Skip to content ↓

Warmth, Happiness, and Baked Goods (guest post) by Phoebe C. '18

The best way to spend your time off.

I’m in the process of writing a post about my own summer, but in the meantime, I’ve got a guest post from my friend Elaine L. ’18, who also wrote the grocery guide posted in May. This time, she writes about college admissions and summer days.


What are you doing this summer? Currently, you are reading this post. If you are in high school, you may be looking for the secret recipe to get into MIT. Here it goes. Check off 4 out of 5.

  1. Score 2300+ on the SAT.
  2. Earn a 4.0 GPA.
  3. Participate in math team.
  4. Start a French club.
  5. Weave baskets underwater every Tuesday and Thursday.

Unfortunately, there is none. You can certainly can try to help your chances. You can spend July buffing up your technical skills in calculus. You can join a special program to study in France and get a side of buttery croissants with your anxiety.

These activities do have intrinsic value. There’s beauty in the slope of a curve and the grandeur of Paris. However, it’s easy to zoom in so closely on what you do that you never stop and wonder why? To get into MIT?

The truth is that the algorithm for college admissions (and life) is stupidly simple: work hard and be happy. How you implement this is up to you alone, and your implementation changes over time. In high school, this generally means doing well in school and pursuing interesting hobbies. This process should be satisfying, but students have gotten into the depressing habit of staying up unnaturally late to take derivatives and conjugate French verbs. College admissions has become a destructive game where you score as many acceptance letters as possible. Harvard! Yale! MIT!

Fortunately, you can pause the game during the summer. It’s far harder during the year when work attacks your sleep, your diet, and your health and literally sucks the life out of you. Now, for once, you have time to stop and smell the roses.

Personally, pollen makes me sniffle, but doing almost anything is better than worrying about factors out of your control. Back in high school, I spent my summers worrying about MIT, sleeping, reading food blogs, doing math, and worrying about MIT. Was I happy? No! Getting into MIT brought temporary elation like the pleasure of eating an especially flaky pastry. The feeling soon faded, and then I was left with the loneliness of moving out and the stress of my classes.

The reality is that your summer activities will have an ill-defined impact on your college applications. You can spend all day trying to define the impact, or you can enjoy the nice weather. Shut off your device, and ponder what people did before the Interwebs.

Walk outside! Chase a squirrel–isn’t it cute? how does it survive? why is it scared? Pluck a blade of grass–isn’t it green? how does it survive? did it just die? If you stumble across questions you can’t answer yourself, you can go back inside, pull out your device, and ask Google. We’re in a day and age where you can find all of the facts you care to learn. You can find all of the advice you want if you care to listen.

Stop worrying. Enjoy the sunny days. Store the memory of this lovely time in your heart. The next time you are shivering, sleep-deprived, and struggling, let your happy thoughts warm you like a loaf of freshly baked bread.