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My last dragon at MIT was my finals dragon, about two months ago. Because I’m a senior all but one of my finals were final projects. My only exam was in 6.034 (artificial intelligence).
Most finals dragons, especially freshman or sophomore year, look more like ginormous hydrae with flamethrowers.
The stick figure warrior is my friend David K. ‘16. He brought a giant teddy bear friend to all of his finals. If you would like to spread happiness with your every step and dramatically improve the lives of all the people you encounter, bring a giant stuffed animal to your exams. Everyone’s week was way better than it would have been otherwise.
This is the way I would like to live my life, finals and otherwise. I would be much happier, I think, if I brought a giant teddy bear (or turtle or octopus or cow) to my battles. I think I would fight my battles better if I took them less seriously.
In particular, I wish I’d had that attitude against the dragon that most of you are facing right now, the dragon that felt like the final boss of my childhood.
There are so many other things I remember from high school.
Trying to find a parking spot in Spain. Ice skating with my mom. Skiing in the forest past dark with my family. Learning how to drive with my dad on a two-lane highway, stick shift, farms on either side of us. Eating lunch during chemistry lecture. Staying up late listening to Taylor Swift and burning strawberries into our guitar the night before states. Dreaming about nationals. Crying on the bus home when we didn’t make it. Holding hands on the way to class. Falling in and out of love, again and again and again.
I don’t know why I thought, when I had so many wonderful universes around and within me, that college admissions were more important than all the other experiences I was living. I love MIT, but but there was no good reason for me to want to be anywhere but exactly when and where I already was.
When I got deferred, I stayed up all night alone and ate an entire box of clementines. I don’t think I did anything unusual between December and March or even between when I got in and when I left for MIT. I wish I had. If I were you—which is to say, if I could go back in time to four years ago—I would try to make those months more special. I have memories of my family going hiking or skiing and me staying home to work. I wouldn’t do that. If I could do things over I would work less, kayak more, photograph more sunrises, and try to really get to know the people I loved before all of us changed and split apart.
College applications are tiny in comparison to the dragons you’ve already conquered over the past two decades. At least for me, high school was like the college applications dragon and his dad innocently visiting a Christmas tree farm.
And you’ve practically already conquered that one.
No one, not even MIT, can take away the accomplishments you did or did not list on your college applications or how awesome you are for getting to where you are now. MIT is a pretty cool sword, but it’s not Excalibur. You won’t blind your opponents and you’ll still bleed. I have a feeling that the scariest dragons that you and I will face in our lives won’t be dragons that a college degree could help with, and I am confident that our biggest triumphs or losses will not be an admissions decision.
Bring your teddy bear.
You are wonderful. You will be okay.
Here are some experiences and advice from other people who were deferred or waitlisted.
Lisa Z. ‘17
The day after I got deferred, my friend took me to the mall to cheer me up, and I remember singing “Forget You” in the car with her, joking about MIT. It was difficult, because several people in my school applied early action, and two of them were accepted. The rest, like me and one of my good friends, were deferred. When I saw how many people were deferred, I figured it was MIT’s way of politely denying applicants. I spent the time before final decisions came out absorbed in the application process for other schools, religiously editing essays and looking up acceptance statistics. In the RA round, I wasn’t really sure what to write about, so I just gave a paragraph being completely honest about what I’d been doing since I sent my application in, and how I felt about each activity. For example, I was musical director the previous year for my school’s musical, and I wrote about how I was doing that again my senior year. Then I just gave a funny quote referring to how long waiting for decisions feels. Because I was fairly sure I wasn’t going to get accepted, I stopped being super formal in my update form and showed more personality, which actually might have helped. When decisions came out, some of those people in my school were rejected, but they all attend great schools now (Princeton, Yale, Georgetown, etc.). However, some of us, like me and my good friend, were accepted. A deferral definitely does not mean rejection. I’ve met so many people here at MIT who were originally deferred. I know that waiting for decisions sucks, but if you keep busy the time will go by much faster. And no matter what, you’ll end up with some amazing choices for where to attend school for the next four years.
Harriet L. ‘13
I think the first thing I ever received from MIT was my deferral notification, which, though mildly traumatic (‘This must mean I won’t get accepted anywhere’), was not surprising, and actually kind of nice, once I realized they hadn’t actually rejected me yet, which they would have done if they were sure I wouldn’t fit in or survive. My application was nothing special. My essay described daydreaming during my extracurricular activities, which seemed to suggest that I was applying to an art program rather than an institute of technology; the only STEM related activity I’d ever done was join the Math Team because they had pretty little puzzles. But I had been honest on my application, told them the truth, as well as I knew it, about myself and my interests; I could expect no more from myself. I gave no updates, for nothing had significantly changed in a few months, and put the application out of my mind and trusted MIT to make a good decision (though actually, I’d been almost continuously sick for three months due to applications-related anxiety, and I just didn’t want to be sick anymore, and there was no way I was going to let some abstract entity I’d never seen before ruin my last chances to do interpretive dances in math class).
I don’t think my deferral experience would be too helpful to others; I was battling personal issues so I did not think about the deferral too much, although I felt pretty deep disappointment when I found out. But I will give a data point: of the five to ten deferred applicants from my school, I was the only one to get in. There were two EA admits, and I don’t remember any EA rejections.
Ceres L. ‘14
I actually applied to MIT during regular admission and was waitlisted. Obviously, I was later admitted, much to my surprise. I’m now a senior studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. To be completely frank, I did not expect to get into MIT. Around my junior year of high school, when I was starting to seriously consider college, MIT was on my list of “well, it’d be cool but it’ll never happen” colleges. So, when I was waitlisted, I was actually really happy. I took it as some acknowledgement that I was pretty good, and the very fact that MIT told me that they wanted me but did not have enough room at the time was one of the best compliments I had gotten. Of course, I was just expecting to be rejected later, so I didn’t think about it much.
Long story short, I was admitted in early May. But for you guys who are now waiting for the RA round, I’d like to share a bit about my mindset and what I did between regular decisions and waitlist decisions. I sent one update to MIT. I sent them a letter telling them about what I had done in the past few months. And now, I can’t even remember what was on it. The letter was just a general status update, telling them about how high school was going, how I was playing in the band for the school play, and how I would love to attend MIT. I didn’t beat myself up that I hadn’t gotten in RA. I had absolutely no expectations about how the waitlisting round would go.
I really guess all I can say to the potential class of 2018 now, is that for those of you who think being deferred is a kick in the face telling you that you’re not good enough, don’t think that way. There are more people than MIT has room for. There are other colleges that are also really good colleges. MIT is one potential future for some of you, and for the rest, there are others that you may not have even considered yet. Don’t think that your achievements aren’t good enough, or that the things you put on your applications are silly, childish, or whatever other negative things you are thinking about it. In one of my essays to MIT, I compared myself to a sandwich. I was really hungry at the time and wanted a sandwich, so I wrote about it. Do not try to change yourself or paint yourself in a light that you think that MIT would like, because that’s not really you. As cruel as this sounds, some of you will not be a good fit for MIT, and if you are able to get in from crafting “the perfect application,” you’ll probably end up going to a university that wouldn’t benefit you as much as somewhere else. You don’t have to just fixate on MIT; there are plenty of opportunities out there.
Oh, one last thing. People who get in during early action aren’t necessarily way better than the rest. You will not be treated differently for not getting in during the early action round, nor is the time at which you were admitted any indication of how successful you will be in the future. Do not fixate only on how you think others will perceive you. In this world, there are always people you need to impress, but the one that is often forgotten and hardest to impress is yourself.
James H. ‘16
When I was deferred, I realized that I had to buckle down, put my nose to the grindstone, saddle up, and whatever other sayings you can think of. It was then that I decided to join the Evil League of Evil to rain down destruction upon humanity. My freeze ray and I would stop the world, and MIT’s tears would dry when I handed it the keys to a shiny new Australia (a far better place to dump our radioactive waste than Harvard). In all seriousness, upon receiving the letter I watched Doctor Horrible and lazed about. The deferring you received is an invitation to finally finish that freeze ray, pretend to be a statue, and take down Captain Hammer once and for all. To use the words of the thoroughbred of sin himself: There will be blood, it might be yours. So go kill someone. Signed, Bad Horse.
But don’t actually kill anyone. Obviously.
If you would like some more encouragement and distractions, I wrote you two more blog posts. I wrote them in the past, so you will have to travel: