|Taking in a different view of the world|
Published: Aug 22, 2012
There is nothing more fulfilling than having hard work pay off — and 17-year-old Dante Delaney knows this firsthand. Staying focused and dedicated to achieving his goals throughout his academic life has allowed him to accomplish one of his dreams — acceptance into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Delaney applied to, and was accepted into the prestigious institution at the age of 16. He put off entering the university to enjoy a gap year — to live a little and give himself an opportunity to mature and grow.
“I remember how nervous I was to apply in the first place, but I knew I had something to offer. But being accepted a few months later after when I had just turned 16-years-old was really great,” said Delaney who intends to study chemical engineering. “I didn’t think it was impossible to be accepted, but I thought it was very unlikely as well. I mean when you think of schools like MIT you would imagine that people who get in are like prodigies who can solve a rubics cube in 12 seconds or something equally ridiculous, so yes, it was a pleasant, but amazing surprise for me.”
He may not know specifically what impressed MIT enough to accept him, but he does feel it had a lot to do with his consistent academic success.
Delaney was homeschooled for his ninth through twelfth grade years and achieved a 3.85 grade point average by the end of his studies coupled with eight A grades in the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSEs) in Mathematics, English Language, Chemistry, Physics, Combined Science, Economics, Music and Religious Studies.
But what may have really gotten him through the MIT doors was his excellence in the interview portion of the application in addition to having a 2,100 score out 2,400 on his Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).
But despite doing so well and being accepted so young to MIT, upon the advice of his parents, Delaney chose to take a year off before heading to college. Although he wanted to embrace the new opportunity immediately, he said he realized it was best to get a taste of life and just enjoy a period of not studying so that he could get a better perspective on life and what was important to him.
“My parents and I decided it was best to wait until I was older so I would be more mature, as well as have time to do things I probably wouldn’t have time for later on. So I took a gap year and really got a chance to see the real world and realize that I can do more for others,” he said.
Delaney spent the year traveling the world and preparing himself mentally to face his future. During his year of global social work he participated in the Youth with a Mission program on a five-month mission trip. He visited Hong Kong, Israel and Thailand where he taught English as a second language. He fed prisoners in Vera Cruz, Mexico and worked at orphanages in the Netherlands. He saw the world through the eyes of a missionary and of someone who wanted to make a difference, and not just as a tourist.
“As a result of my travels and the experiences, I realized more than ever that no matter how much you have or don’t have, there is someone doing worse off than you, and you should make the effort to reach out no matter how small or insignificant the gesture may seem [because] it means a lot to people. That is something I always knew, but I actually got to put into play for an extended period of time,” said Delaney.
In addition to wanting to make his name in creating better renewable energy sources he also wants to be much more philanthropic. A secondary goal of his now is to find a way to mesh his two passions so that he can succeed in chemical engineering, and to also use it in such a way that it could benefit everyone — particularly the less fortunate.
To ensure he has an idea of how to make his social outreach plans come to fruition the young man took a community development course in Denver, Colorado during his gap year as well.
Preparing to take on MIT
His year of insight and social development is over and Delaney has returned to his reality which included preparations to becoming an MIT student which included a two-month recommended student orientation program, called Interphase. In the program, 80 students from around the world get to experience living and learning at the institution for two months over the course of the summer.
Taking advantage of that was crucial to Delaney. He not only needed to get back into an academic frame of mind that he had been out of for over a year, but he said he needed to get back on track to succeed, especially as he had not been in a traditional classroom setting in years.
“The program was great for me. It helped me to get back to a great school-oriented frame of mind. I got to learn first hand what it is to be a college student, attend classes and seminars and follow a college schedule,” he said. “We also learned things like time management and study skills. I was also introduced to companies affiliated with the school as well as programs and internships that can, and will, be available to me during my course of study. I really got a good feel and I am really ready to attend classes now.”
He said he was happy to realize that being a college student did not appear to be much different than what he was accustomed to. And he felt being homeschool and responsible for his education for an extended period of time gave him the edge he needed to be successful at the collegiate level. He is accustomed to online interactive courses, creating his own study and class schedule, working independently and just being responsible for his own successes and failures.
Advice to other students
To get to where he is Delaney acknowledges not only parental and school based support in his learning, but also a self-driven nature that other students aiming for the stars should also have.
“The best piece of advice I can give is for people to work hard. Anything worth it doesn’t come easily, and it takes lots of hard work and sacrifice,” he said.
“I had to stay up late many nights and get work out or put in that extra few hours of studying when I could’ve been having fun. My course load coming down to the final year or two was intense. I was doing the regular curriculum and preparing for BGCSEs. Most students do that, but I wanted to not just pass. I wanted to get the best grade I could. So that took time and effort. And now it all paid off. Similarly, my summer this year was sacrificed for going to college. I wasn’t having a bunch of fun, but it was worth it so that I am in the best position to succeed as I can be.”
Delaney said if students are serious about attaining success they should see the importance of never procrastinating, particularly if they are not doing anything productive with their time.
Thinking ahead and preparing early, he said is also
essential. And that students should not be afraid to ask questions when they are confused. He also encouraged his peers to go the extra mile and just do more and study more for their own good. He said what they read or learn may never be tested traditionally, but it makes a student’s work more detailed and foundationally sound. Simultaneously he said it is good to have a hobby they like and to practice it as often as they can, so there is a balance between academics and leisure.
“It’s good to study and to be focused, but if you are too focused you can just as easily lose sight of what is important. For me I love to read and play the piano,” said Delaney. “These are productive hobbies. I like historical and classical books, so I am making myself knowledgeable in things the educated person should know whether they are taught it in school or not. Also piano is a great way to relax and it was a way for me to prepare for my music BGCSE. It’s also just great to know an instrument. So I think there is good in having a hobby. It lets the mind wander so that it can return to thinking better academically.”