MIT. The three golden letters. A lot of parents assume that if their children work hard enough and can get into a school like MIT, their futures are set and they can just lie back and wait for offers to roll in.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. MIT students are constantly working to better themselves, and hopefully in the future, the world. That means that they cannot sit around and wait for things to happen – each one of us is a go-getter. If you are a student at MIT, you can expect to not have the typical college experience that is depicted by Hollywood – it is certainly not all fun and games and parties.
So what does it mean to be a MIT student?
It means that you’re going to be surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the world. Take advantage of that. Talk to people, make friends, learn about their background and what they like and who they want to be. Do homework together. Learn about them and learn from them. Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned at MIT were from the people I surrounded myself with.
It means that you’re probably going to get imposter syndrome. At some point you’re probably going to feel like you’re not doing enough, or you don’t belong, or Admissions made a mistake. Everyone I’ve ever talked to at MIT, both students and professors, has felt like this before. You’re probably going to doubt yourself and your abilities more than you ever have before. It’s the unfortunate reality of being around ridiculously smart people all the time, and you will eventually come to realize that you have your own special place in the MIT community.
It means that you’re going to be working on some really awesome projects with some really awesome people and you’re going to have to learn to become an incredible team player. Through MIT I’ve been able to work on two high-coverage architectural projects in Boston, an opportunity that would not have existed if it hadn’t been for MIT’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. Take advantage of MIT’s resources and work with professors and students on projects that you are interested in.
It means that you’re going to have to make sacrifices and prioritize. More often than not, you’ll have to decide between some combination of working on an assignment, going to class, spending time with your friends, and sleeping. You’re going to realize that you can’t actually take every single class that catches your interest during the four-or-so short years that you’re there. That shouldn’t discourage you – instead, find other ways to learn things you’re interested in. When I realized I wouldn’t be able to take the extra classes I wanted to because it conflicted with my architecture studio schedule, I spent the majority of my free time learning about it on the internet or talking to my friends who were in those classes. Most MIT classes post their lectures online for free, and often times your friends will parse through their classes and let you know the most interesting tidbits.
It means that you will work the hardest you’ve ever worked in your life and you’ll become an incredibly fast learner if you weren’t already. We did hand drawings in the first architecture studio I took. In the second, we had to simultaneously learn Processing, a JAVA-based coding language, and Rhino3d, a 3d modeling software, by ourselves. No one hand-holds you through anything at MIT. If you need help, you find help yourself, and often you’re given an assignment or you decide to do a project that requires you to explore and gain skills you did not have before.
Most importantly, it means that you will have a huge community of really smart people behind you for the rest of your life. Everyone there or who has graduated MIT has gone through the same thing you are going through. Every single one of those people want to see you succeed just as much as you do and believe in you probably more than you do yourself. I have reached out to past alumni to pick their brains about their work and most of them have taken the time to respond with incredible amounts of detail or invited me to visit their workspace, even though none of them knew me personally. I have spontaneously started to cry from stress in the middle of public places and had people who I barely recognized come up to me to check if I was okay.
There’s a reason why almost every undergraduate at MIT purchases a “brass rat”, the MIT class ring. It connects all of us, and the ring is a reminder of the positives and negatives of attending MIT as well as the signifier for the finish line – we all have to hang in there to turn the ring around at graduation.
An acceptance into MIT is only the first hurdle. Don’t forget that those golden letters have a weight to themselves, but that carrying them is most certainly worth the trouble.