Aug 6, 2004
Posted in: Miscellaneous
Name: Matthew Lawrence McGann
Occupation: Admissions Officer
Employer: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology
As a consequence of my job, I am frequently asked to tell various chapters of my life story. Here's an abridged version of the whole thing.
I grew up in Hampton Bays, Long Island, New York, a small town with a tourism and maritime economy. From Kindergarten through 8th grade, I attended a small Catholic school, Our Lady of the Hamptons. I then made the big leap to the public high school (my graduating class: 65 students!), and managed to take all three of the AP classes the school offered by my junior year. With few options remaining, I cluelessly applied to colleges.
Being the first in my family to go to college, and being from a town that sent few of its graduates on to highly selective schools, I wasn't really sure of what I was doing. Largely, I applied to the top schools on the east coast that did not require the SAT II Writing exam (a test that i don't like much; perhaps that's a later blog entry). After receiving admission letters, I figured I'd choose one of the Ivy League schools. It seemed only natural, given my wide array of interests: math, politics, architecture, film, literature...
I visited the Ivy schools, and was surprised to find that while the schools clearly were excellent institutions, I didn't really feel the "click" with any of them. As the May 1 deadline was quickly approaching, I decided I'd check out one of the other schools I had been admitted to, MIT. I had briefly visited MIT during a previous trip to another school in Cambridge, spending very little time at this school which I had already made up my mind was too nerdy, too narrow, and too, well, male to be the college of my choosing.
On this second and more thorough trip to MIT, all of the stereotypes began to break down. Rather than being no fun, I discovered hundreds of student groups, and Boston a quick swim across the river (or, I suppose, walk across the bridge). The curriculum turned out to have everything I was looking for: in addition to the awesome math department, which I had taken as a given, I surprisingly discovered really terrific departments in all of my other interests. Finally, I was pleased to discover the diversity of the student body on many different levels. Coming from a conservative, 90+% white town where diversity meant "Are you Catholic or are you Methodist?", a school with no majority race (plurality: white folks, ~35%) and many different viewpoints and interests was very appealing. And, yes, 42% of the population at MIT, as it turned out, was female.
In addition to discovering my stereotypes to be false, I also felt that "click" with MIT. You really get the sense that something is happening at MIT, that 24-7-365 people were pursuing their passions. MIT pulses with this energy that I've never felt anywhere else. People are excited about everything that they do, and the enthusiasm is infectious. It really is the coolest place on earth (proof in a future blog).
I choose MIT and never looked back. My student experience culminated with my serving a year as President of the Undergraduate Association, MIT's undergraduate student government. After graduating, I worked briefly in e-commerce (it was the thing to do back in those days), then came thisclose to taking a job trading securities on Wall Street. But ultimately, my family and schooling had instilled too much of a spirit of service into me, so I turned down the potentially-very-lucrative finance job and instead applied for work in the field of education. After considering a number of very interesting jobs, I choose to take a job here in the MIT Office of Admissions as an Assistant Director of Admissions. And that pretty much brings us up-to-date.
I really enjoying working in admissions. I hope to share some of my enjoyment with you in the future.
Current music: BoA, "Atlantis Princess" (K-Pop, oh yeah)