It was the beginning of my junior year, just four short semesters until my day of liberation from this stress inducing hell we call MIT. Wait … It was my JUNIOR YEAR, and I had no idea what I want to do with my life. I had to figure out my life plan just like all my other ’09 friends had already done. I needed to get an internship this summer and get ready to apply to grad schools or get a job next year. I needed to know what I was going to do, and I needed to know NOW.
I tormented myself for months with this absurd idea that I needed to know my plan for the next fifty years before even reaching my 20th birthday, and then the light bulb finally turned on (granted, a few days after turning 20).
I’ve always been happiest when dealing with animals. They’re simple. They don’t complain. They sure as hell don’t judge. It was perfect. I could be a veterinarian, the one profession that combines my love of animals and the outdoors with my need for intellectual stimulation and human interaction. In my euphoric state, I investigated vet schools, trying to find ones that were close to big cities. I hate small country towns. I contacted a clinic in California to set up a weeklong shadow. I scheduled an appointment with the MIT Careers Office.
On a beautiful fall day in October, I strolled in for my MITCO appointment. There was a spring in my step — I was on my way to the rest of my life. I sat down, and I explained my situation. I was still undecided. I would probably apply within the next few years, and I would take a year or two off before attending. Eager and expectant, I waited for the advisor’s reply. “Well, you’ve started the process a little too late. Most people ask for an advisor in their sophomore year. We probably won’t be able to get you an advisor.” I sunk a little in my chair. I told her my GPA. “Well, it doesn’t raise a red-flag …” I sunk a little deeper. She proceeded to ask me about myself, and with each pre-determined question about my activities, my UROP, and my “involvement in the community,” my excitement waned. After responding “no” to question after brutal question, I left the office feeling deflated, depressed, and incapable of achieving any goals, especially the goal of going to vet school. I resolved never to go back to MITCO. Why would I put myself through that kind of discouragement again?
Maybe I was so taken aback by MITCO’s approach because my high school’s was so different. I walked into my high school college counselor’s office my junior year with a top 20 percent (but not top ten) GPA, one extracurricular activity, and my not-yet-achieved 1410 on the SATs. I stormed in asking for the moon, the stars and everything in between, and my counselor sat me down and told me how to get it. She worked tirelessly to help me play up every positive aspect of my application. She gave me confidence and a healthy dose of realism, and I left her office after every meeting aware of where I stood then and what I stood to gain in the future.
Both my high school and MIT are excellent private learning institutions with ample means to supply their students with all the help in the world. So why then did I get that help from my high school and not from MIT?
The problem I had with MITCO had nothing to do with the advisor I met, and everything to do with the mentality of our Careers Office. We are of the best and the brightest students this country has ever seen; yet when we approach MITCO with our hopes and dreams, they give us nothing but discouraging statistics and a checklist of questions.
Every day that we go to this school, we are told that we are not good enough, that we must work harder, that we must be better. We hear it from our professors, from our PIs, from our fellow students. We do not need to hear it from MITCO. We do not need to fit into their cookie cutter. We need to show the best of who we are, not who they think we need to be. If there is one thing I learned from high school, it is that there is no perfect applicant. There’s just you.
I have never seen a more disheartening or upsetting mentality than I did at MITCO, and I am shocked that I found it at such a well-respected institution. We pay $42,000 a year to live and work in one of the most intense and challenging environments out there, and we deserve to get the world-class help we were promised on the first day of orientation.
Where is that help now?
We, as MIT students, have the world at our feet. MITCO should be handing it to us, not telling us that it’s out of reach. They should be sending out letters with our applications, explaining that MIT does not have grade inflation and that it is harder than most other schools. They should be accommodating us, no matter our year.
Don’t tell us that we can’t touch the stars. We can.