Throughout my entirety of high school, I told myself over and over again that I would be an engineer. I didn’t know what type of engineering, but I wanted to be an engineer. I definitely looked the part. I had 3 years of engineering research behind me. I presented this research at local, state, and national conferences. So how I ended up at the University of Chicago, notorious for its lack of pre-professional/occupational degrees, is another question. How did a kid that looked destined to be an engineer end up at a school without an engineering program?
In high school, I really was an engineering buff. I did well in science and math, so I had the smarts. But I started doubting my interest in engineering during these research experiences. Though fun, they also lacked the spark that I wanted. It was interesting and a one-of-a-kind experience, but it did not feel like me. So, regardless of these obvious doubts, I entered my senior year as an engineering major. As is the norm, my dream school was, to no one’s surprise, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
I applied to 12 schools, as an insanely overworked senior, and of these 12, I was an engineering major at 11 of them. It seemed perfect. I was a math guy who wanted to apply his smarts. Why not do engineering? The only reason I applied to University of Chicago was to hopefully solidify the fact that I would go to a top college before the regular deadline. Little did I know that this “safety school” as it was, would become the greatest decision I ever made.
So the early action deadline for UChicago came and went. I was still looking forward to my MIT application, but I was glad to have the UChicago app done. Then came the moment of truth. I got the decision from UChicago. I was expecting a deferral, but the best news happened. I got accepted. UChicago was not my number 1 choice, but it was near the top. I’m from Illinois and I’ve been to the school, and it looked beautiful. Coupled with its stellar reputation, I really considered the option of going to this great institution. But I was still an engineering type of guy. Then the regular decision deadline went. I had been accepted into an amazing school, but I was still holding out for MIT.
Then I got rejected by MIT. My number 1 choice. My dream school. But I took the rejection rather lightly. I was away for the actual decision, but when I got home and found out, I was surprisingly relaxed. Most people take a rejection from their number 1 school very harshly, cursing out the school that crushed their dreams. But I let it slide. I still can’t explain the phenomenon, but something changed in me. Between getting accepted at UChicago and getting rejected at MIT, I simply lost some interest in engineering. Maybe it was the fact that I was getting demolished by my physics class. Maybe it was genetic, as my dad also aspired for engineering before departing from this path. Maybe it was that I never was interested in engineering in the first place, and as much fun as my research was, it was more for the novelty of the ideas rather than the basis of them.
So I got rejected by number 1 school, but I have no issues with that. I didn’t care that I supposedly had my dreams crushed. Maybe getting rejected from my number 1 school took me to my dream school. Because if I got into that school, I would be an engineer, and with the current fun that I am having at UChicago (where my fun has yet to die), I don’t think I would have enjoyed being an engineer. I think I am fine, actually relish the fact, with getting rejected. Because eventually everything worked out. So rejection is nothing to be worried about for you college-bound seniors because in the end, everything will work out. So number 1 school be damned and follow the path in front of you. Reject that rejection. Find a new dream school. And have fun in college.