MIT Admissions

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Jessie L. '07

Jun 2, 2006

“Why does my kid have to move again?”

Posted in: Life & Culture

Before I get to the point of this entry, I'll answer a couple of questions.

Karen asks:

"This is a bit random and irrelevant to your entry, but I was wondering.

What's the policy on non-MIT-students being in/visiting the dorms?"

I found the official policy here.

Students are allowed to have guests, not to exceed three nights in any given week. Overnight guests are permitted in Institute Housing with the advance permission of all students of the room/suite in which the guest is staying. The host student(s) is (are) responsible for the conduct of her/his guests including damages caused by them. Students within Institute Housing are collectively responsible for their own conduct as well as the conduct of their guests. Sleeping overnight in the public areas of a House (e.g., lounges) is prohibited. Consideration should be given to the rights of roommates at all times.

Personally, I can't recall having heard of anyone being hassled over a guest. Just use common sense.

Viksit asks:

"resp. mam,
i am an international student from INDIA.i have always been academically brilliant. i did my 10th in ICSE with 90.4%.but my 12th was not upto the mark.(i have applied for improvement for my 12th this year).i am an NTSE scholar.since i completed my senior secondary in 2004 i have been helping my dad in our family business.
now i want to apply to some top us universities for my bachelors in mechanical eng.,MIT being my foremost preference followed by CALTECH and PRINCETON.i am expecting a SAT score of above 2300.
what are my chances of admission to can i improve them.?
any help would be highly appreciated."

Viksit, I can't tell you what your chances are of admission to MIT, because there's no formula that I can just plug someone's stats into, much as College Confidential and the like might lead you to believe otherwise. Your stats sound like you are smart enough to do the work, so you should think whether you are a fit with MIT's culture. MIT's culture, in my observation, encourages risk-taking, passion, perseverance, resilience, and using one's knowledge and skills in a hands-on way. Stress something more unique than your stats on your application - good stats speak for themselves, use your space to tell Admissions something they wouldn't know otherwise.

And now, on to the point. By now, I suspect that a lot of my readers are incoming freshmen and their parents. One of the aspects of MIT life that tends to confuse these groups of people is the housing system, and how it works. The question that is the title of this entry is asked by dozens of parents every year, bewildered that their child doesn't know where he or she is going to be living next year when their neighbors' child who is attending the local state school already knows his or her building, room number, and roommate.

Read on, and I'll give you an answer...

At MIT, your living group is more than where you live. It's a way of life, a community, different from the multitude of other communities available. The admin-speak buzzword, which has become a joke amongst the student body, is "microcommunity", as opposed to the campus-wide community, which is the "macrocommunity". I've written a number of entries on the importance of microcommunities at MIT, that together will paint a better picture than I would do in a paragraph or two in this entry:

Beyond the Iron Cur...I mean, Mass Ave (The East Campus/West Campus divide)

Classy Celebration, 5E-style (A hallmate's birthday, with lots of pics of my hall and hallmates)

Temp assignments and cautionary tales (Mistakes to avoid as a freshman choosing your living group)

Venturing to far living groups (My adventures at two living groups that aren't my own - one dorm and one FSILG)

Dorm Rush and Hall Rush (Last year's Dorm Rush and my dorm's Hall Rush, in words and pics)

Finding heritage at MIT (If you don't read any of the others, read this one)

The reason that this amazing system is able to exist is that students are largely allowed to choose where they live (there are some exceptions, like the still-controversial decision of a few years ago that prohibited freshmen from living in fraternities, sororities, or independent living groups, but that's a can of worms I'll stay out of for now). Something you chose yourself, with a preexisting culture whose direction you helped shape, and with people you can relate to, inspires more loyalty, passion, and participation than something that was chosen for you, and with the different options available, it would be ridiculous to not allow students to choose - a student could end up in an environment that she found unlivable.

The first step in the process of choice occurs during the summer. Incoming freshmen read descriptions of the different dorms and watch the i3 (Interactive Introduction to the Institute) videos prepared by the residents of each dorm. Many also got to see some of the dorms during CPW. Based on these impressions, they rank the different dorms - or, in the case of the Cultural Houses, parts of dorms - in order of preference. Each freshman is assigned a "temp" room based on these preferences and the availabillity of rooms in different dorms. Last year, everyone got one of their top three choices, and the large majority got one of their top two.

But don't get settled in yet, the fun is just beginning...

The first few days of Orientation are largely dedicated to REX, popularly known as Dorm Rush. This is the time when you are actually choosing where to live - after all, why would you choose a place without having explored your options in person, first? This is when you really get to learn about your options. The dorms have tours, events, and residents available to tell you about what life is like in that particular living group. As Dorm Rush comes to a close, you fill out a form online, where you can either choose to stay in your temp dorm or rank up to three others that you'd rather be in (the Orientation Adjustment Lottery). Even if you stay in your temp dorm, you'll have to switch rooms, so laziness isn't a good reason not to move. Don't worry, on Move-In Day, there'll be plenty of people around to help you with your stuff. A quarter of last year's freshmen at my dorm, East Campus, were temped somewhere other than East Campus. Don't worry about hurting anyone's feelings by moving out - upperclassmen want to see lots of moving around, so that people will be happy with where they chose to live!

After the results of the Orientation Adjustment Lottery come out, and you know what your permanent dorm is, most dorms have an in-house rush where you choose between the different sections of the dorm. These sections lead to an even greater variety of cultures, and also promote a tight-knit feeling, because a hall of 40 will likely be closer-knit than a dorm of 350.

Finally, for many people, the selection process doesn't end with moving in. They rush fraternities, sororities, and/or independent living groups (FSILGs) during scheduled rush periods, or during informal recruitment. Even though you can't live in these as a freshman, you can join them, and if you wish you can move into them as an upperclassman. Greek life isn't just for jocks and "popular" kids here. Some 40% or more of freshmen men join one of the two dozen or so fraternities, a healthy percentage of women join one of the five sororities, and a handful of students of all genders join one of the five ILGs.

Comments (Closed after 30 days to reduce spam)

So my stint on 5E during REX 2004 was against the rules? "Oops." Enjoy being home!

Posted by: Sondy on June 2, 2006

So, how important is it, then, for us to know what dorm we want to be our temp?

Posted by: Drew on June 3, 2006

Thanks for the entry!

Drew, it is important for you to know which dorm do you want to be in now because it's not easy to get into some dorm in the re-adjustment lottery (examples might include EC, Baker among others). If you really know since now which dorm do you want to be in, it's better and easier for you to be able to stay there.
And well, it's easier to move your stuff within the same dorm!

Posted by: Omar '10 on June 3, 2006

do you stay in the same dorm all 4 years?

Posted by: Danielle on June 5, 2006

Comments have been closed.