Jul 10, 2018
Proposed: MITAdmissions Labs
Earlier this year, I blogged about how we are redesigning MITAdmissions.org. We still are, and it's going well. I think we're meeting most of the goals we set in the bullet points at the bottom of that blog. But there's one in particular I've kept turning over in my head:
how to help prospective students (and their parents) more clearly envision their potential experience at and after MIT
As I thought about this, I kept on thinking about how student projects like Courseroad and Firehose have added so much value to current students understanding MIT. So I fired up the old email client and sent the following email to dormspam:
Hello, fellow kids --
As you may know, we are redesigning mitadmissions.org (and sfs.mit.edu) this summer, and I am overseeing the projects. We are working with Upstatement, who designed the new SoS website and forthcoming new mit.edu. I like working with Upstatement, and I think their new website for us will be very good. Indeed, I am worried about it being too good.
I see two core challenges ahead of us that I want to solve before we launch in September:
* Maintaining/extending the weird, fun, "students just made this for you" aesthetic that characterizes the blogs tonally
* Helping prospective students better understand the really-hard-to-understand-until-you-are-here stuff about MIT, like what you'll study, where you'll live, who you'll meet, and who you'll become
The idea I have is something I've been thinking of as "MITAdmissions Labs," or "MITAdmissions Beta," or possibly "MITAdmissions, but bad ideas." The idea is to solicit student-made web interactives that could be embedded in our new site (or, depending on what's needed technically, linked to at like labs.mitadmissions.org/badidea1) and presented to prospectives as like "here, this is a fun thing that may help you understand MIT," not only in the literal way but also at the cultural level. Think firehose, but not necessarily as useful.
I want these to be your ideas, not mine, but to give you the kind of thing I'm thinking about, here are some of the ideas I've jotted down:
* A magic 8 ball that, when clicked, pulls a random class out of the catalog, or club from ASA list
* An alethiometer that tells you what dorm to live in (could be forked from this which I'm involved with)
* A personality test that generates an RPG-style MIT student character/bitmoji for you with hairstyle, dorm location, major, virtue, vice, etc
Or whatever. I'm really pretty open to linking to...almost anything, so long as it in some way could be argued to help make MIT more understandable to prospective students, whether or not it does so in the most straightline manner possible...
If you want to be involved with any of this, and help figure it out, or have suggestions for what to do in the future, let me know, and add yourself to [email list] to be involved or simply know about next steps.
Hope you're having a good summer!! Drink water, it's p. great.
Since then, a few dozen students have joined a mailing list and Slack channel to work on ideas. I don't know what will come out of it, or what we'll launch with, but this approach seems Correct and I hope it works. If you have any
bad ideas suggestions about what might be built, feel free to slam them into the comments below!
(p.s. before you ask, we probably won't link to prospective student projects, because I feel like that would create weird expectations that I don't want. But I do want your weird ideas, very much so!)