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MIT student blogger Jenny X. '13

The Post-MIT Trajectory by Jenny X. '13

College is not a destination.

As a junior, it’s imminent that I think about what happens after MIT. In fact, the thinking has already been brewing. As I’m talking to my peers, it seems like “post-college plans” are a dreaded can of worms that no one wants to open. Except I tend to be the one prying at it until everyone around me is stressed and apprehensive – sorry, friends. But really, “life after college” is a scary but also exciting topic to think about.

Because for the first time in our lives perhaps, there is very little structure. We grew up knowing that 3rd grade came after 2nd, middle school came after 6th, and of course, college after 12th. College. Something so important and life-changing. Some people even get engaged in college – how scary is that? As much as our high-school selves may put “college” high up on some kind of maturation pedestal – and it is worthy of the hype I can tell you – but college is not a destination. And more than halfway through it, we are necessarily confronted with the fact that crap, there is still a whole life of decisions to be made.

It could be graduate school – but for what? Or work – in which specific industry? Gap year – will it really be productive? Volunteer? Start your own business? “Post-college” is such a vulnerable frame of time in which everything seems possible, still unjaded by the responsibilities and consequences of adult life.

As much as the central decision-maker in this situation is ourselves, we can’t help but be influenced by the people we care about. Parents, for one, is on the top of my list. Expectations of parents. What a struggle. Given MIT’s prestige, I think I can safely say my parents expect me to either go to an awesome graduate school, followed by a Ph.D pursuing something hard and technical, or on the other extreme, get a stellar job with stellar pay. It feels like that’s the MIT way. As if it’s not one of those two options – I’m missing the point of going to MIT. Obviously, I object to that sentiment. I believe thoroughly that like the college application process, the actual college experience is a holistic process – whose lasting and far-reaching impact we won’t be able to escape.

Last month, Huffington Post published an article called “America’s ‘Brain Drain’: Best and Brightest College Grads Head for Wall Street“. This article really struck me, particularly the argument that smart people such as MIT grads are responsible for cooking up crazy ideas like credit-default swaps (the insurance policy much blamed for the great financial meltdown of 2008.) It makes sense, i think. Not everyone can manipulate numbers like that – I can’t, and that’s why I’ve had no problems resisting the lure of Wall Street. Amidst all my considerations of what should happen after college, this article touched upon some of my concerns. This is a difficult time in the American economy. College students, even those from the best institutions like MIT, can’t take it for granted that there’s that stellar job with stellar pay waiting after graduation. How are these peculiar circumstances influencing our career choices? And the harder question, do we pursue something we love or something society needs? Ideally those two values would coincide but it”s not difficult to understand why the health sector is more in demand today than say, comparative literature.

Is there a perfect post-undergrad plan that makes the best use of my MIT education, that I love, that is also socially-responsible!? Does the arrival at this “perfect” combination finally constitute “success”? In the meantime, how do we prioritize?

Just my thoughts. Feel free to discuss.

11 responses to “The Post-MIT Trajectory”

  1. Pete says:

    This is by no means meant for a conclusive argument — just further discussion. This is a quote I wrote about for a college essay recently (not MIT).

    “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive” (Howard Thurman).

  2. Zachary says:

    It’s interesting that you ask this question. This question must be somewhat similar to those that you had before attending college, and will likely be similar to those you’ll have before you retire, who knows.

    I’ve been thinking about this kind of thing a lot lately. If we justify our time away by pursuing self created catch 22s. I’m not sure exactly how to define these catch 22s yet, but they’re very interesting.

    There’s always that ‘why’ question you can keep asking until the person you’re asking can no longer give you an answer. I think it might just be that because of all that we don’t know, we create values, and then pursue these values with our time so that our time feels valuable.

    Just some ideas.

  3. Abhilasha Kamboj says:

    Though the Quote of Howard Thurman is axiomatic but the people who have come alive in this world always need ‘Mens et Manus’ that means mind( knowledge) and work. Lord Krishna preached in Geeta “the one whose, even mind is under control and who does the work without any desire for its reward, he is superior. ” So one’s duty is to work for one’s happiness, not for the steller jobs only.

  4. Isaac F. Gonzalez says:

    I am still in high school. When it comes to living my life after college (Or should I say, MIT. Fingers crossed I become one of the less-than-10% that get accepted), I know only two things:

    One- I have no idea what is going to happen after college. I have no idea how I would convince people I am a responsible adult. I am not a responsibile adult, I am an energetic 9 year old pretending to be one.

    Two- I want to help the world in any way I possibly can. So that will probably be my number one priority after I am kicked out to the real world to fight for nickels with the best of them.

    Right now, I suppose I will simply seek out any sort amazing research oppurtunities that will appeal to my inner mad scientist. In fact, that is my goal after college as well: become a mad scientist. And with the spare money I make from my mad sciencing I shall create a small bussiness that donates cake (and other, less important, foods) to impovershed nations. An altruistic mad scientist.

    Aha! I found my plan now. Thank you for getting me to ruminate on it.


  5. Kun Cao says:

    I think what this society needs is more people doing more of what they love. Doing what you love will eventually make some sort of impact on the society. All a matter of time I think.

  6. aaaaaaa says:

    for us middle school comes after 5th

  7. '13 says:

    Oh, Pete Wronski. Can’t tell if troll…or just uber-n00b.

    Attending MIT is about much more than being able to crunch numbers — it’s about being an innovative problem solver. Healthy, mature relationships are also about much more than being able to crunch numbers, so it sounds like you really need to re-evaluate. And take down the arrogance several notches…

  8. coyin says:

    agrees with ’13

    Pete Wronski – with that mindset, you may find it difficult to fit into MIT even if you get accepted. MIT is not as idealized/generalized as the outside world perceives us to be, and we are definitely very much more accepting and down-to-earth to learn what each of us has to offer to this school, or should i say community.

    also there are a lot more to the MIT culture than math and numbers.

  9. Michael Perrone says:

    I was very relieved to see those last too comments after the one that preceded them.

  10. Michael Perrone says:


    I was pretty sure the preceding comment was not in the MIT spirit, and I’m glad that was addressed.