So I’m Going to Grad School

It turns out that I am complete garbage at keeping a regularly updated blog. However, it also turns out that I am reasonably good at getting into graduate school programs. I am happy to announce that I recently accepted an offer from the MIT Brain and Cognitive Sciences department and will be heading there next year to start my PhD. I was pleasantly surprised to get an interview, let alone an offer, and I am ridiculously excited for next year. I’ve written before about my recently discovered passion for neuroscience, and this is where it has taken me. After four years of problem sets, research, and soul-searching, it would seem that I’ve “made it.”

It still doesn’t feel real at this point. Every now and then in the past few days I’ve reminded myself, “Wow, I’m going to MIT.” (Ok Eli, stop being so pretentious). Part of what makes it difficult to accept is the case of impostor syndrome I’ve come down with. I feel as if I have pulled an elaborate prank over all of the schools I applied to, tricking them into thinking that I’m some sort of physics genius. I know plenty of people who are more disciplined, more intelligent, or more hard-working than I am. Granted, most were not applying to neuroscience PhD programs, but the feeling of fraudulence lingers.

I don’t think this attitude is necessarily unhealthy. It keeps my grounded. It’s easy for my successes to blind me to my failures. The fact that I feel like I have achieved a lofty goal allows me to avoid thinking about areas where I’ve fallen short. Exercising more, procrastinating less, updating this blog: these are all resolutions I have made repeatedly, with varying but ultimately limited success. Yeah sure, I got into MIT. But maybe I could have done more.

There’s definitely a balancing act between staying hungry and feeling satisfied when it comes to personal accomplishments. Both extremes are, in my opinion, not particularly good ways to go through life. Never being satisfied sounds very stressful, though it would no doubt come with enormous success. However, resting on your laurels has its drawbacks, since it is very hard to have any improvement whatsoever in that case. College has helped, but I am still figuring out how much I am willing to push myself.

So what comes next? I plan on enjoying the remaining month or so of my college career, and then it’s a jump into the abyss of the unknown. Well, the mostly unknown. I got a fairly good look at MIT when I visited, and there are a few things I am really looking forward to:

  1. The Research. MIT has incredible neuroscience research. Anyone remember when someone figured out how to plant false memories in mice? That was MIT. More recently, did you read that article about how someone discovered neurons in the brain that only respond to music? Also MIT. I have a wide range of options for research next year, and I’m pumped.
  2. The Location. Ok, Boston’s winter weather sucks. I am more referring to the culture of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The number of hyper-educated people is staggering. I’m legitimately excited to feel like I am constantly the dumbest person in the room. Boston is also a hotbed of start-up activity, and I am excited to be in a place where the spirit of innovation is so strong.
  3. The Campus. MIT has a lot of awesome things other than the neuroscience department. I can revel in the glorious architecture of the Stata Center or hang around the MIT Media Lab and try to figure out exactly what it is they research there. These are just a couple of things I saw when I visited, and I am sure there are plenty for fun things to do.

The list goes on, but for the sake of brevity I’ll leave it as a tricolon. In short, I am very excited for next year. I am grateful for the opportunity I have, despite my trepidation about whether I deserve it. As my senior semester winds down, I hope I will have more opportunities to post to this blog with some reflections that are hopefully more provocative.

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