I am about to head out to do the MIT presentation in Westchester County, having just spent the week in New York City and Long Island, meeting and talking with a lot of students and guidance counselors about MIT. It was a lot of fun. Having grown up in NYC, I love coming back. The only downside was that I had so many meetings I mostly saw the city from inside a subway or a taxi. Some of the other admission staff have written about their travels, I thought I would add a few comments from my trip.
Last Wednesday was a typical day: up at 5:00 am to get a workout in and eat a little something before heading out to get to Stuyvesant for an 8:00 meeting. The chance to eat a real bagel was a treat, and a must for me every time I’m in the city. I spent my high school years making bagels at Slims, in Bayside and Little Neck (Slims, on Horace Harding near Springfield Boulevard, is the place I first saw the joke, “if a seagull flies over the sea, what flies over the bay?” – which I discovered today, before visiting Cardozo, is sadly no longer on the awning.)
Educational Counselors (ECs) Les Cline and Larry Horowitz picked me up at my hotel in mid-town at 7:15 am. We used the entire 45 minutes getting downtown. Les coordinates the alumni interviewers in NYC and Larry coordinates the interviews for Stuyvesant. It was great having them join me on the visit to Stuyvesant. We had the chance to meet a lot of students and answer their questions about MIT. By the way, graduates of MIT’s Architecture department designed Stuyvesant’s new building. Larry, who is a practicing architect in the city, pointed that out in the meeting.
From Stuy we went to over to the United Nations International School, then uptown to Hunter College High School, the Dalton School, and Regis High School. Somewhere in there we grabbed a slice of pizza. As we arrived at Regis we heard the shocking news of Cory Lidle’s plane crash. Regis is not to far from the site of the crash, so there was quite a lot of phone calls being made (and being received) there. After calling home and the office, I went to the meeting accompanied by Les and Tom Nacinovich, who is the EC assigned to Regis. At most of the visits I did, the ECs who interview students were able to join me, which was great. It is not always possible, as our alumni do work and have other commitments, but it was very good for the students to have the chance to meet the alumni who will be doing their interview.
Here I’ll put in a plug for your having the interview. Last year I posted a blog entry on the interview and how to prepare for it. If you haven’t yet set up your interview, you might want to take a look at that posting.
We left Regis at about 4:15 and headed over to the Panorama Restaurant. Darrell Rigel, our EC coordinator for Manhattan, had arranged a dinner for the local area ECs and me. It was a good way for me to talk with our alumni, bringing them up to date on new things this year, and answering their questions. After the dinner, we headed over to Ramaz; the headmaster and staff there were gracious hosts for our NYC area admissions information meeting. The turnout was a bit low, I think due to the pouring rain and the traffic closing on the east side due to the plane crash; there were about 150 parents and students and 18 ECs there. But the crowd was great and I think the questions and discussion would have gone on all night if we didn’t have to leave the facility at 9:30.
This was a typical day (except for the plane crash). Unfortunately, there is no way we can get to all the schools we’d like to. But one thing is clear from talking with the students: with the web, it is much easier for students to learn about colleges and universities. Many of the students I met already knew a fair bit about MIT. It is for this reason that we tend to visit fewer high schools than most other colleges.
One of the questions asked quite a bit this week was how possible is it to balance the tough academic load at MIT with other activities. Mostly I get this question from athletes who want to pursue their sport at a high level, but the same question applies to musicians, or those who want to do any kind of other activity, from writing on the school newspaper to being in student government or being a member of a cultural organization.
I was a varsity athlete when I was at MIT (on the crew) and on top of that I had a job, did research, did well (enough) in my classes, and had a lot of fun. And for a few years after graduating I coached the crew here at MIT, so I have seen hundreds of students come through the program and balance their studies and their athletics.
I actually think that this is easier to do at MIT than at many other places for this very important reason: given the way we do admissions, every single one of our students is academically engaged and serious about their studies. Every one. We don’t admit any students who are not; we don’t make exceptions for legacies, or for athletes, or for any other reason. So the extra-curricular activities have cultures that support students pursuing a rigorous academic course load. This is true in all of our activities, and equally true on our sports teams; and is something that makes us somewhat unique. But I think this is something very special about our MIT programs, and important for you to know if you are interested in pursuing some outside activities (as most students do).
Anyway, to anyone I may have met in NYC, or in Washington DC and Baltimore last month, thanks for your time and your attention and your interest in MIT, and for making my trips so much fun!