Go West, Young Man

01Apr07

I am headed to Northwestern University’s Media, Technology, and Society program this fall. I knew nothing about it before applying (struck my fancy off of a Google search in the fall), was flown out to interview there over a brutally cold February weekend, enjoyed the program and people, and was accepted a few weeks later.

Now being accepted is a big deal – I struck out 11 times with law school admissions the previous year and had already been rejected by Harvard and Stanford this year. Then, last week, MIT HASTS — my alma mater and home department, the sure-thing, don’t worry, slam dunk — in a punch to the gut, rejected me. The usual post-rejection justifications or rationalizations of “I wouldn’t be a good fit”, “I wasn’t well connected”, “I wasn’t well qualified” all fail — I am so enmeshed with the program through research projects, faculty, and staff connections that outside people who know nothing about my interests or the program are shocked on the news. People who do know something are flabbergasted. And I’m just sort of numb.

So now I’m making lemonade: I realize this is a good opportunity to escape the cherished technocratic myopia of MIT, to move to a new city and learn from new people. I have to leave a lot behind; most important among them, my girlfriend already committed to a job outside of Boston will require us to commute to stay together. Plus, I have any number of friends still living or regularly visiting Boston. Plus I get 2 years of my life back, a 4-5 year Ph.D. versus 6-7 years at MIT. Living in this newly constructed perspective, I now wonder if I even would have gone to MIT had I been accepted… but everything works out in the end.

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