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MIT admissions officer Jessica Ch'ng

To All the Blogs I’ve Loved Before by Jessica Ch'ng

Hello? Is this thing on?

I first set foot on campus about five years ago for my MIT Admissions job interview, and I made the HUGE mistake of not studying a campus map beforehand. If you haven’t visited MIT before, let me warn you (as I wish someone had warned me): the building numbers make little, or no, sense! I ended up running around madly and using the compass on my smartphone to locate the Admissions Office. I finally arrived at my interview a little sweaty and a lot nervous, both puzzled and dazzled by this kooky place.

Most of the times I have asked other admissions officers how they got into the profession, they have said “unexpectedly.” My story is no different.

When I graduated from college, it actually didn’t even occur to me that “admissions officer” was a job. I hadn’t spared much thought on how college applications were selected or who did the selecting, so naturally working in admissions was nowhere on my radar. When I was in my senior year of college, I searched for opportunities at nonprofit organizations related to diversity and inclusion, which had been long-time passions of mine. A week before graduation, I got a job offer at a college access scholarship foundation in Boston. (Note to any anxious soon-to-be-college-graduates reading: everything will be fine, and you WILL find something!)

It was an administrative role and a great opportunity to learn about how nonprofits operate. I did a little bit of accounting, a little bit of fundraising, a little bit of alumnae relations; I also did a lot of answering phones, managing my boss’s schedule, and generally making sure our office was a functioning work environment. The best part of my job was always working with students, reading their applications and interviewing them for the scholarship, getting to know them, and talking to them about college. The only problem was I didn’t get to do much of it.

So armed with a greater awareness of jobs in higher education, I applied to positions in admissions. MIT Admissions was at the top of my list of places where I wanted to work because of our commitment to diversity, access, and inclusion. Our mission is to enroll a talented and diverse community, in which students can bring their full selves, learn from one another, grow together, and solve big problems during and after their time on our campus.

Five years later, I’m still feeling pretty blessed. I have learned so much from folks followers of our blogs may find familiar, like Mikey, Latasha, and Matt. I’ve traveled to at least 35 different cities and 23 different states to recruit for MIT. I have had the privilege of meeting hundreds of students and of reading the stories of thousands of students through their applications. Being an admissions officer has required constant exercises in empathy and humility and advocacy. It is simultaneously tiring and inspiring. I joked with a friend the other day that I spend my days reading remarkable works of young adult *non-fiction*… and my free time reading young adult fiction, because after reading applications all day, it’s all my brain can handle. (Most recently, I read Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi and the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy01 If it's not already obvious, this is the inspiration for the title of this post. The first book was recently adapted into a very cute movie on Netflix :) by Jenny Han!)

And now, after all this time, I’m on the blogs. And my motivation for being on here and my favorite part of my job are pretty similar. I love stories, and I believe so much in the power of stories. Stories, I think, are essential to creating social change. Statistics may change minds, but stories change hearts and show us the ways in which the problems that we seek to solve are lived and connected. I find the college application process so exciting because for many of you, it might be your first time learning to tell your story, and it’s a skill you will have to use for the rest of your life. And I know that it can be daunting and scary and anxiety-inducing, but I hope that in telling my stories and drawing the curtain back on this process, you’ll know a little more about us and trust us with your stories.

  1. If it's not already obvious, this is the inspiration for the title of this post. The first book was recently adapted into a very cute movie on Netflix :) back to text