contact interviewers is coming up! I completely forgot! And oh wow! The deadline is only a week away (*cough* *cough*). And I waited! Then, the week of the deadline, a storm hit Maine. Knocking out the power for several days!

old guy saying

I had to go to my public library (along with everyone else in town who needed to get work done) in order to finish my application. After a short period of EXTREME STRESS, I finally submitted my application on Oct. 31! And I didn’t even miss Halloween because our town re-scheduled it! The relief I felt lasted almost a second. It was a wonderful second. Then the panic set in. You’re going to get nightmares of every tiny mistake you made (or think you made) on your application. This is normal. It shouldn’t be, but it is! And of course, the normal anxiety that comes with applying to something as competitive as MIT. I entered a period of heavy self-flagellation. I wasn’t just going to rejected because there so many great students and so few spots, but because I was just too stupid to go to here. How was I, someone who struggled in high school science classes, going to survive socially and academically at a school of geniuses?

When I was deferred in December, I knew this had to be the case. I had given up any hope of being allowed anywhere near this school. In a sort of last attempt at improving my application, I created a maker portfolio where I showed off some games that I made (one of them can be seen in post about Splash!). I submitted that the day before the deadline. And, of course, I used this as ammunition against myself. Everyone else probably submitted everything on time, but not me. In general, the period between November 1st and March 14th brought my self-esteem down to levels I didn’t know I could reach. 3 months of self-loathing and feeling stupid for trying. Although, as a trans person, I probably could’ve put self-loathing as an extracurricular.

After March 14th, things didn’t get much better. I was going to MIT!!! I was gonna go there to sink into mediocrity and failure. Everyone there is going to be better than me at everything and I’m going to fade away into nothingness. I’ll be no one. What chance did I have at a school filled with some of the smartest students in the world? I knew I wouldn’t be able to survive and that my insecurities would force me to go elsewhere.

My first few months here washed those feelings away. Yes, everyone here is super smart, but they’re also very kind and relatable. Everyone here is very normal (mostly). I wanna give y’all some advice. Don’t be so self-critical. Yes, some self-criticism is healthy and helps you stay grounded, but hating yourself for being not being perfect is excessive. I constantly hear people talk about doing badly in classes, or struggling with exams and coursework. Everyone here struggles, but we struggle together. I’m on PNR so I don’t have that much to worry about, but you can still feel it in the air. I hated myself for a long time for thinking I could go to a school where people never have trouble with school. It’s hard to remember sometimes because of stereotypes and stories, but MIT students have academic difficulties too. Nobody here is perfect. I’m not perfect.

I failed two exams this week, one that should have been easy but I didn’t prepare for, and the other one that I did prepare for but just kicked my ass. I also have to finish a Wikipedia article for next Tuesday (which I haven’t even started!) and work on a digital synthesizer for my music technology class (guess how far I am with this). Even before MIT, I remember having two emotional breakdowns the night before my THIRD subject test attempt (Math II and Physics). I remember reading that if you have at least a 700 on both exams, you’re fine. I somehow managed to scrape by with my scores, but what if I didn’t? Was it worth agonizing and tearing myself apart just to go to MIT? Even after getting accepted, the pain of the possibility of having it taken away from was to much to bare. I cried after chem exams because I would do horribly and I was always worried I would get rescinded. I made many jokes to my friends about it, but to me the threat was real.

I still have this issue. I don’t give myself room to breathe, room to have flaws, to make mistakes. Please don’t be like me. It’s easy to get caught up in admissions rates, SAT scores, GPAs, extracurriculars, but also give your self some time and space to back away from all of it. Please just remember, you aren’t the sum of all your scores, or extracurriculars, and you’re definitely are not where you go to college. Please just remember to take a break every once in a while, especially after hitting submit.