Ready for a long post? Me too.
The summer before senior year in high school, I thought about which schools I wanted to apply to for college. I was interested in schools with a great Biomedical/Bioengineering program, and the top choices were not hard to find. Naturally, my eyes wandered to MIT, my dream school since I was a youngun. Yeah, I knew my chances weren't high, but looking at the E.C.s and the classes I took, I thought I had a decent shot.
Over the next few months, I worked incessantly on the application that I thought would determine my future. I went over the application after I finished, and finally sent it in Early Action.
...The result finally appeared online, and it was not what I hoped for. I got deferred. Strangely enough, I catatonic, a psychological isolation. I became stoic and I wasn't really thinking at all. When it hit me that I wasn't accepted I treated the deferment as a rejection. Prior to this, I hadn't really experienced rejection. I was admitted into the University of Minnesota Talented Youth Mathematics Program (UMTYMP), National Honor Society, American Regions Mathematics League (ARML), etc. Getting accepted was the only thing I ever really understood. In retrospect, being deferred didn't mean getting rejected at all, but I had a different mindset back then. To not get accepted was to get rejected.
So the wait continued. The regular decision date came pretty quickly and I was hoping for the best. I clicked on the little button that would determine my future...and poof....nope. This time I was much less paralyzed. I was pretty openly upset about this. Deferred was a new term that didn't know very well; rejection was a term I despised and hoped I would never get. This is of course all very silly in retrospect, but at the time, I was furious.
After getting the rejection, I cubed (solved Rubik's cubes) for an unhealthy 4 continuous hours to calm myself. Needless to say, it worked. However, once I thought about the rejection again, I immediately became frustrated. Thus, I went into deep introspection about why I did not get accepted.
It's sort of funny how I sought out comfort online by looking at other people's rejections. It's wee bit sadistic, but it made me feel better about myself. I also looked at how other people coped, and the supposedly comforting words that kept reappearing were "Getting rejected doesn't mean you weren't good enough." And to this, I say Bull Feces. I take on a fairly pessimistic stance. The sentence just wasn't completed. It should have ended with "other people were just better." For anyone who tells yourself this, don't. It's too quaint. Ick. The other way to refudiate (see what I did there?) this statement is to simply say that if you were good enough, you would have gotten accepted. In the case of MIT, I probably had similar numbers as the next person on file. The fact that I got rejected was because I wasn't good enough. I didn't stand out as much, and so I wasn't as selectable. So in truth, getting rejected does mean I'm not good enough, and I'm okay with that.
For me, this was an eye opener. I naively thought that I could actually get accepted into one of the most prestigious technical institutions in the world. I took a look at the people who got accepted, and that's when it hit me that getting rejected was expected. The people I know who got accepted were some of the most intelligent people I've ever met. Their drive and academic skills surpassed mine tenfold. Looking at the small pool of applicants I knew, I understood that I really had no chance. The fact that I even got deferred was a blessing. I didn't really deserve to be deferred. The way I see it, getting deferred meant my numbers were adequate, but that I, as a person, didn't stand out.
So as for my "determined future?" Well, getting rejected from MIT determined my future alright. But not in a bad way at all. Rejection means I won't go there for undergrad, but there's always opportunity after that. Plus, who can say that MIT was the best fit for me, anyway? I can't say for certain that I would have flourished in that competitive environment.
In the end, I learned a lot. Pessimistically, I'm just not as good as I thought I was. Although that's a depressing statement, it's true. Since getting rejected, I've considered every action I've taken. It's a large world after all, and it's competitive. You may think you're awesome, but there's always at least one person better.
Thanks for reading,