You only got in because you’re a… by Shuli J. '22, MEng '23
how to cope when good news unexpectedly gives you the blues
This is a blog post for those of you who are struggling with the social implications of getting into colleges. It’s such good news, you should be elated — but it’s also complicated, and really difficult, when you get in but your friend doesn’t; or when you get in, but your arch-rival doesn’t, and then they start talking shit about you; or, especially, when the shit they talk about you is downright rude, racist, or sexist.
I haaaaaaated dealing with this stuff in high school, or rather, I wasn’t very good at dealing with it, and so my typical strategy was to pretend that nothing was happening. To be honest, sticking my head in the sand like an ostrich got me through senior year pretty well, although I was helped by the fact that I got to go home and rant to my parents every night. But I know that it isn’t that easy for everyone, and even for me, it still kinda sucked.
After each round of decisions came out, I hated hearing my name in the hallway, turning around, and seeing people quiet down instead of waving. Most people were just barely too polite to say anything directly to my face, so instead they hinted at me and, I’m guessing, waited until I was a few more meters away to say things outright. I was a girl; I wasn’t white or Asian (two labels which together described just over 99% of my school); I was an American citizen, uncommon at my Canadian high school. I didn’t know how to grapple with these facts, or with the heavy implications people seemed to give them whenever they came up in the context of college. (And senior year, we were always talking about college.)
When I compare notes with the people I know now, it seems like maybe I didn’t even have it that bad: I’ve heard from kids who got told outright that they didn’t deserve what they got, or that they stole another person’s spot. (Let me just say this right now: complete BS. MIT’s admissions dept. has full confidence in every kid they admitted to kick hella butt. And that goes for tons and tons of kids they didn’t admit, too.) I wanted to be able to give you all something to relate to, and maybe some helpful advice, no matter your experience and how different it was from mine. To that end, I did a lil email poll. Here are some (minorly condensed) comments from current and former MIT students, sharing their experiences and advice. (There were also a good few people who said “Lol no I didn’t have any problems”, so if that’s you, don’t feel alone either :P)
I got a low grade on an assignment in a science class and the teacher accused me of thinking I didn’t have to try anymore since I’d gotten into MIT. I did my best on it, I just did badly anyway.
My classmates treated me like I was some sort of infallible genius, which was actually more stressful and embarrassing than flattering. They gave me a nickname combining my last name with “MIT”, which I grew to dislike. Overall it was just too much of a standard to live up to.
I had a friend of my mother’s say (to her) that I only got in because I was a girl. My internal response to this was that my SAT score was good enough that I knew that was bullshit and I didn’t care what she thought. My mother thought she was jealous because her daughter was not as academically skilled.
I’d also been singled out for as long as I could remember because I was smart, oftentimes in a negative way, and even though MIT was my first choice as of my junior fall, I knew without a doubt that if I let slip to any classmates where I was applying, and then I didn’t get in, everyone would make fun of me and be nasty. Getting rejected/deferred from MIT would’ve broken my heart, and I didn’t want to make things worse by allowing myself to get dumped on by the jerks in my high school class. So whenever I was asked, I lied and said I didn’t know where I was applying yet.
That year, the only two people that got into MIT from my high school were me (a female human) and my best friend “A” (another female human). We had a close mutual friend “R” who did all the nerdy stuff with us (math team, science team, concert band geeking, etc.). A few days after regular admissions were announced, I looked over the shoulder of another mutual friend who was IM-ing “R” only to discover that he was trying to convince this friend that “A” and I only got into MIT because we were women. Needless to say, we aren’t friends with “R” anymore. What a shitty way for a friendship to fall apart.
If someone is giving you guff for making it into MIT but not being the next Nobel laureate. Tell them that it doesn’t matter what they think, admissions happened, and hopefully everyone’s happy after the fact; wherever they are going in life.
Just ignore it, graduation isn’t that far away! But in reality, “Please stop, I’m the same person I have been up until this point” – reminding people that you’re the same person you were before very quickly after they make a comment of “look at miss/mr mit here”. Or just telling them “Please stop referring to the college I got into. It is none of your business.” And then sometimes they won’t stop, sometimes they will, but you have the moral highground now. I went back to my high-school post graduation to visit my FIRST robotics team and when someone mentioned during their meeting how I was visiting from MIT I got *applause*. AWKWARD AF. This will continue happening to you: “Oh look shiny MIT person”. It’s something I think you can only have two attitudes about: the get-used-to-it or shut-it-down-immediately-by-telling-people-to-stop. The second one works better as you get older because people are less shitty than highschoolers. It has also driven me to seek out people who *don’t* have this reaction, because usually they’re at least smart enough enough to not be impressed with the bare fact that you got into/went to MIT/other fancy school. Because smart people end up everywhere (and so do not so smart people *cough group project partners*)
I was lucky to have a supportive group of friends where the sharpest of jokes was “MIT kid can’t use the copy machine” which was true and although embarrassed, I thought it was pretty funny. However, there were always some people who liked to talk down about me. After EA decisions, they would say things like MIT wasn’t as good as Caltech or Harvard and I was lame for getting into MIT (although you should have heard them brag about applying to MIT). And of course, the age old “‘she only got in because she’s a girl” or “Chinese”, disregarding all the work and effort that I put in to applying to college. I guess I always tried to not acknowledge those comments, but regardless of what I do, it always hurt a little bit. […] I also suffer from “caring too much”, so even if I could logically tell myself they were maybe just jealous, immature, or ignorant, I cared about how other people perceive me, even if they didn’t like me. […] I guess my take away from the hurtful things that happened to me when I got in EA was that asides from an amazing group of people I surrounded myself with […] accept the hurt that other people may bring down upon you. If a friend pushes you away permanently because of this, then they’re not truly a good friend. And if you have any more emotions to spare, be petty. Make it a positive thing that can disprove hurtful comments. Yeah, I might have gotten in because I’m a girl, but have you seen my awards in science fair or my robots I help build?
I mostly received the “hispanic female card.” This was mostly from randos or acquaintances at school (small school), but someone who I considered a close friend pretty much said that my admission didn’t count because I did MITES ( a minority focused summer camp at MIT, with an admissions rate of about 2-4% at the time I went). I ended up not being friends with him for a variety of reasons, but cutting the toxic people out of my life helped a lot. I guess it helps that as a freshman in a school that draws students from all over the world, you won’t have trouble making new friends, so feel free to ditch the sore losers. Learning how to disengage from internalized racism has also helped my overall self worth and self esteem.
I hope that some of these stories and pieces of advice are relatable or helpful for you. There’s a lot of different ways to deal with issues like these, but I think one of the most important things is to remember that it will all fade away with time (as will we all, the void of death encroaches, etc. etc.) Lastly, I want to link this incredible blog post on “the guilt of being admitted”: I think it’s exactly what I needed to hear at this time last year, and maybe it’s exactly what one of you will need too.
Stay kind, but remember that that includes being kind to yourselves, y’all. Take no shit and keep on kicking butt <3