Source: MIT admissions blog, Apr 2015
does the sentence “MIT is hard” even mean? It means that come October of the first semester, midnight quasi-philosophical discussions about the future might become pset parties of frustration. Lists of things to do become as long as the infinite corridor, but unlike during CPW, they come with a price tag of your time and an expectation for them to be completed with excellence. At the core of what makes MIT challenging is learning the delicate balance between taking advantage of everything it has to offer and time management, all while doing a good job.
It’s possible and common to be so deep in piles of work that you will NOT be able to finish. (Example: I once made a 48-hour schedule of things I had to do and then realized I forgot to include time to sleep.) It means that even if you go to every recitation and lecture, you might still fail your exam, your interest in the material may vanish, and your mind will be so tired and full of the next thing you have to do and the last thing you haven’t done that it will likely become unable to think of happy things. You get an empty, sinking feeling in your stomach, and you wonder if you’ll be able to make it through the semester, let alone ever measure up to everyone else.
You won’t be alone. In a poll done in 2012, it was found that more than half of the student body surveyed believed they performed below average as compared to their peers. To bring back Lydia’s Meltdown post, “There’s this feeling that no matter how hard you work, you can always be better, and as long as you can be better, you’re not good enough.”
By the time a given class graduates, 35% of students will have gone to get mental health help. And that percentage doesn’t include those who, like me, lacked a “good reason.”
Last year, one of my peers who overcame depression came back to campus and started a happiness club. The club was responsible for purchasing and lining up smiley face balloons all along the infinite corridor as a way to express solidarity with regards to upcoming finals and encourage people to be proactive about their mental health.
What I believe drives the success behind MIT students in the real world is that to survive here, you become an expert at rolling up your sleeves and summoning your grit.
Any kind of progress, scientific or not, is not easy and sometimes seems to be at a standstill no matter how much work you put into it. In the process, you learn about what your boundaries are mentally, physically, and emotionally. You will learn the exact number of hours of sleep you need. You will learn how to accept failure with a smile. That’s what MIT teaches you, and what preview weekend shows if you look hard enough.