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MIT student blogger Emad T. '14

Take a Load Off by Emad T. '14

Quoting The Band's "The Weight" should make the wait bearable

Remember when I said that we’re human after all? That’s still true. And it’s still true of everyone who wants to get in to MIT.

And I talked about humanity as a perk; that is, the admissions office has high, albeit reasonable expectations of its applicants. Chris Peterson put it nicely when he said you don’t have to build, say, a nuclear reactor to get in.

But part of being human means acknowledging some limitations. For example, this bears no resemblance to snow:

Gratuitous picture. Yes, this is visible from my awesome double.
As much as I would’ve liked for it to snow today, it didn’t. In December. If you live in the northeast, that’s kind of a big deal. To illustrate that, I invite you to go to Google and type “blizzard of” without quotations – it’ll automatically suggest “blizzard of 1978 boston.”

Also, Ohio. But I guess Google’s search suggestions are biased?
More to the point of that pressing topic on some of your minds: OH MY GOD AHHHH ADMISSIONS DECISIONS?! Well, no, not yet…there’s a panel of hard-working, air-breathing, and food-eating humans still at work on that. Nevertheless, and quite understandably, you want to know whether you’re in. Right now.

But that’s not good for you, let alone productive. The best thing you can do is take the weight of waiting off your shoulders. Take a load off.

It’s advice that you may have been told already, but it bears repeating, because it’s good advice and it’s true. That said, it doesn’t sound very helpful, or even convincing, but I have to write about this anyway, because it’s advice that I wish I had taken earlier. So I’ll try two approaches to make the point: one of them involves Einstein, but the other – and the first angle I’ll try – is to tell my own story of how unnecessary all that stress can be.

Back when I was applying to colleges – when I was a good deal more lazy than I am now – I only felt like sending one application ahead of the regular decisions deadlines; I chose to apply to MIT EA. As soon as I had sent the last required document away, it was as if the admissions office had just made me eat a really terrible burrito against my will (or something), because from then on, something grew in my stomach and tied it up in excruciating little knots.

Anticipation. Dread. A pang of regret for having been so eager, as if I were hastening the arrival of utter disappointment, or worse still, raising the possibility that the agonizing wait would last almost twice as long.

Despite the high hopes I had and the stars that were in my eyes, I counted every possible point against me: a 690 on the math section of the SATs, a mere 710 on the SAT II Bio test (why weren’t these all 800s?!), a lack of research experience, a lack of non-academic lab experience, a lack of incredibly strong connections.

A lack of sustained, truly Nobel laureate-caliber genius.

My therapy called for large doses of optimism. So I focused on what I had going for me: sincere interest in the classes I took, at competitive levels; a few constructive things I had done to keep myself occupied in the summer, though it was nothing mind-blowing.

But ultimately, all that made me think about was getting my decision even faster. With credentials like those, I thought, the worst that could happen is I’ll get deferred, right?

But I wasn’t sure. Up until that very last night, I kept countdowns going, I kept playing out little scenarios in my head about ways to react, or how my friends would react in each of the three outcomes, and I kept comparing myself to past applicants who posted their success stories on College Confidential, that woebegone breeding ground for needless anxiety, because my flipping topsy-turvy stomach wouldn’t settle back on solid ground if I tried anything else.

Well, I did go shopping for gifts for my school’s holiday drive, but there was a point that night when I just wanted the right things to jump into my shopping cart, presumably so I could resume my regular pattern of waiting in abject terror.

My point: though I tried my hardest to get MIT Decision Day 2010 to come faster, I couldn’t. Heck, it was just a coincidence that MIT decided to release the results minutes earlier than their projected “We’ll have them at 8 PM tonight” statement.

And while this particular story has a happy ending, that’s not the point. Sure, enduring fitful nights of sleep and the agonizingly slow advance of time, all just to see MIT’s decision, makes for a dramatic story, but it doesn’t make you an altogether sane person for that time, or an altogether happy one.

Again, I understand the pressure and the gut-wrenching anticipation. I’ve been there. It’s entirely natural.

But you know what else should come naturally? Doing the things you love to pass the time; it’s advice that’s been handed down from these blogs before, and I wish I had listened then. Because there’s nothing more unnatural than trying to rip a hole in the space-time continuum just to see how you fared this admissions cycle. As far as science currently knows, it’s also impossible.

If someone who’s been through this whole process isn’t a good enough authority on the issue, let me quote Einstein – the Einstein – who even used these words in an abstract for one of his papers: “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity.”

So please, if you find yourself sitting on a stove, do yourself a favor and jump off of it.

24 responses to “Take a Load Off”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I liked this.
    I didn’t apply to EA because I didn’t take the SAT’s soon enough D:

    But I have that same gnawing anticipation. Scenarios playing out in my head.

    It’s all a very nerve-racking experience!

    I keep telling myself that everything is sent, that there’s nothing I can do about it, that I’ll not even think about it till the letters come.

    But it’s not easy to just shut our brains off – is it?
    Then again… I suppose that’s why we are applying to MIT and why we look forward to new MIT blogs on a day to day basis (not only because they are well written and amusing) but because maybe they’ll give us some indicator on how we did. Who knows – right?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this!

  3. Michael says:

    its more waiting to find out when we need to wait till. Just tell me when I will find out that I was deferred, it’ll take a lot of the pressure off. Right now MIT Admissions RSS is the #1 feed I look at to find out if they have posted the decision date. AH! freaking out and I never freak out about anything. ever.

  4. Colin G says:

    It didn’t snow in Cambridge?!? Heck, we got snow here in Westlake, Ohio, and we never get snow this early!

    I really liked what you wrote, and agree completely: I find that the only time I’m really nervous about admissions is when I’m thinking about it. Which only happens when I’m reading blog posts like this one. Which i do to calm myself down. Quite an interesting paradox going on there!

  5. Marcel says:

    I’ve never stressed this much ever. I run for the mail as soon as I get home for school looking for a small envelope marked with MIT’s logo. The small envelope which most likely contains a rejection or deferral letter.

  6. Corer says:

    I only now just felt that feeling in my stomach, or at least i have only just recognized it. I would however like to know the specific date and time when the results come out. just to have a countdown, to channel my nervousness towards.

    I wish it would snow in the Northeast.

  7. This blog is a true representation of the normal college applicant. I call it a work of genius. The words truly describe the feelings of someone applying to a school they are dying to get into.

    I think that your right about taking a load off, but this extremely hard, when you feel as if your future depends on one decision.

  8. Emad '14 says:

    @Colin G: Ohio, eh? You’re still pretty famous for snow yourself :p

    Also, there’s no official announcement on when decisions will be released, but admissions is typically very good about having it all done by mid-December.

    If you’re still a bit nervous about something, feel free to email me! My email address is…prominently posted somewhere on this page.

  9. This is exactly how I feel about waiting for my letters! Once the applications were in, I was sent into a perpetual state of anxious waiting. It’s also comforting to know that you still got accepted despite having SAT II scores that weren’t 800s (I got a 690 on Math II and 610 on Physics, myself). I’m increasingly nervous–and pessimistic–as mid-December approaches…

    @Colin G: I’m in Twinsburg, OH, so I know what you mean about the snow raspberry

  10. Tara says:

    I couldn’t help but smile while reading this, because this is EXACTLY how I act, minus the shopping for gifts part (I absolutely love Christmas shopping! Black Friday door busters at Macy’s? :D) Today while running at track practice, my friends and I were discussing my application. While I was being a Debbie Downer, saying my SATs weren’t up to MIT standards, they were reassuring me with some of the stuff I do have going for me. Between hearing that and reading this, I am determined to be more optimistic about this whole EA thing. :D

    Wow, really? No snow?! Some parts of NJ got snow. Not near me, but at my family’s house during Thanksgiving. It was pretty awesome :D

  11. Alex S says:

    Haha very nice post!! However, I am still wishing for the admissions decision to come sooner, because as you said, I am only human!

  12. Thanks so much for this post! I’m not stalking MIT admissions page as much as before EA deadline = =;

    You make me feel so much more relieved from the anticipation result anxiety. I guess it’s not as bad as it is for me as for others; I’m going to Chicago from Texas for Midwest Clinic ’til the 18th (omg!! look it up!) and the expected date for all EA decisions to be released is about Dec. 20, right?

    Actually, I’ll probably still be staying up all night on the 19th to wait and look for results… raspberry
    But again, thanks for your words of wisdom. smile

  13. L says:

    Will there be a post at some point announcing the date decisions will come out? If so, where will that post be?

  14. Wow thank you so much for this post. It really inspired me to take a load off. I thought since we’re so close to the admissions responses, I would get more anxious and start critiquing everything about my application. But if anything I feel more confident. I’ve done everything I can possibly do and now all I can do is focus on my senior year. Thank you Emad!

    P.S. I’m in Western Mass (near springfield) and I can’t believe it hasn’t snowed!!!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Awesome title!

  16. Woody says:

    Haha, it’s like you’re describing my experiences exactly! Hopefully I’ll have the same ending…

    By the way, you were right about the Google thing. It shows you searches made most often in your area.

  17. Ashley says:

    Thanks for the reassuring post! I’m feeling slightly better about my less-than-perfect physics subject test score. I’m also resisting the urge to reread my application thousands of times…it’s not like I can change it now, right? Good luck to all who applied EA–only a few weeks left! :D

  18. JY says:

    Part of me desperately wants to fall on the floor and start twitching uncontrollably with nerves. The other part of me is calmly reciting every reason why I shouldn’t be panicking. Reading this post reminded me again that I’m not the only one feeling this.

    I have to stop and remember what’s the most important. Of course I would love to be admitted to MIT with everything that makes it so wonderful, but saying I want to go to MIT over everything else is getting my priorities out of order. I’m sure whatever college I do end up in, I will be happy as long as I can do what I like to do.

    But augh, no matter how hard I reason, it’s still impossible to totally relax.

    Writing replies like this is kind of stress-relieving too. wink

  19. Sarah says:

    Would it be ridiculous to wait for the mailed decision instead of checking online? I want to be surprised with a hard copy….even if (when) it’s not an acceptance haha. How long would that take?

  20. Ashley says:

    @Sarah: I think admissions decisions were only released online last year. Only accepted students received a mailing with the necessary materials.

    Richmond, VA saw snow flurries on Saturday! How crazy is that?!

  21. Ashtyn says:

    This post is great because it shows almost exactly what each of us are feeling at this time waiting for the decision day. For me, it’s almost like you read my mind. As I was reading your post, in the back of my mind I was wondering if I helped you write this somehow! This is just amazing. Thanks for sharing it because it tells me that I should get back to work for my classes instead of just loitering all over the internet trying to pass the time.

  22. Rachel says:

    I agree with what others are saying: give me a date to count down to and I’ll be fine. I check this site at least 5 times a day just to see if the date is posted yet, and you’re right, it’s unhealthy.

    But, like virtually everybody else that has applied to MIT, I can’t help it. With a Japanese final tomorrow, I should be cramming, but who can focus on conjugation when there are MIT blogs to read?

    My other EA school has already announced the date that they will release decisions, so I would think MIT will be soon to follow. We all tell ourselves, “the decision will come when it comes. I can’t speed it up, I can’t see into the future, and I don’t have my own personal wormhole to jump through.” But oh, the suspense!

    Anyways, you’re right about one thing: focus on what you enjoy doing. I spent two hours today knitting, and I feel like today flew by! Thank’s for the reminder, and I’m sure that we’ll all do our best to jump off the stove and move on with life, however successfull that effort is.

    (And I’m jealous of your snow: I live in the central valley in California, at a whopping 8 feet above sea level. It has snowed here ONCE. =D )

  23. Alejandro Y says:

    I was doing well not thinking about the decision until 3 things happened:
    1) The weather became too miserable to play Ultimate.
    2) I read this blog.
    3) Ivy decision dates (for a bunch of my friends) were announced (Cornell and Columbia are today!!).

  24. Shibo Zhong says:

    @Sarah: MIT decisions will come out on Thursday, December 16th at 9:00PM EST (Eastern Standard Time).

    You can verify your login info here.

    Good luck to every early applicant! :D