MIT Admissions

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Ben Jones

Aug 23, 2006

50 Things

Posted in: Best of the Blogs, Life & Culture

Dear Class of 2010,

This will be my last entry written specifically for you; beginning with the launch of our new site in early September, I'll begin focusing on the future class of 2011. I hope that you guys won't be strangers; stay in touch either in person (come visit us!) or online (please drop by the blogs from time to time and say hi).

As you begin your college experience, and I prepare for my 10-year college reunion, I thought I'd leave you with the things that, in retrospect, I think are important as you navigate the next four years. I hope that some of them are helpful.

Here goes...




  1. Your friends will change a lot over the next four years. Let them.
  2. Call someone you love back home a few times a week, even if just for a few minutes.
  3. In college more than ever before, songs will attach themselves to memories. Every month or two, make a mix cd, mp3 folder, whatever - just make sure you keep copies of these songs. Ten years out, they'll be as effective as a journal in taking you back to your favorite moments.
  4. Take naps in the middle of the afternoon with reckless abandon.
  5. Adjust your schedule around when you are most productive and creative. If you're nocturnal and do your best work late at night, embrace that. It may be the only time in your life when you can.
  6. If you write your best papers the night before they are due, don't let people tell you that you "should be more organized" or that you "should plan better." Different things work for different people. Personally, I worked best under pressure - so I always procrastinated... and always kicked ass (which annoyed my friends to no end). ;-) Use the freedom that comes with not having grades first semester to experiment and see what works best for you.
  7. At least a few times in your college career, do something fun and irresponsible when you should be studying. The night before my freshman year psych final, my roommate somehow scored front row seats to the Indigo Girls at a venue 2 hours away. I didn't do so well on the final, but I haven't thought about psych since 1993. I've thought about the experience of going to that show (with the guy who is now my son's godfather) at least once a month ever since.
  8. Become friends with your favorite professors. Recognize that they can learn from you too - in fact, that's part of the reason they chose to be professors.
  9. Carve out an hour every single day to be alone. (Sleeping doesn't count.)
  10. Go on dates. Don't feel like every date has to turn into a relationship.
  11. Don't date someone your roommate has been in a relationship with.
  12. When your friends' parents visit, include them. You'll get free food, etc., and you'll help them to feel like they're cool, hangin' with the hip college kids.
  13. In the first month of college, send a hand-written letter to someone who made college possible for you and describe your adventures thus far. It will mean a lot to him/her now, and it will mean a lot to you in ten years when he/she shows it to you.
  14. Embrace the differences between you and your classmates. Always be asking yourself, "what can I learn from this person?" More of your education will come from this than from any classroom.
  15. All-nighters are entirely overrated.
  16. For those of you who have come to college in a long-distance relationship with someone from high school: despite what many will tell you, it can work. The key is to not let your relationship interfere with your college experience. If you don't want to date anyone else, that's totally fine! What's not fine, however, is missing out on a lot of defining experiences because you're on the phone with your boyfriend/girlfriend for three hours every day.
  17. Working things out between friends is best done in person, not over email. (IM does not count as "in person.") Often someone's facial expressions will tell you more than his/her words.
  18. Take risks.
  19. Don't be afraid of (or excited by) the co-ed bathrooms. The thrill is over in about 2 seconds.
  20. Wednesday is the middle of the week; therefore on wednesday night the week is more than half over. You should celebrate accordingly. (It makes thursday and friday a lot more fun.)
  21. Welcome failure into your lives. It's how we grow. What matters is not that you failed, but that you recovered.
  22. Take some classes that have nothing to do with your major(s), purely for the fun of it.
  23. It's important to think about the future, but it's more important to be present in the now. You won't get the most out of college if you think of it as a stepping stone.
  24. When you're living on a college campus with 400 things going on every second of every day, watching TV is pretty much a waste of your time and a waste of your parents' money. If you're going to watch, watch with friends so at least you can call it a "valuable social experience."
  25. Don't be afraid to fall in love. When it happens, don't take it for granted. Celebrate it, but don't let it define your college experience.
  26. Much of the time you once had for pleasure reading is going to disappear. Keep a list of the books you would have read had you had the time, so that you can start reading them when you graduate.
  27. Things that seem like the end of the world really do become funny with a little time and distance. Knowing this, forget the embarassment and skip to the good part.
  28. Every once in awhile, there will come an especially powerful moment when you can actually feel that an experience has changed who you are. Embrace these, even if they are painful.
  29. No matter what your political or religious beliefs, be open-minded. You're going to be challenged over the next four years in ways you can't imagine, across all fronts. You can't learn if you're closed off.
  30. If you need to get a job, find something that you actually enjoy. Just because it's work doesn't mean it has to suck.
  31. Don't always lead. It's good to follow sometimes.
  32. Take a lot of pictures. One of my major regrets in life is that I didn't take more pictures in college. My excuse was the cost of film and processing. Digital cameras are cheap and you have plenty of hard drive space, so you have no excuse.
  33. Your health and safety are more important than anything.
  34. Ask for help. Often.
  35. Half of you will be in the bottom half of your class at any given moment. Way more than half of you will be in the bottom half of your class at some point in the next four years. Get used to it.
  36. In ten years very few of you will look as good as you do right now, so secretly revel in how hot you are before it's too late.
  37. In the long run, where you go to college doesn't matter as much as what you do with the opportunities you're given there. The MIT name on your resume won't mean much if that's the only thing on your resume. As a student here, you will have access to a variety of unique opportunities that no one else will ever have - don't waste them.
  38. On the flip side, don't try to do everything. Balance = well-being.
  39. Make perspective a priority. If you're too close to something to have good perspective, rely on your friends to help you.
  40. Eat badly sometimes. It's the last time in your life when you can do this without feeling guilty about it.
  41. Make a complete ass of yourself at least once, preferably more. It builds character.
  42. Wash your sheets more than once a year. Trust me on this one.
  43. If you are in a relationship and none of your friends want to hang out with you and your significant other, pay attention. They usually know better than you do.
  44. Don't be afraid of the weird pizza topping combinations that your new friend from across the country loves. Some of the truly awful ones actually taste pretty good. Expand your horizons.
  45. Explore the campus thoroughly. Don't get caught.
  46. Life is too short to stick with a course of study that you're no longer excited about. Switch, even if it complicates things.
  47. Tattoos are permanent. Be very certain.
  48. Don't make fun of prefrosh. That was you like 2 hours ago.
  49. Enjoy every second of the next four years. It is impossible to describe how quickly they pass.
  50. This is the only time in your lives when your only real responsibility is to learn. Try to remember how lucky you are every day.


Be yourself. Create. Inspire, and be inspired. Grow. Laugh. Learn. Love.

Welcome to some of the best years of your lives.


Comments (Closed after 30 days to reduce spam)

Thanks Ben, for reminding me lots of things I forgot.

Posted by: Saad Zaheer on August 23, 2006

that's a very nice list =)

Posted by: little miss demosthenes on August 23, 2006

Thank you Ben =) That was beautiful.

Posted by: Minh on August 23, 2006

The MIT Admissions Office is without a doubt second to none. You guys are great, and I'll be holding onto this list.

Posted by: Evan on August 23, 2006

OMG, Ben, you've got me with little happy-tears in my eyes here. An encapsulation of advice, almost exactly as I'd want my kid to think about it. Thanks for your awesomeness, and you student types out there? Ben knows whereof he speaks. Trust us on this.

Oh, and as one of those parents who appreciates being included when I visit, you should know that it's not because it makes me feel cool: it's because I really love my kid and his friends and the electricity of the environment they're in, and I truly enjoy spending with them the little time we have together. (Even if it means I have to deep-clean the hall kitchen. wink Thanks for enduring us old grey folks who love you all to pieces and who can't wait to see what your lives turn into!

Thanks, Ben, for another reminder of what's really important.

Posted by: leftcoast mom on August 23, 2006

45. Explore the campus thoroughly. Don't get caught.

Oh I do wonder what this is referring to... smile

Posted by: 0 on August 23, 2006

I applied to MIT last year, and used to come here often. Somehow the habit waned. On a whim I decided to see what was going on here and I see this. smile

Thanks Ben, for reminding me (and perhaps some people I might send here) what its all about. (that might not have been what you intended, but things can trigger thoughts which can trigger other thought ... ) A lot of those things are... well... things which I've been neglecting over the last year and been blaming the mess that remains on the 'system' and things of that nature.

Posted by: Chintalagiri Shashank on August 23, 2006

You know, besides the whole roommate thing, co-ed bathrooms, and exploring campus without being caught, that list could totally work for high schoolers. Except you ALWAYS get free food as opposed to the occasional nights when parents of friends visit. At least, I hope most high schoolers get fed at home...

Posted by: c21 on August 23, 2006

Thanks ben, this is just awesome.

Posted by: Zach on August 23, 2006

Thank you, Ben! You are one of many reasons I fell in love with MIT. My son however decided to attended the other institute. I'm still going to make sure he reads this!

Posted by: Oakland mom on August 23, 2006

"try to remember how lucky you are every day." --> For some odd reason, I feel as if this entry, leading up to the line, would be enough to teach me that without coming off as self-righteous, if I didn't agree with you already.

Number 50 just gets me so exciiited :D I know we've all been told it time and again by those college brochures, but the way you speak of completely idealistic, yet true and unadorned.

Posted by: Yifei on August 23, 2006

Oh man, I seriously was laughing myself off my chair on that list. I hope this is what college is about, if so, where better to spend it than in a place with liquid nitrogen on tap and robotics equipment at arms length?

Posted by: Jon on August 23, 2006

19 is definitely mine. (I really didn't care, I just couldn't think of anything interesting that'd happened to me in the last 24 hours. Except for, y'know, coming to MIT.)

Ben, you're so freakin' cool.

Posted by: JKim on August 23, 2006

Ben! You are awesome....

Excellent entry...its just so cool.

I will remember each one of the 50 things that you have written about.

Well...again...nice meeting you in person.

Have fun!

And best of luck with the final touch-ups of the new website...

Posted by: Arka on August 23, 2006

If I didn't already think you were awesome, this list would have done it.

Let's hear it for 19, 32, and 35!

Posted by: thekeri on August 24, 2006

great post Ben

really good stuff

i'm quite amazed

Posted by: hawk on August 24, 2006

Wow that's a great list !

Though I'll be applying for the class of 2012, I'll hold on to this list.

Posted by: Vihang on August 24, 2006

Ben --

Way to go, man. Thanks for the perspective. -- Other Ben

Posted by: Ben Golub on August 24, 2006

That was truly insightful.

Posted by: Nur on August 24, 2006

About number 11, I know that even this has been successful for some people--my sister married the roommate of someone she once dated and they've been together for over 12 years! And I love 32--I took lots of photos in college and it paid off. I can now flip through hundreds of my photos and reminisce about those days. Great post, Ben!

Posted by: Amy Perez on August 24, 2006

Great list Ben! Your entries (and all the MITblogs for that matter) were such a tremendous help for this new MIT parent. Thank you.

I especially like #3. I recall making cassettes of all my favorite songs from my record collection during the college years. When I hear those songs now it takes me back in time.

I hope you new '10s remember #2. grin

Posted by: AnotherMom on August 24, 2006

Oh my!!!

I wish someone told me these stuff when i was a fresher. how true!! how true!!

Jagannath, Final Yr UnderGrad Student,

Anna University, India.

Posted by: Jagannath A on August 24, 2006

Dear Ben,

You are truly an amazing advisor; I'm so glad that I chose MIT over other schools because of people like you on the campus!!! Go MIT Class of 2010!!!

Posted by: Steven on August 24, 2006

Hope you don't mind, but I forwarded this list to about twenty moms and dads of going-off-to-college freshmen with the hope that they will pass it on to THEIR kids, all across America. Your wisdom has just reached a dozen other campuses...

Posted by: Joy on August 24, 2006

Hey Ben, if you ever get tired of people telling you how awesome you are, just let me know and I'll do my "play in three acts" bit, k?

I mean, you DO rock and all. But I'm just saying.

Posted by: Laura on August 24, 2006

Great post. #50 is perfect.

Posted by: Shannon on August 24, 2006

Ben, are you breaking up with us?

Posted by: Drew on August 25, 2006

I'm not MIT 2010, but this was a great post nonetheless.

Bookmarked =)

Posted by: CP on August 25, 2006

beautiful entry!

Posted by: mugisha on August 25, 2006

Publish a book and it'll be the next bestseller =]

Posted by: l0ngL on August 26, 2006

Hey, Ben,

Writing from vacation in Sedona.

Can I tell you how much I love you? Once again you've made me cry...I just sent this to Nora and with any luck, she'll take your advice. Now you have to write one for us staff members, rules to live by.


Posted by: Marilee Jones on August 26, 2006

I'm going to be starting my junior year next term. Honestly, during the first 2 years I forgot how to keep the academics, extracurriculars, and their balance in perspective. Thanks for the refresher course. Unfortunately I don't think I would have really understood what several of these tips were getting at until after I'd made the mistake... but I guess that's what tip #21 is about smile

Posted by: M.B.I. on August 26, 2006


I know infinite no. of ppl say this to you, but I want to say it again: You are awesome!

I like every single one on the list, but i love no. 2, 3, 6, 7, 24, 32, 35, 36 & 50!

Thanks for the fantabulous list!

Posted by: Ranganathan on August 26, 2006

hey ben,,

this is the first time im readin ur bloggg.. its too good ...ill be here soon for ur next punchin 50 !!



Posted by: Venki on August 26, 2006

that was think I doubted the admissions blog...

Posted by: 0 on August 26, 2006

having graduated a year ago, this list is SO true!! i wish someone had given me that list...siiiigh, i miss MIT!

maybe one other piece of advice: even if MIT is hard and kicks your ass, you don't have to say IHTFP to belong. it's cool to love your MIT experience, too.

Posted by: charlene on August 26, 2006

your good!

Posted by: 0 on August 26, 2006

charlene, I've heard that IHTFP *can* mean "I Have Truly Found Paradise"... which in your case would be true, no? grin

Posted by: leftcoast mom on August 26, 2006

I dig, nice writing.

take the serious things seriously, but with everything else have as much fun as possible. your ability to tell the difference between what these things are for yourself will be a big part of growing up. best of luck.

Posted by: mcanulty on August 26, 2006

I'm class of 2009, but I found your list really helpful. Some of the things on your list reminded me of the ups and downs of freshman year and the ups and downs to come. Thanks!

Posted by: Helen on August 26, 2006

sharkbite oo ha ha. lone tree reservations. thank u 4 calling dominos pizza

Posted by: jyu67 on August 26, 2006


u r rockin n mind blowing.fantastic list man.just keep it up.

Posted by: sapan on August 26, 2006

#3 is so so true--note that you might find yourself *making up* songs/music at those "special moments in time". Write them down (get music paper from the athena header baskets), or hum them into a recording device, or whatever--just KEEP THEM!!! Who knows, you might someday be able to get them going "off-Broadway". (Do you imagine lighting? Atmosphere? Theatre sets?) Also be warned, Harmony & Counterpoint I is one of the most popular humanities courses around here, and tons of people here have basic skills in music composition. So "play the game" and at the same time, keep your precious memories alive!

Posted by: yamayagi on August 26, 2006

This is a great list. (Made me cry.) I'm sending it to my son at UConn. Thanks!

Posted by: Tom's mom on August 26, 2006

wow ben! awesome post. nonetheless every single word is SOOO true. keep up the great advice especially for seniors in high school like myself.

It's advice like this that endear me to MIT over other places nearby...*coughharvardcough***

keep up the great work ben!!!

Posted by: poindexter on August 26, 2006

I should come visit again...

Posted by: Christine on August 26, 2006

ahh... words of wisdom. Thanks for your great advice. =)

Posted by: Jen on August 26, 2006

This is great stuff.

But I'd like to take issue with (6), although I was a firm believer in it through most of my college career.

There will come a time when you have so much going on - perhaps so many things due at once - that you will not be able to everything you need to do the night before, and either you will do a mediocre job on all, or a good job on a few and rather poorly on the rest.

There will also come a time when the projects you need to do will take so much time and require so much thought that it will not be possible to do them well at the last minute, even when the last minute is conceived as starting one month before the due date. If you haven't trained yourself in how to "organize" and "plan" ahead of time when you have more leisure, you'll find it very difficult to achieve when you really need it.

Posted by: Jay on August 26, 2006

thank you. thank you so much smile

Posted by: Melda on August 26, 2006

Wow some great thoughts there I have to keep in mind when I get to college in about 2 years. Anyways, I've just decided to visit the MIT site today for the coolness factor and guess what I found. I'm applying for the class of 2011 even though... my chances are slim to none.. I guess it doesn't hurt to try does it? wink

Posted by: Will on August 27, 2006

mit...what a school =)

Posted by: Gina on August 27, 2006

This is the first time I have visited your blog...

The post was just awesome... thank you so much.

Posted by: Sunayana on August 27, 2006

that's a pretty good list. i'm gonna be freshman in 2008, but i'll try to apply some of those things now smile

Posted by: Sh1fty on August 27, 2006

Many thanks BEN! After an year gone,

you reminded me of so much! The 50 things say so much from the hearts of the sophomores and so on!

Keep Inspiring!

Posted by: AWA on August 27, 2006

This list is so useful for anybody who is starting college. Its good that I got it just as I am about to start college, living far away from home.

This list would definitely help me & inspire me, no matter which college I attend.

Thank You, Ben

And, although I havn't been acqainted with many admission officers, I think you're one of the best.

Posted by: Rupa on August 27, 2006


My finger started hurting doing all the scrolling!

Posted by: Sarab on August 28, 2006

Brilliant! As the mom of a son who just began CMU, I've been giving so much "mommy advise"....yours is REAL, timely and so so smart. THANKS...I fowarded it to my son and will to all his friends. Susan

Posted by: susan on August 28, 2006

Somehow I don't understand no. 19:

[Don't be afraid of (or excited by) the co-ed bathrooms. The thrill is over in about 2 seconds.]

Posted by: 0 on August 28, 2006

thanks man .. nice experiences

really reminded me back of my college days .. n nights .. grin

Posted by: Yatin on August 28, 2006

"Life is too short to stick with a course of study that you're no longer excited about. Switch, even if it complicates things."


"If you need to get a job, find something that you actually enjoy. Just because it's work doesn't mean it has to suck."

These words are brilliant. They should be written on tiny little papers and put in fortune cookies, or at least embroidered on pillows.

Thanks Ben for the thoughtful post.

Posted by: lupine on August 29, 2006

Ben, that was beautiful. Thank you. smile

Posted by: Karen on August 30, 2006

What an amazing list of advice, and all very true... some things you rarely, if ever, hear. Thanks!

Posted by: Sulinya on August 31, 2006

Oh ben, this is a great list. I'm going to repost it on my livejournal, which I hope you don't read. =)

Posted by: nghi on September 4, 2006

"Don't be afraid of (or excited by) the co-ed bathrooms. The thrill is over in about 2 seconds."!!

Ben you are my hero!!!

Posted by: Josh on September 4, 2006

This is such a fantastic post, Ben.

Thanks for sharing it.

Posted by: Daniel Barkowitz on September 6, 2006

Thanks, Ben. Although my son didn't get into MIT (he is at Penn now), I still like to visit your blog once a while. Your blog is really cool. Thank you for taking your time to inspire so many young people. I will forward your advice to my son. I am sure that he will enjoy reading it.

Posted by: raindrops on September 10, 2006

I was at the presentation in East Brunswick High tonight, and I just had to come on here to see the website. You've done such an amazing job with it, and unlike other college websites, I actually get the feeling that MIT truly cares about the students.

With that said, even though I'm not applying until next September, just reading this list makes me look forward to the process as well as college itself, hopefully at MIT of course. Maybe someday, whether I get in or not, I'll look back on this and say, wow, that's what made me want to come to MIT, because admission officers do care after all. Thank you.

Posted by: Yun on September 20, 2006

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