Hey everybody, I'm taking a break from working on 2.004 in order to sit through an information session with Karyn Blaser (MIT Admissions Rep). I think I've mentioned before that I sit through one of these every so often just to stay fresh on current admissions policies and procedures, and typically when I sit through one I'll live blog about it.
So here we go! Right now I'm just waiting for it to start, people are all signing in on OLPC's (somehow the admissions office got a hold of two of them and use them for signing in now) with Mac keyboards (thank goodness, OLPC keyboards are AWFUL!).
1:56 -- I'm taking this opportunity to finish up my food, Chicken Makluba from Sepal (a restaurant in our student center)
2:04 -- I just led everybody through a game of MIT Hangman. I chose the words "Green Building" and "IHTFP." Both were guessed and the MIT student didn't die!
2:06 -- Most of the students here are seniors, some juniors, and poor little siblings drug here (not drugged, drug), from a variety of states (farthest being Texas).
2:07 -- MIT was founded in 1861 by William Barton Rogers who decided that people weren't being trained for life after college, so he created a place that would prepare students to adapt with the changing world and become leaders.
Originally MIT was in downtown Boston until 1916. MIT used to be one building and everybody was near each other, something everybody liked (created relationships, encounters, collaboration, and friends). Current campus has the "Infinite Corridor," really really long hallway that connects many labs, classrooms, and offices, encouraging collaboration and "bumping into people" in today's campus.
2:09 -- "Use science and technology to benefit society." is the core mission of MIT. An example are the OLPCs people signed in on. OCW (OpenCourseWare) is also an example of benefiting society. MIT Publishes almost all of its courses (notes, problem sets, exams, lecture slides, etc) online for people to get a similar educational experience as at MIT (but not the same, nothing compares to being here). Additionally, the new cancer research center here is just being finished and will hope to find a cure for cancer.
MIT's motto is "Mens et Manus," Mind and Hand. It's important to get the theory and the smarts, but it's also important to get your hands dirty and get stuff done.
2:13 -- At MIT you don't learn facts, you learn to think. You will rarely ever spit out memorized information on a test. You will sit down for a test and see something completely new, something you have to apply your knowledge to and critically think your way through. It requires adapting to new problems and finding solutions.
Academics: An application to MIT is an application to the institvte as a whole, not to a particular major or school. There are separate "schools" here, but they aren't really distinct and are kind of a technicality. School 1 = Engineering, 58% of students. School 2 = Science. School 3 = Architecture. School 4 = Management. School 5 = Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (over 500 courses), 8 required to graduate).
Beyond those humanities requirements, there are other requirements, like the GIRs (General Institute Requirements). 2 physics classes, 2 math classes, 1 chemistry class, 1 biology class. Most are finished freshman year with friends and other freshmen.
2:20 -- There's a swim test that you MUST pass to graduate. No, I'm not kidding. There is also a PE requirement (snowboarding, hiking, yoga, pistol, soccer, etc). Your major is declared at the end of freshman year. Requirements in each major vary vastly so it'd be best to look up those requirements. The swim test is ~1/2 the width of the Charles River, ensuring that if you fall in and swim in the right direction you WILL survive. If you swim the wrong direction, well, you shouldn't be at MIT.
2:22 -- MIT is set up on a 4-1-4 schedule (4 months of classes, 1 month off (IAP) and then another 4 months of classes). MIT emphasizes working with peers and collaboration. Some problem sets ask who you worked with as one of the problems (this isn't actually true, but we'll let the people here believe it). "PSET Parties" often happen the night or two before the assignments are due (PSET = Problem Set, weekly homework assignments).
MIT has a Pass/No Record system for freshman year. As, Bs, and Cs all are recorded as a "Pass" on your transcript. A D or a F is not recorded and your transcript shows no record of you having taken that class. This tries to eliminate competition among peers and eases the transition to college without trying to get a perfect GPA first semester. You slowly transition into a normal grading system. Second Semester is A/B/C/No Record, just like Pass/No Record except you get letter grades (much harder to take advantage of). Sophomore year is a normal grading scale.
2:27 -- IAP (independent activities period) is during the month of January and every student gets to decide what to do. They can stay at home, travel abroad, spend free time on campus, or take fun/serious classes. Some students do research, others take classes like 6.270, glass blowing, MASLab, welding, ballroom dancing, EMT certification, charm school, Mystery Hunt, etc. The environment is much more relaxed and gives students a chance to do things they normally don't have time to do.
MIT also has one of the largest underground tunnel systems and can get you around campus during the winter without having to go outside.
UROP (undergraduate research opportunity program) is wildly popular with undergraduate students. It lets students work in just about any lab on campus and do research with professors and graduate students. Getting a UROP is as easy as checking the UROP website or directly contacting a professor and asking if they could take you on as a researcher. It's actual work, not just cleaning test tubes, so it's important research somewhere you'd enjoy working.
The Media Lab is one of the most popular places to UROP at MIT.
2:33 -- Internships are also very popular. MIT has connections with places around Cambridge, Boston, and the world. MISTI (MIT International Science and Technology Initiative) helps send students to other countries to do research with partnering businesses.
D-Lab (Development Lab) is a popular class at MIT that allows students to look at developing countries, think about resources available in those countries, and device solutions that address the issues they're facing. A recent class used a bicycle to cut the corn kernels off of a corn cob so developing countries no longer had to pick kernels off by hand. Wheelchair design is a spin-off class from D-Lab that designs wheelchairs for countries with limited resources. Students in these classes sometimes visit different countries during IAP or the summer.
2:37 -- "Do you need a perfect GPA to get into MIT?" short answer, no. long answer to come.
All undergraduate courses are taught by professors, not graduate students. Graduate students often run recitations (smaller subsets of students that are all in the same large class), but lectures are run by professors. Standard Eric Lander plug (man who mapped the human genome teaches freshman bio, 7.012). Student/Faculty ratio is ~6.8:1.
"Can students start their own research here?" Yes, but you need to get a faculty advisor/mentor to work directly with. It's less common, but can happen.
2:41 -- Social Life: Housing is guaranteed all four years. All dorms are coed but one, all freshmen have to live in the dorms. All the dorms are different (suite style, hallway style, kitchens, cats, murals, etc). After freshman year you can a) stay in your dorm, b) move dorms, c) move into frat, sorority, or independent living group. Many FSILGs are on campus but most are across the river in Boston, accessible via foot, bike, free shuttle, etc). 20% in FSILGs, 70% dorms, 10% off campus.
MIT has over 450 student clubs and organizations (newspaper, radio station, knitting, MITBeef, cultural, religious, performing arts, a capella, MIT chocolate science lab, and underwater hockey club). Boston and Cambridge also afford a lot of exploring opportunities, food, and theaters/shows.
Lastly, athletics. MIT has 33 varsity sports (division 3 except for crew, division 1). 25% of students are in varsity sports, there are also club sports (75%-80% of students are involved in some kind of sport).
MIT is like drinking from a fire hose (so much to do, not enough time to do it all).
2:47 -- Now it's just a Q&A session, which I'll skip, in favor of you all asking questions in the comments and I'll get around to answering them (probably sometime tonight after swimming).
2:50 -- Psych! It's time to talk about admissions and applying. MIT uses "MyMIT" for applications. EA is due November 1, Regular Action is due January 1. EA is non-binding and the only real difference between EA and RA is the date it's due. EA applies sooner and finds out sooner.
MIT has an optional interview as part of the application, conducted by alums who live all over the world. Seniors are assigned an interviewer to chat with. It's not a math test, it's just a chance for an alum to get to know you and report back, think of it more as a conversation. Interviews MUST be scheduled by October 20th. You will be responsible for contacting the interviewer to set up the interview.
2:53 -- Parts: Essays! Now MIT has 3 short essays now instead of one long essay. Students were doing too much story telling and meandering with the long essay so MIT shortened them to get more direct and focused answers to the essays. For the "End of the world" essay, note that it doesn't need to be a life-altering experience. It can just be a time where things didn't go quite as well as you wanted. Don't stress out about having a relatively boring and lackluster life, this doesn't need to be extreme, just some time when you failed or something didn't go well.
2:56 -- What do you enjoy? Stuff like Mythbusters, Red Sox games, Chess, etc. What department are you considering? It's just so they can learn about you, they don't have a quota and they don't make this binding.
Activities: They want to know what you enjoy, what makes your eyes light up, what's most meaningful to you. NO RESUMES! What's meaningful to you now.
Recommendations: Math/Science teacher, Humanities teacher, and counselor.
Academic Record: Which class have you taken (difficulty level), GPA (does it match up with the difficulty and courseload?) and what's your background.
Standardized Testing: SAT I or ACT with writing, with SAT IIs in math and science. "Score Choice" is supported. MIT pulls out the top sections from tests taken multiple times in order to get the best possible scores (Reading from Sophomore year, Math from Junior year, writing from Senior year, for example).
3:01 -- Admit rate ~10%, so it's not easy, but it is possible.
Financial Aid: Need blind admissions (they don't care how much money you have). Scholarships are only given for need, not for academics or sports. Loans are also a big part of financial aid, in addition to work study (UROP, on-campus jobs, etc).
OK, I think that's it. Thanks guys!