My childhood best friend changed schools in 8th grade, so I didn’t get to see her much afterwards, except for the occasional “get togethers” after we took our exams at the bimonthly Science League competitions. (Nerd status, I know, but confession: I was much more motivated by the socialization aspect of Science League than the exams.)
September of senior year in high school, she invited me to go to a MIT info session with her. At that time, I wasn’t really considering MIT, because as my earlier confession would confirm – escaping math and science was one of the things I looked forward to about finishing high school. But with classic Asian parents watching over my shoulders during application season, the MIT information session was a stellar opportunity to “spend time with my friend in an educational environment.” But seeing as I’m going through senior year at MIT right now, I clearly got more out of that info session than the usual chitchat and pamphlets.
My dad dropped me off at the venue, and right away, I spot my friend and her classmates from her new school. They were chatting effervescently about cookies or something. I caught onto the “cookies” part, because why wouldn’t they serve cookies as refreshments before the info session? So I asked enthusiastically, “Cookies? Cookies? Where?! Where??” They glanced over at me, but nobody said anything.
Later I realized they were talking about browser cookies.
At that moment, I thought, Wow, this is a sign I don’t belong here…
But the info session turned out to be really convincing and I decided to apply to MIT. If you’ve been following my entries, you’ll know that my path here has been kind of unorthodox. Back during the application season, I was pretty optimistic, and thought that if I am just honest in my application, wherever I end up will be good for me, and I will be valuable to it. That place turned out to be MIT. I certainly have never regretted applying to MIT or choosing MIT. But I do wonder every so often just how much I belong here – was I what the admission officers call a “right fit”?
It didn’t appear so at first. In senior year of high school, I was not understanding AP Calc BC at all, so much so I was scared to send out mid-year reports. And when I got to MIT, I would proceed to get C’s on pretty much all of the GIRs – calculus, biology, chemistry, physics… It was quite a disheartening start.
These days, my GPA is surprisingly above water. What I’ve learned is that though on the surface I’m not the typical MIT candidate, something about my intellectual spirit clicks with MIT. I always pass through this one hallway and see a panel that quotes our former president Susan Hockfield, “MIT is where science and society meet.”
Right then, my body is so invigorated, my mind so inspired, and I know that here, I have something to gain and something to give.
Represent yourself honestly in the applications. If you come to MIT, you might fit in in unexpected ways, and if you end up at another school, who knows what values you will hold?