Just a year ago exactly, my family and I were preparing to embark on our second annual trip to the East Coast to visit MIT and Harvard. I did not know much about either school other than that "Harvard" should be said "Hahvahd" and that MIT was not pronounced "mit" as in the first syllable of "mitten." Four days later, I arrived at Boston for my first time and was immediately in awe of this great city. I loved how beautiful the skyline looked in the night and how pretty the river glistened in the sunset. I loved how you could practically find lobster at every restaurant in downtown Boston and that falafel was a common delicacy in Cambridge. Most of all, though, I loved how in all the hustle and bustle, this was a college town, filled with thousands of genius students all vying to achieve and go forth into the world on their next big adventure. Somehow an environment like that just attracts me (sort of like bugs to light). Not normally one to quickly fall in love with something, I knew Cambridge was the place for me no matter what.

I was only eleven when I first heard of MIT. I was spread out on the living room carpet with Legos as far as I could see. This only meant one thing: I was building my next big project. At that age, I had this addiction to Mindstorms. I just couldn't stop designing robots and programming them. It seemed so cool that I could make some object follow my every command. Well, this time I decided to build a large model of the titanic, complete with programmed motors and nine decks. In the end it didn't float, but at one point, while I was deeply immersed in the project, my mom stopped me for a few seconds and asked,

"Honey where do you want to go to college?"
"Umm, I don't know. I'm working right now."
"Have you ever thought about it though? What do you like to do?"
"Come on just let me build this...well, I like working with my hands, making things."
"What's your favorite subject in school?"
"You know, math!"
"Have you ever thought about MIT?"
"What's that?"
"It's a place for people who like math and of course building things"
"Sounds nice"

Then and there, MIT was implanted in my head somewhere, only to be rediscovered years later when it was seriously time to be contemplating my future. Honestly, I never thought about MIT until June last year. In fact, it had only occurred to me to consider it when my teacher suggested it to me. I guess somehow he thought my affection towards math mixed with my nerdy sense of humor would make me a great fit for it. Well, MIT became a reality for me when I remembered the childhood conversation with my mother about my college plans and how MIT struck a chord with me, and so it only felt appropriate that I apply to the first college I had ever learned about.

And so soon enough I was in Boston still unsure about which school I was destined for. I would leave it to my visit impressions to guide me. Up first was Harvard, you know the land of argyle shirts and amazingly intelligent people. This visit pretty much ended for me though when I posed the following question to my tour guide:

"So what do you know about engineering here? What are some of the strengths of Harvard engineering?"
Pausing for a few moments, he replied,"Umm...yea why would you come here? MIT is just down the street?"

Just go to MIT was his advice. Thanks to this random person, who I don't remember one bit, my life had drastically been altered. Here, this very moment, was the turning point when MIT began to infect my mind, in a good way of course. The next day I visited MIT and endured another long tour in the scolding heat (you'd think being Arab and all that I'd have a tolerance for heat, but no). The tour went on for an hour or so and unfortunately I left unimpressed. I secretly desired a school with the traditional architecture and spread out campus of Harvard, but with the pro-science attitude of MIT. I would have to look elsewhere was my conclusion. This turn of events left me in quite a dilemma because I wanted so desperately to live in Cambridge and attend this top tier institution. Sadly, I departed Cambridge with neither Harvard nor MIT as my top choice any more, casting me into a wretched, despondent state in which I pondered what my future would hold. I already had my college application list all set in stone; the question was where I would go. Well, luckily school started and I pushed this matter to the back of my mind, reassuring myself that I would know the right decision eventually. Boy did I hope that would be true. Regardless, I became too bogged down in work to worry about life a year from now. Instead, I resolved to put all the same care and love into all my applications and wish for the best and that was that.

Well, September and October blew by and following my counselor's advice, "No trick-or-treat until applications are complete," I had submitted all my forms on October 30th. I was done...well, only with the paperwork. The biggest decision of all was still waiting.

Weeks went by and still nothing happened. My future and I were still at a stalemate. I often found myself deep within the recesses of my mind conversing with the little people up there who keep everything well oiled,

"Where am I going to go?"
"Well, there's Princeton"
"Yeah...but they're in the middle of nowhere...plus they have grade deflation."
"What about UPenn? You liked their campus."
"You're right. I loved their campus and it's right smack dab in downtown Philly, but of course, Wharton seems to overshadow everything else on campus. Hmm what else?"
"There's Johns Hopkins!"
"That place seems perfect. They have the number one biomedical engineering program and have a great medical school, but those are the only two things I like about that school."

and on and on it went for days, weeks, and even months...until one day in November when everything changed.

Something magical happened. Up until then, I had been ignoring the MIT blog posts, using the site for just the most basic information. I never thought much of the blog, not ever realizing why it was on an admissions website of all places. One lazy afternoon, however, like any impatient teenager, I started to wonder when MIT's early action decisions would be released. I scoured the MIT blogs for previous posts relating to this and at that moment when I finally read my first MIT blog post fate intervened. I felt like Pandora (a manly version of her) opening a non-evil Pandora's box and releasing a trove of information into the world. It felt exhilarating. My mind went crazy as I read through post after post about hacks and snowball fights and dorms and so much more. In just hours I had fallen in love with MIT. Here was my act of fate, this random event in time that handed my decision to me and told me that this was the right school for me. About time!

This decisiveness that empowered me proved to be a double edged sword. While I couldn't help but smile knowing that I finally had a plan, something to work toward and believe in with all my might, I quickly discovered the "dark side" and it definitely was not something eye-poppingly (Webster-please add "eye-poppingly" to your dictionary) cool like in Star Wars. Think of the MIT blogs as drugs and the average reader as the poor victim. We readers gradually start warming up to the blogs until one day when BAM we become addicted, can't stop clicking refresh, and have brains that run on and on at the speed at light thinking about MIT. I mean the MIT blogs are so mind-altering that people actually fight to post "FIRST" in the comments. Did I mention how sharp that sword was when decisions finally rolled around December 15th?

On December 1st, time literally slowed. Classes seemed longer, sleep couldn't end quicker, and regular, everyday life pretty much seemed pointless with the advent of decisions any day. What any day?!?!? There's not a specific date?!?!? Well, in a move that makes the decisions ever more suspenseful, the admissions committee doesn't release the "decisions date" until a few days before the "actual decisions date." This element of surprise was the root of a two week span of inattentiveness in my classes, perhaps due to my checking of the MIT blogs every fifteen minutes on my phone. Those last days leading up to the dreaded 15th, although tough, left me with lasting memories. I remember listening to soothing songs like "Relax" by Mika and "Who Will Save Your Soul" by Jewel. I remember jumping up and down in my seat during physics when I learned there was only five days left until decisions. I remember half-watching I Am Legend with my friends, one of which had just been accepted into Yale and was having the time of his life. Most of all, of all the painfully long days, of all the never ending lectures, of all the sleepless nights, of all my dreams that I hoped would come true, I remember the kind words of my friends who pushed me through the darkness of these winter days and pacified even the worst of the butterflies that plagued me. What would I ever do without you guys?

Well, the 15th did finally did sneak up. I was terribly inefficient that morning, suffering from bouts of serious butterfly attacks (like Mongolia killer butterfly attacks) and various thoughts along the lines of "OMG OMG OMG OMG WHAT IF I DONT GET IN DO I EVEN HAVE A CHANCE AFTER BEING DEFERRED COULD REJECTION HAPPEN I WORKED SO HARD I NEED THIS BUT WHAT IF THE WORST HAPPENS" and on and on until about 11:30 am at which time I started clicking refresh over and over because of course it's common knowledge that the decisions site goes online approximately 15 minutes early. And like clockwork, at 11:46 I was inputting my login information and ignoring the "There is no interim page. You will see your decision right away" text. In matters of seconds, my adrenaline spiked and then came crashing down when I saw a short paragraph and the one word that stood out: "defer".

The following two weeks constituted the most depressing and longest winter break I've ever endured. Against the advice of others, there was nothing to do but to contemplate the steps leading up to this moment. I already had sent in my previous applications. I had no travel plans. I even had no homework. I knew better though. You should never question yourself, your dreams, your actions or anything you've done. Being deferred was no statement about my abilities or personality, no matter how much it felt like it was. At that time, there was just not enough information to conclude whether I was the perfect match for MIT. So what did I do? I heeded the wise words of Thomas Edison: "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." I sure as heck was not going to sit down during winter break wondering what I did wrong or which path I should have followed. NO! I quickly became focused on what I was going to do about this. For two weeks, I worked on updates for MIT. I wrote a long essay about my passion for research and how I grew from it. I talked about new accomplishments, but most of all, I opened up and flat out expressed my undying love for MIT and my visions of walking down the infinite with just minutes to spare for class or studying with friends into the wee hours of the night. It had taken me 17 years, but I finally opened up to someone, telling them my deepest, darkest secrets, and only hoping that they would understand and be appreciative.

Although the next three months ran on the same long timescale as the two weeks leading up to early decisions, my actions were completely opposite. I enjoyed life more. I went to movies more. I played tennis more (for fun of course, season was long done). I soaked in every moment, realizing how short my time left in high school was. I was going to be somewhere next year. That much was for sure. My dream was MIT, my goal was college. After all, this whole application process was just another instance of my all time favorite quote: "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."

I felt the long days pass, but I was having a blast. When the 15th rolled around, I was in school on a Friday night at the annual SciFi Fest. I stuffed myself with pizza, ridiculed terrible movies with friends, and totally forgot about the immediate future. It was all about the present, living life one step at a time. This time around there were no killer butterflies, no shaky hands, no runaway thoughts. There was just me with a more mature outlook for my future. I never gave up on my dreams. I knew dreams never had to end because of one setback, one moment in time. During the milliseconds between when I clicked "submit" and when I waited for the page to load, the only thought running through my head was about how much I loved my parents and friends for giving me the best senior year possible and all the support I needed in the worst of times. Well, the few hundred milliseconds ended and there I was reading "pleasure...accept..." and immediately jumping up and down, hugging my parents, and yelling thanks to everyone out there for being so kind during a taxing 8 months. I called, I texted, and I instant messaged. Veni, vidi, vici!

My dream had been achieved. I was going to Cambridge for sure. The days following were ethereal blessings. I floated through the hallways and was tackled with hugs between every class. Teachers patted me on the back and strangers congratulated me. Needless to say, a smiled a whole lot (maybe even too much, Botox anyone?). My away message for an entire week and to the annoyance of many read "I LOVE MIT!!!" In this week, my school learned more about MIT because of me than they ever did about our own high school. In this week, I became facebook friends with Ben. I exchanged emails with Snively and told Paul I'd see him at CPW. Best of all, I thanked everyone, from my fellow classmates in the MIT '12 chatroom to teachers and friends at school for all their help and wise words.

If I could condense my entire senior year into one tiny morsel of advice, it'd be to live a little. Study, learn, work hard, but in the end, live your last months at home worry-free. Go to that new cafe you've always wanted to try, let the radio blast on your way to school at 7:30 am, talk to people who you never thought you could have been friends with, but in between all of this, make memories. In just a year, you won't care which colleges denied you. Rather, you'll regret the moments you missed out on, the potential for having the time of your life. Moments are all we really have. You miss them and there goes your life right before your eyes, but you hold onto them, make them yours, and then you have truly lived.

Ever since March 15th 11:45 am, life's been a party. The instant the application process is over and you decide on your four-year home, life becomes this giant never-ending party lasting until your first class in the Fall. I can't even explain how amazing April was with the absence of worrying, May with the best week of my life happening (ISEF) and June with graduation and the ending of a major chapter in my life. I'll need an another monstrous entry just to explain how unforgettable my senior year was. Perhaps the best part was learning about "blogging" and the ability of blogs to bring droves of people together into one tight-knit community. I never thought I could learn so much from transcribing my life experiences. If only I could express in words how much of a lifeline this blog proved to be during my "deferred months." It served as an emotional outlet, fueled by the readers. So while I've thanked my family, my friends, and basically everyone I know for being there for me, I now would like to thank you readers for being the wind underneath my wings, the ones who truly listened and still listen to what I have to say.