As I sit down to write this blog, I can’t help but reflect on how fast the years go by. It has been over three years already since I received my Caltech admissions decision. That was a very special day in my life, and I remember it like it was yesterday. As soon as I submitted my application to Caltech, my dad and I made it our job to read endless articles about Caltech. I wanted to learn everything about my dream school. The more I read, the more excited I became. It was also nerve-wracking, and I was anxious to learn when decisions were going to be announced.
In high school, I was the Mechanical Lead of my high school’s Lemelson-MIT Inventeam where we worked to design, prototype, and construct robotic machines, for the local Special Olympics, that would allow students with disabilities to play basketball and soccer more interactively. There were several very smart teammates, and I knew that some of them had also applied to Caltech. This didn’t help with my anxiety regarding my decision!
On the predicted decision day, my team and I were scheduled to showcase our latest prototype at a community TEDX talk. My family and I had been counting down to this day and while I was excited to finally find out, I was also extremely nervous. I did not want the outcome of the decision to affect or interfere with the task at hand. As the Mechanical Lead, I knew that I owed it to my team to stay composed and carry myself professionally and confidently, regardless of the results.
My day started very early when I showed up at my high school to help my team prepare our prototype for transportation to the TEDX talk. It was a hectic morning with many last-minute touches that needed to be made. At one point, I was in charge of holding the power and ground cables during a modification. Due to my nervousness, I accidentally allowed the two cables to touch >_<. There was a huge blue spark but luckily nothing was damaged. My co-lead asked if I was ready for decisions to come out that day and admitted that he was also very nervous. He was extremely smart and was heavily involved in our school’s award-winning robotics team. Learning that he was anxious made me feel more uneasy.
Eventually, all the preparations were done, and it was time to drive to our community center. Since my dad’s car was bigger, we volunteered to transport the prototype while my engineering teacher drove with my co-lead. Somehow,12pm struck and I fearfully pulled up my Caltech admissions portal on my phone. Surprisingly, the predictions were true and when I saw the yellow highlighted field that indicated that my decision status had been updated, my stomach dropped. I told my dad that there had been an update but was unsure of what to do. Without thinking, I started rambling on and told my dad that I could wait for my mom to finish her training to open it as a family, or I could open it then and there. However, if I opened it in the car, before arriving at our showcase, and learned that I didn’t get in, I would be devastated and unable to focus on my presentation. But if I didn’t open it then, I would be too anxious for the rest of the event. I explained my thought process to my dad, and he told me to relax, take a deep breath and just open it! He said to just do what you do with a band-aid. Just rip it off! So, I followed his advice and clicked the button to view my updated admissions status. Suddenly, orange and white confetti sprinkled all over my screen and I saw the big “C” congratulating me on my acceptance! I screamed at my dad, both in disbelief and ecstasy that I had been admitted. Tears of joy began to quickly run down my face. My dad couldn’t believe the news and asked several times if I was serious. Right away, I called my mom to tell her the good news. She was over the moon and bragged to me that her prediction had materialized! For whatever reason, she had had a dream that I was attending Caltech.
When we finally arrived at the event, I knew I had to play it cool. I didn’t want to tell my teammates right away, especially since I didn’t know if anyone else had been accepted. I wiped my tears of joy and got out of the car to help my teammates offload our prototype. However, I couldn’t keep it in long and ended up sharing the news with my engineering teacher. Like my dad, she was also in disbelief and asked if I was joking. I didn’t know whether to take that as a compliment or an insult. Nevertheless, I showed her my official admissions decision to reassure her. She was very happy and gave me a big hug. Eventually, I came to learn that I was the first female from my high school to have ever been accepted into Caltech!
While any college decision is a big deal, this admissions decision was extra special to me and my family. I am a first generation Mexican-American with a family who comes from very humble beginnings. Education, especially for women, hasn’t always been a priority in my family. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have a female college-graduate to look up to, especially in STEM. I’m working very hard to break this vicious cycle and be the first one to graduate with a degree in STEM. I knew that attending a prestigious, academically rigorous, and STEM-focused school like Caltech would provide me with endless opportunities that would not only allow me to advance my Mechanical Engineering career, but also help me show my younger brother, cousins, and family what’s possible!
That night, my family and I celebrated with pink sparkling cider (pink is my favorite color) that my mom had been saving for this occasion. Another running bet my family and I had was that if I were accepted to Caltech, they would treat me to my favorite restaurant, Ruth’s Chris. We only go here on very special occasions, and this was a special occasion. All my hard work, sacrifices, sweat, and tears (literally) had finally paid off. I framed my acceptance letter and took it with me to dinner where I had one of the best meals of my life!
Waiting for the admissions decision was stressful and not fun! Wanting to attend my dream school so badly, and not knowing if it was going to happen, was painful and exhausting. However, in retrospect, I would not change a thing! As Andrew Carnegie said, “Anything in life worth having is worth working for”. The last three years at Caltech have been some of the most challenging yet rewarding years of my life. All my expectations have been surpassed, at every level, and I could not be prouder to be Techer!