01/11/2012 10:27 am ET Updated Mar 12, 2012

A Dream Deferred

This is part of our monthly series 'Mission: Accepted,' in partnership with Minds Matter, which chronicles the lives of three students as they apply for college in their senior year.

12/17/11, 12:17 p.m.

The moment of truth. I was finally going to open the admissions decision from MIT. But there was nothing on the webpage. I looked away from the screen in fear, hit the refresh button, and again nothing. I collected myself and hit it one more time. "We have completed our Early Action review of your application and have chosen to defer it to our Regular Action review time." The rage began to fill inside of me, and just when I thought I would explode, there was nothing. I felt fine. Disappointed in myself, but fine. I started making the announcement to people by text message, and this response, from a good friend, really stuck with me: "You know they will see the error of their ways the second time around, right?"

I want to believe her, but to say that MIT made a mistake would be just pointing the finger. Getting deferred has been both a humbling and motivating experience, and it is also making me question what more I can do to prove that I belong at MIT. I spent a lot of time in the fall worrying about my test scores and GPA, but I was ignoring a matter of fact: these things are not the whole application. I scored well on the ACT and I am salutatorian of my senior class, but who am I really? I would like to say I am a scholar and an athlete, but when I am not running or building circuits, where is my heart? Well, I like to write music and spend time with friends and family, but I put all that in the application too. Hmm... What did I miss? Should my subject test scores and GPA have been higher?

I'm also thinking about how 40 of my friends got in early action to MIT and other competitive schools and not all of them had perfect test scores or GPAs. I have a ton of questions about what exactly these schools are looking for, but none of the answers seem to matter. What does matter is the steps I'll take to make sure I have done everything I can to get in. I have a new game plan, and it revolves around doing things that make me happy, rather than focusing on whether they look good on a college application.

I love to program and I want to learn how to build software tools, but I haven't had the time to do either because I am always busy working. My first step, then, is to rid myself of distractions. This means cutting down on my work hours and getting over my case of senioritis, which will also help with the next step: focusing more on school. With applications and testing, the first semester of senior year was rather unsatisfying. I wasn't really thinking about whether I could handle all the work; I just wanted to take a challenging course load that would impress colleges. Now I am more worried about my grades than ever -- though it would take a lot for me to lose my spot as salutatorian, that doesn't mean I should start slacking now. The last and most important step is to remind myself each day that I still have a tough road ahead of me. I will be a first-generation college student, and no matter where I go, what I do when I get there is what's most important.

Knowing MIT is still possible for me, I am going to try my hardest to reach that goal; I won't be defeated, but I won't be foolish either. I know that my ultimate dream of going to college and being successful in life will be fulfilled. I have already received acceptances from a few safety schools, and I applied regular action to a handful of schools I am very excited about, so now I wait. Again.