In a hurry? Read the brief version.

I was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and it wasn't until I was 17 that I learned about MIT, one of the top colleges in the world. It did not take long until MIT became my biggest dream. This dream, however, was rather unlikely. The odds were very against me - only about 100 international citizens from all over the world are accepted at MIT every year. How many apply? 3500+. And the big majority are the top of the crop in their countries. Not to mention that it would be nearly impossible to afford MIT. To make it a little harder, I found out about the existence of MIT 10 days before the deadline. In fact, by that time I had missed the sign up dates to interview with an MIT alum and also to the last SATs of the year.

Good news are that perseverance and hard work can take you a long way. During the application process, things like finding the address of an MIT alum and just showing up in his house, or bringing a huge box to the interview containing every little award I had won and every little achievement I had completed, can show others you're in it with your heart. And that really matters. Showing up to the SATs after missing the deadline, and begging to wait and see if someone didn't come also helps. You can get lucky like I did and end up doing the exam of the single person who did not come. The impossible happened, and every single part of the process went extremely well. On March 18th, 2006, I received a letter welcoming me to join the new MIT class. Wow. Life-changer. The soundtrack at the time I opened the letter was "Breakaway" from Kelly Clarkson. Quite appropriate! Until today, whenever times are not the best, I think of myself opening that letter and any sign of worry just go away. But after some celebration, I knew I had a new mission: figure out how to afford MIT.