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;) I ho pe you're still checking in on this account. Anyway, I think I have a bit of a unique perspective. I've seen MIT admissions f rom the perspective of the applicant, a student, a teacher, and now as an alumnu s conducting interviews of prospective students. The fact that you mentioned MIT specifically really made me feel like I should take the time to produce a good response! I wanted to start by writing out standard admissions advice (e.g. no one thing l ike SAT scores will keep you from being admitted, etc.). While all that is true, the problem you're dealing with is so much bigger than that. The problem you're coming up against is one I've seen so many of my fellow students encounter. If I could set up a wavy-fade flashback, I'd show you my freshman year. I moved into one of the dorms at MIT thinking I was hot shit. I had, after all, just gotten into MIT. And beyond that, I had tested out of the freshman calculus and physics classes, meaning that I was able to start math "a year" ahead in di fferential equations and start with the advanced version of the physics 2 class we have. Registration went by easy enough and I was pleased with my decisions. Term rolled in and I was getting crushed. I wasn't the greatest student in high school, and whenever I got poor grades I would explain them away by saying I jus t didn't care or I was too busy or too unmotivated or (more often than not) just cared about something else. It didn't help that I had good test performance whi ch fed my ego and let me think I was smarter than everyone else, just relatively unmotivated. I had grossly underestimated MIT, and was left feeling so dumb. I had the fortune of living next to a bright guy, R. R. was an advanced student, to say the least. He was a sophomore, but was already taking the most advanced graduate math classes. He came into MIT and tested out of calculus, multivariabl e calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, real analysis (notoriously t he most difficult math class at MIT), and a slew of other math courses. And to t op it all off, he was attractive, engaging, sociable, and generally had no fault s that would make him mortal. I suffered through half a semester of differential equations before my pride let me go to R. for help. And sure enough, he took my textbook for a night to revie w the material (he couldn't remember it all from third grade), and then he walke d me through my difficulties and coached me. I ended up pulling a B+ at the end of a semester and avoiding that train wreck. The thing is, nothing he taught me involved raw brainpower. The more I learned the more I realized that the bulk of his intelligence and his performance just came from study and practice, and tha t the had amassed a large artillery of intellectual and mathematical tools that he had learned and trained to call upon. He showed me some of those tools, but w hat I really ended up learning was how to go about finding, building, and refini ng my own set of cognitive tools. I admired R., and I looked up to him, and whil e I doubt I will ever compete with his genius, I recognize that it's because of a relative lack of my conviction and an excess of his, not some accident of gene tics. It's easy to trick ourselves into thinking that "being smart" is what determines our performance. In so many ways, it's the easiest possible explanation because it demands so little of us and immediately explains away our failings. You are facing this tension without recognizing it. You are blaming your intelligence in the first two paragraphs but you undermine yourself by saying you received good grades you didn't deserve. You recognize your lack of motivation as a factor in your lack of extracurricular activities but not in your SAT scores (fun fact: t he variable that correlates most strongly to SAT performance is hours of studyin g for the SATs). Your very last statement could just as well apply to your entir
EDIT#2 I'm overwhelmed with the response I've received. get through. By the time I graduated MIT. I'm guessing that early on y ou built the cognitive and intellectual tools to rapidly acquire and process new information. but I didn't figure it out until after I got crushed by my first semes ter of college." And I put that in quotes because "smart" is really just a way of say ing "has invested so much time and sweat that you make it look effortless." You feel like you are burnt out or that you are on the verge of burning out. In fact. They don't blame their lack of intel ligence. t few days and bang out the rve. I'm just rambling. they blame their lack of motivation. but that you've relied on those tools so much you never really dev eloped a good set of tools for what to do when those failed. So do it. Very few people get through four years of MIT with such piss-poor performance that they don't graduate. I need to ask you. you have the opportunity to make yourself "smarter. They ask for help. I was lucky that I had someone to show me how to look for that motivation. I had become the person I looked up to when I first got in. It only snowballs from there until you become like R. even serving as a TA for my fellow students. and I'm hoping that I can be that perso n for you in some small capacity over the Internet. EDIT Did not expect this to ack to checking it so late. You got a B pr obably because you were so used to understanding things that you didn't know how to deal with something that didn't come so easily. I was able to recover from m y freshman year and go on to be very successful in my studies. and begin to take steps hiking that mountain. and not knowing how to look for help or how to go about wrestling those problems. burn out. but in reality you are on the verge of deciding whether or not you will burn out. have you learned how to study on your own in the ab sence of a teacher or curriculum? These are the most valuable tools you can acqu ire because they are the tools you will use to develop more powerful and more in sightful tools. knowing that bruised prid e is a small price to pay for getting to see the view from the top. has anyone ever taken the time to teach you h ow to study? And separately. P eople fail to graduate from MIT because they come in. and I wo uld watch them struggle with the same feelings. This is what happen ed to me. You're so young. I've seen it so many times. Do you know what separates the 3% that didn't from the rest t hat do? I do. You got A's because you studied or because the classes were easy. but it's empowering because it means there is something y ou can do about it. and it almost happened to me.e post: But none of this has to do with my intelligence. wrestle with feelings of inadequacy and st upidity. they acknowledge their inadequacies. MIT has an almost 97% graduation rate. That means that most of the people who ge t in. I'm glad I blow up like it has! I'm terribly sorry I only got b I'll make it a point to sit down sometime in the nex responses all your great questions and comments dese could share this story with so many people. encounter problems that ar e harder than anything they've had to do before. I can't think of a single one off the top of my head. It's scary to acknowledge that it's a decision because it puts the onus on you to to do something about it. I would sit down with the fresh men in my dorm and show them the same things that had been shown to me. Until you're so old you start going senile. When I was a senior. I promise I'll make a fo llowup post sometime in the next few days addressing the most frequent comments and questions! . and overcome them. The students that a re successful look at that challenge. Until then. way too young to be worried about not being smart enough.