i posted the following message in the MIT class of 2021 admits facebook group last night, and wanted to copy it here in case anyone out there is still deciding where to go for college. happy decision day!
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
hey everyone! just wanted to pop in and say hi as decision day approaches. for those of you who’ve already decided to come to MIT, yay! welcome! for those of you who are still on the fence, i thought i might share a few thoughts. of course, i won’t pretend that my experience represents everyone at MIT. but maybe one more perspective can help you make a hard decision.
none of the reasons i love MIT now are the same as the reasons i originally chose to come to MIT. MIT has changed me so much as a person that it kind of shocks me to look back at how different i was as a freshman. a lot of the things that i thought were really important about college (technical rigor, reputation, weather) turned out not to matter as much as the things i didn’t even think to think about. things like the one class i took on a whim, but it completely changed how i understand the world, and now i’m doing a senior project in that field. or the random conversations i’ve had with neighbors, in the kitchen or in the lounge, late into the morning, talking about everything and learning about everything.
MIT is a place full of “unknown unknowns” — things you don’t even know that you don’t know. it’s also full of people who really care about those things and who will teach you about them. and you’ll make friends with those people along the way.
MIT is really good at surprising you. things i thought would be super hard turned out to be really easy. things i thought would be really easy turned out to be ridiculously difficult. things i thought would be super interesting turned out to be really boring (to me). things i did “just for fun” ended up teaching me very important things. these include technical things but also social things, artsy things, teamwork things, social justice things, and a whole lot of other things that are uncategorizable but still important and life-altering.
when i was in high school i heard people say that MIT graduates tend to be really grounded, more so than graduates from other schools. i didn’t really know what that meant when i was in high school. now i think i do. my classmates have this way of going about things — whether it’s their schoolwork or their side projects or anything else — that’s focused and hard to describe. “grounded” is a good approximation of this spirit, but it’s also something about how they care (it’s cool to care!) about the work they’re doing. it’s something about how idealistic they are, but also how they balance that idealism with levelheadedness and practicality. it’s something about the get-things-done attitude people have, but also about getting things done the *right* way.
a lot of things *happen* at MIT. they happen because people make them happen. MIT tends to take away the belief that there are things you can’t do. people pick up new skills like pebbles off a beach. they can do that because MIT teaches you how to learn, and then puts you in a community of people who all know things that you don’t know. and chances are, you also know things that they don’t know! and when you put all those people together, you get a lot of people who make things happen. they get together and someone says, “what if we made a roller coaster?” or “what if we made an a cappella group?” or “how can we help improve mental health issues in our community?” and everyone says, “well, why not?” and they go and make it happen.
* * *
anyway, these four things aren’t really separate things — they’re all interwoven into this strange, strange, wonderful cultural object that is MIT. i’ve found my home and my second family here. MIT has, overall, been good for me, and that’s why i want everyone to come here. but i also know it’s not for everyone, and i know all of you adMITs will go and live interesting lives no matter where you choose to go.
with that — happy decision day, and hope to see you here next fall :)