the mortifying ordeal of being known by Audrey C. '24
embrace the care that lies within you (my attempt to soothe pre-decisions anxiety)
I’ve mentioned a few times in the past about being unsure as to whether I should pursue a PhD program right after graduation or work in the industry for a bit first. My intention has been to work in the industry first… up until two weeks ago! After talking with my current research supervisor, past mentors, and other people whose advice I value, I decided to throw together a sort of last minute grad app to one of MIT’s technically this program admits all prospective phd students as MS (masters of science) students first, and you only officially become a PhD candidate after you pass infamous qualification exams. programs. Well, I don’t really have to make a decision until if I get in, but choosing to apply is to make that decision a possibility.
It’s kind of crazy how four years ago on this exact day, I was deferred from MIT’s early action round. And today, I’m
it's due tomorrow lmao
my PhD application for the chance to stay at MIT
forever for at least five more years.
It’s a full circle moment in many ways. For one, I’m once again sitting in front of my computer trying to condense my past four years into a series of textboxes, rec letters, and the Statement of Purpose. The SoP is kind of like the Common App essay, but more focused on how your past academic experiences shape the research questions you’ll investigate in grad school. Once again, I’m scrutinizing every other phrase in my SoP and wondering how my voice, stories, and dreams are going to be perceived by the committee of my understanding of how grad admissions works for this program is that instead of having a dedicated admissions committee like there is for undergrad admissions, applications are divvied up amongst the departmental faculty to read and make decisions on
If you’re anticipating a decision from MIT this Saturday, maybe you’re choosing to go in no thoughts head empty. Honestly this is the move. Or maybe you are more like what I was like four years ago, completely stressed out by the mortifying ordeal of being known. Being vulnerable to a bunch of strangers whose perceptions have some bearing on my future felt mortifying to me back then, and to be completely honest, still ruffles my feathers a bit today.
But while I haven’t completely eliminated my fear of vulnerability, sometime between four years ago and today I’ve learned to live with it. The full quote from Tim Kreider reads, “if we want the rewards of being loved, we have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known.” I’ve learned that digging deep within yourself and putting forth what you’ve found is a beautiful, bold act of vulnerability. It takes courage to apply with the hope that the odds will be in your favor. You’ve already taken the incredible leap of submitting an application, and Ceri and Paolo have written better than I can about how proud you should be of yourselves for doing just that.
On the flip side, being perceived comes with the chance of things not turning out the way you want it to. I personally took my deferral badly and then proceeded to feel bad about having cared so much. I eventually found solace by accepting obligatory footnote that deferral is not a rejection! From MIT's EA FAQ, 'We deferred you because we want to reevaluate your application as is (i.e. it is competitive as it is!).' While that certainly can be a valid way to make peace with yourself, I’ve come to realize through many more rejections — for opportunities within MIT, internship applications, research paper submissions — that caring so much was what drove me to do the thing in the first place. No single decision could ever take away all the ways I’ve grown from those experiences. Should they be unfavorable, nor can Saturday’s decision take away all the things you’ve accomplished, whether that be something cool you learned in class, a project that you’re proud of, or a realization of how you want to better the world. At the same time, you are allowed to feel the things you may feel. You contain multitudes.
I remember writing about how much I cared about my community back in high school, and how I hope to extend that love to the communities I’ll join in college. Lo and behold, I am once again writing about caring about my communities in college, and how that is informing the research I want to pursue. Sure, MIT might have given me the resources to show my care in certain ways. However, it did not take going to MIT to care in the first place. And I’m certain that care also already exists within you in vast quantities (did I mention that you contain multitudes?), driving you to do incredible things regardless of what happens. For now, continue to extend that care to your loved ones, as they may no longer be within an arms reach in a year.
I hope that my words can be of some help, even if it’s taking stress levels down just a tiny notch. I personally try to touch grass when I’m stressed. Grass is so green and tickly in a good way. If the activation energy to touch grass seems insurmountable, I watch cat videos, especially the green screen cat trend (see: black cat zoning out, driving cat, crunchy cat, and huh cat). I also like watching and rewatching OK Go’s This Too Shall Pass, which seems especially fitting.
- technically this program admits all prospective phd students as MS (masters of science) students first, and you only officially become a PhD candidate after you pass infamous qualification exams. back to text ↑
- it's due tomorrow lmao back to text ↑
- my understanding of how grad admissions works for this program is that instead of having a dedicated admissions committee like there is for undergrad admissions, applications are divvied up amongst the departmental faculty to read and make decisions on back to text ↑
- obligatory footnote that deferral is not a rejection! From MIT's EA FAQ, 'We deferred you because we want to reevaluate your application as is (i.e. it is competitive as it is!). back to text ↑