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Are my chances ruined?

  1. Jan 13, 2013 #1
    I'm a sixteen-year-old sophomore in an IB school in Florida. This past semester I have had many terrible family occurrences that have contributed to a less than stellar performance for my first semester of sophomore year. I had received an A in my AP statistics, Calculus AB, Computer Science A, and Macroeconomics, a B in everything else, and a C in AP literature and Composition. Now my question is, will this C ruin my chances to get into MIT? Now I don't have an MIT-or-bust attitude, I simply want to get into a good school, and since my parents are immigrants from a less than fortunate background, they see MIT as epitomizing their desires for me to have a good education. I also have developed a strong desire to go because a friend of mine, who is currently a freshman there, took me in last year and mentored me in mathematics. Mathematics is my one love which has helped me to get through the tough times. I'm currently working on a big project to create a blog to teach math in the vein of khan academy, but with more of an emphasis on rigorous mathematics. I'm also working on a big Computer Science project that I hope to go to a science fair with, and hopefully go far. I know I'm fully capable of getting straight A's but my grandfather's death in the first semester deeply affected me and my grades fell as a result. What I want to know is, will schools like MIT take this sort of thing into account? I know it's a crapshoot but I am so passionate about mathematics and I want to make my parents proud. They go out of their way to purchase Apostol, rudin, polya, artin, etc., so that I may advance my education. Sometimes at the expense of food on the table. I don't want to put them through all that just to disappoint them.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 13, 2013 #2
    I'm sorry about your family situation, particularly the loss of your grandfather. It's a tough thing to go through for anyone, but particularly at your age. I understand how something like this can amplify the stress of worrying about your own future. I say all this because I want to be very clear in the following that I'm very sympathetic for your situation and am not saying the following to be mean but because I think you need a bit of a firm shake:

    You're being tremendously melodramatic. One single mark—for a 10th grade class in an unrelated discipline—is never going to singlehandedly disqualify an application. Will it impact it? Who knows, depends on tonnes factors that no one can know and, more importantly, that you can't control. Universities put more emphasis on senior performance, but they look at the whole picture. That's all this is—one small piece of a larger picture. It doesn't mean they're going to bin your application at the sight of a C, nor does it mean that getting straight A's for the rest of your high school will guarantee a place. It's such a small event that it's hard to even say it means anything at all.

    Something I think you need to consider is: why even ask this? I understand, you're just hoping for some reassurance in a touch time. But what if the answer were, "Yes, that's it, sorry but it's all over for you now"? It's not, of course, but if it were would you then stop trying to earn those straight A's in school? I doubt it. So why drive yourself crazy over something you no longer have control over? You're interested and motivated and you want to succeed and do yourself and your family proud, so you'll keep working hard regardless. You gain absolutely nothing by trying to over-analyze everything that happens and figure out what the possible impact that it might have on your future is. If you have a panic attack every time something doesn't go according to your "MIT master plan" in the next couple of years, you're going to have an aneurism before you can even get to college.

    Keep doing what you're doing and, whatever the outcome, you'll have every reasons to be proud of yourself when you start university. Best of luck with your MIT ambitions. It's clear you're very grateful to your parents for everything they do and it's great you want to do them proud; just don't get so wrapped up in your preoccupation with getting to where you think you should be in two years that you forget to be what they need you to be right now in what's also a tough time for them. Whatever musicians may sing, life isn't a highway and if all you do is watch the road in front of you or stare into your rear view mirror you'll miss the bits that really matter.
  4. Jan 13, 2013 #3
    Thanks for the quick reply, I know I can get very melodramatic, but being from my background where people constantly constantly put you down, can do that to you. Anyway I know that MIT isn't the be all end all, I just really want to learn as much as I physically can, cause I just love learning and I know that I can do that at plenty of places, just a dream school mentality that people my age tend to hold I guess. >_<
  5. Jan 13, 2013 #4
    Also, just because person X is even accepted to MIT doesn't make MIT the best place for person X. A place like MIT crushes people's egos very easily because of its extremely high standards as a school. Many students accepted to MIT are among the best in the entire world. You can imagine what happens when students like these compete with one another for the highest grades. There are sabotages and suicides even. A lot of students who are used to "being the best" as a motivation for their hard work will find the place very stressful. I have friends at MIT who sleep less than 4 hours a day everyday in an attempt to do better than others. But this is physically detrimental, and people like these would, in my opinion, fare better in other schools since health is also a factor.

    Over-stressing yourself reduces your lifespan. When you think in those terms, try to enjoy your work more and worry less about where you get in. It's not about "I will disappoint myself if I don't get in school Z". It's more about: "If I have a tendency to be very anxious about things, this will hurt me whether or not I get into school Z and this is the main issue I need to fix".

    Relaxation techniques are essential in solving this problem. If you find yourself over stressed, I wouldn't recommend doing more math. Instead, read a light book, maybe some fiction, or something on psychology or religion, or perhaps some good sports, or music, or some meditation. Something that makes you appreciate life regardless of what school you get in. Ideally, your favorite subject should do that for you, but because your favorite subject and the university admissions are so closely intertwined, you want to relax on something that isn't remotely related to admissions.

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