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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

April Questions Omnibus 1 by Matt McGann '00

It’s time for more questions and answers!

sailmaker asked, “How many undergraduate students at MIT actually major in subjects other than math and science?”

The Registrar’s office says that 460 students do not have their primary major in science or engineering. I (like today’s birthday girl) was one of these students, majoring in Management, and I had many friends in Urban Studies & Planning, Architecture, Economics, and more.

Of course, many more students double major or minor in a non-science/engineering department.

Michael wrote, “I’m hoping I’ll be able to double-major in 6.2 [note: Course 6 is MIT-speak for Electrical Engineering & Computer Science] (or 6.3, not sure yet), and Musical Theater. The question is, is that possible? I’ve gotten mixed answers from people.”

Yes! Double majors combining a humanities/arts/social science (HASS) Course with a non-HASS Course are among the most logistically easy to complete, since every MIT student must complete 8 HASS classes, including 5 electives. Those electives can be in your HASS major, which goes a long way towards completing the second major. Also, if you stay a 5th year to get your M.Eng. degree in EECS (and many EECS majors do), you can continue towards your second degree in that 5th year.

Niraj wrote, “I have a question about choosing freshmen classes? When do we register for those classes. Are there any requirments or restrictions on those classes? On average how many classes do freshmen sign up for?”

You’ll register for your classes with your academic advisor during Orientation in the fall. Before that, you’ll be introduced to all of your options. Most freshman in their first term take a math class, a physics class, a chemistry or biology class, a humanities/arts/social science class, and a freshman seminar. Don’t worry, your advisor will help you out with all of this.

kiki also wrote, “Matt! Question: I am getting to Boston on Wednesday. What do you reccommend I do in that free time before CPW?”

Well, it depends, do you want to spend it at MIT or not at MIT? At MIT, you might want to check out some classes or maybe swing up to the MIT Museum. Not at MIT, you could take a tour of Fenway Park, walk the Freedom Trail, eat in Chinatown or the Italian North End district, stroll Newbury Street and the Back Bay… and if I knew a bit more about you, I could probably make some good personalized recommendations =)

Ame wrote, “It seems that almost all colleges have chosen May 1st as the last day for admitted students to join the incoming class. However, Harvard says:
‘Because of the late date of our Visiting Program those who wish to delay responding to our admissions offer may have until Tuesday, May 3 at 5:00 p.m. EST.’ What do you make of this? If I haven’t made a decision by May 1st because of the ongoing admitted students weekend, I’ve essentially chosen Harvard because I’ve missed the deadline for MIT! Is this extended deadline just for show? Or does Harvard presume that the MIT admissions office will be kind enough to extend its deadline as well?”

Since May 1st is a Sunday, we’ll be happy to accept decisions postmarked on May 2nd. We will also grant some extensions beyond May 2nd (most commonly for financial aid reasons); contact our office for more details.

Wellar wrote, “H [Harvard] admitted my D [daughter]. But, she’d like to defer the entry of H for personal development in oversea. I am wondering if she can apply MIT later when she changes her mind to apply MIT for tech career rather tan attending H. Does she apply for admission as a regular HS student or a transfer student from H?”

The National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) Statement of Principles of Good Practice says:

Admission, Financial Aid and Testing Policies and Procedures:

Counseling members should:

* counsel students who have deferred admission that they may not be permitted to submit applications for admission to other postsecondary institutions during the deferral year.

If your daughter decides she would like to attend another school, she should write to Harvard and ask to be released from the deferral agreement to apply as a freshman elsewhere, or wait until she has enrolled and apply as a transfer student.

Anonymous asked, “If somebody is offered a place from the waitlist, how long do they have to notify you that they will be attending?”

I don’t know the answer, but I know it is specified in the waitlist-acceptance letter and is relative to the date on which you receive your financial aid package.

timmy wrote, “i was wondering if sports really matter. im a freshman in high school and im going to join tennis team. however i heard that tennis takes a lot of time and i wont have much time to work on school.”

In response, Asli helped me out, writing, “Timmy, I’ve started playing tennis as a freshman (hs). As long as you can manage your time, you will be alright. Actually, it will be a driving force to help you get time management skills if you get involved in it. Personally, I enjoy playing tennis, so the time that it consumes doesn’t bother me at all! (BTW, anything that you will get involved might demand time and effort as anything else, depending on your position) So if you enjoy playing tennis and want to join the team, go ahead!

“In any case, if you get the feeling that being on the team really prevents you from doing work, then you can explore other things you are passionate about.
Basically, the question shouldn’t really be whether you will have time to do schoolwork or not. Unless, of course, you will be over-stretching yourself with a million EC [extracurricular] responsibilities. I think it is more about having the passion to start doing something and pursuing them further while also enjoying yourself!”

Fiona wrote, “so just how big are the “big Saturday night parties,” in general? It appears that MIT has a pretty big party culture, since approx 50% of the male population is involved in frats. Is it very prominent on campus or just part of everything that is going on?”

Also helping me out, “Some crazy sophomore” (presumably at MIT…) wrote, “Fiona – It is important to remember that the “frat” designation by itself doesn’t mean much in the way of party culture here. A lot of the frats are far from stereotypical (as are the parties). They do have a lot of parties, but so do some dorms. I’ve seen everything from “traditional” parties and BBQs to Pink Floyd parties (that one was at a frat) to diners to goth-themed events to a costume party where many guests dressed as their favorite programming language to an Inaugural Ball for a newly-elected dorm president. And 1st East (a hall in my dorm) has a disco dance floor that people around the dorm built with hundreds of hand-sautered LEDs that can be programmed to light up in different color patterns or move to the dancing or music. It’s a nice party attraction!

“To answer the rest of your question, most of these parties are just part of everything else that’s going on. How big a deal any given party is depends on where you live – there’s a core group of people from a few different living groups that tends to come to my hall’s parties.

I might add that while I went to very few fraternity parties while I was a student (a toga party at Theta Xi my freshman year, and a bunch of CPW parties my senior year with my prefrosh, notably including Delta Tau Delta’s Goldfish party). I did attend a good number of sorority events, though. The social scene at MIT is really what you make of it. For me, I preferred smaller groups: going out to eat in Boston, seeing shows & movies on & off campus, playing games, doing intramural sports, and of course all the crazy student government stuff I was involved with. So, Fiona, if big parties aren’t your cup of tea (as they weren’t for me), no worries — it is just one of many parts of the MIT social scene.

“a mother” wrote, “Wow, thanks for all the work matching pre-frosh and hosts! My son heard from his CPW host today. I was disappointed to learn it was someone living in a frat, not a dorm. My son has no interest in living in a frat, and a big part of his going to CPW is to get to see the various dorms and what life is like in them. Does he have to stay in the place his host lives or just dump his stuff there? The frat is across the bridge in Boston: he’s coming a long way to get the feel of dorm life, but won’t be having that experience.”

To which “reply to mother” replied, “A quick note to the mother: I think your son will find that MIT frats do not follow the stereotypical frat image. Certainly there is a social scene exists within the frat community but there is also much more community in MIT frats than in other frats I’ve seen. Also, about 50% of all males at MIT decide to live in frats and it is actually a good housing option.”

To which “a mother” replied, “Thanks for the reply. I realize frats are a valid housing option, and the MIT frats are ‘different’, but still, when a pre-frosh is coming across the country to hang out in the dorms, and he is instead put across the bridge in a frat, it just doesn’t seem right. Save the frats for once the freshmen are on campus: I think pre-frosh should stay *on campus* during CPW, not in Boston at frat houses. Just my opinion…”

I understand and respect your opinion. I can tell you that we didn’t place any students in fraternities, sororities, or independent living groups (FSILGs) if we didn’t think they’d thrive there. Remember, these houses are all made up of MIT students, so it’s not really going to be the Animal House stereotype or anything like that. We want prefrosh to explore all of the dorms, so Saturday is set up as a day of exploring the dorms for all students, no matter who their host is. So your son will have many opportunities to check out the dorms. And, if after trying out the host we assigned things don’t work out, we can reassign him to a dorm host.

I chose to live in Baker House (a dorm) for my 4 years and not join a fraternity or independent living group, though some of these houses would have been very good matches for me. I remember visiting and liking Zeta Beta Tau, Alpha Delta Phi, Epsilon Theta (co-ed), and Student House (co-ed), among others, during my rush period, and in retrospect I realize I could have been happy in probably a dozen different FSILGs. I also could have thrived in probably 8 of the 10 dorms (the 11th dorm, Simmons, was completed after I graduated). There will be many, many places where any given MIT student could fit in and thrive.

Anonymous asked, “Can we expect anything interesting during CPW to reflect Charles and Camilla’s wedding? Pub parties?…”

Well, CPW is a dry weekend, but if you want a fix of jolly old England, you should check out one of the two MIT Abroad panels over CPW. One is Thursday afternoon at 4pm in 4-370, and the other is Saturday at 3pm in that same room. If you attended that panel, you’d learn how you could spend a year at Cambridge University in Cambridge, England through the Cambridge-MIT Exchange (CME) (watch for a forthcoming post about CME). You’d also learn about the MIT International Science & Technology Initiative (MISTI) research opportunities in China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and Singapore. Check it out!

Ann also wrote, “Matt, you said that MIT does pay for some students’ flights to CPW based on financial needs. How do we find out if MIT will pay for our flights or not? Does this apply to students who live in international locations? I badly want to go to CPW, but I live on the opposite side of the earth. Thanks! :)” And cpw wrote, “Matt, if my attendance at cpw is dependent upon whether I can get assistance for transportation, should I call and inform the admissions/fnancial aid office before I register? thanks!” And HappyMITer wrote, “ticket money being reimbursed….how do i go about getting the money back?”

I guess this reply is a little late, though I can tell you that we were unable to sponsor any international transportation to CPW. For the most part, sponsored students were chosen with consultation with financial aid. Students who will be sponsored should have information on the details of the sponsorship; contact our office if you don’t.

“waitlisted” wrote, “you replied to my earlier question by saying: ‘Your entire application from the previous year will be in your application file in the year you apply.’ Does that mean one need not supply new letters of recomendations if nothing changed academically?”

You should submit new recommendations.

gameboyguy13, who is interested in transferring, asks, “If I want to know what I should do in college to … well, improve my chances to get in, what should I do?”

You should get good grades in courses in the MIT core curriculum (calculus, physics, chemistry, biology, humanities), get involved in campus life, and get to know at least one faculty member very well. Otherwise, you should continue to follow your passions.

Nick wrote, “I talked with a friend at MIT about CPW and I planned about a month ago on staying with him. I entered his name on the site, but it never said he had to register (or referenced the host website). Now, the deadline seems to have passed on the registration website. Thoughts?” Alex wrote, “I noticed from the link to the MIT CPW community website that the deadline for hosts to register has passed. I had planned to stay with a friend of mine, too. I talked to her about this maybe a month or three weeks ago, and she agreed. I’ve since e-mailed her and tried to call her, but have not been able to actually communicate with her. Because of her character and the fact it’s spring break, she’s probably off traveling or doing something else supercool-but-without-access-to-the-outside-world
somewhere. Given that our deadline is this Monday, is there anything I should be worried about (by some not-quite-so-random chance, the other friend I have up at MIT literally lives next door to her, even though they didn’t know each other before MIT. She has offered to put me up, too. If there really is a problem, I can still go and change my own registration. Given what I know of MIT, I don’t think that’ld be necessary, but I figured I’d check)?” Thomas wrote, “In my planning to attend CPW I called one of my friends who is a student at MIT. Although he was willing allow me to stay with him, he was wondering if there was anything he had to register or if I puting his name into the registration form is enough. Thanks.”

You may all stay with your friends if you wish. Please work this out with your assigned host and your hoped-for host, and inform us as soon as possible of any changes.

“I think therefore I am” wrote, “[Matt wrote,] ‘I don’t believe that in any the four years I’ve worked here that every RSI student was admitted. Those who are admitted to RSI have many of the same qualities we look for in MIT applicants, but there is no “magic ticket” for MIT admissions.’ But Matt, don’t forget that getting into RSI (while not a ticket for any college) is a huge accomplishment! The fact that CEE choose only 75 juniors out of a pool of over 2000 applicants should help during the admission process, don’t you think? I also noticed (from a post by a fellow college forum member) that MIT turned down 2 rickiods up until now.I s this figure accurate?”

Cogito, you don’t have to tell me that admission to RSI is extremely difficult, as I sit on the domestic admissions committee and saw the fantastic students that weren’t admitted. The admitted students are certainly very, very good. That being said, RSI and MIT admissions are different. You can tell this by comparing the applications to RSI and to MIT. Also, the MIT admission statistic you cite is inaccurate, severely understated. As I wrote in the previous questions post which you quoted above, “Those who are admitted to RSI have many of the same qualities we look for in MIT applicants, but there is no ‘magic ticket’ for MIT admissions.”

Eric wrote, “I am a newcomer to this forum and not applying until next year. I was wondering how MIT views SAT scores. Is it possible to get in with a lower SAT score, or does MIT automatically dismiss you. (I applied to RSI and didn’t get in, I presume it is because of my SAT’s.) Is there anything that you would recommend for me to start doing over the summer in preparation?”

Jane W helped me out by responding, “Eric, welcome to the blogs! Whatever you may hear from other schools and people, scores are not everything. Look over some archives to get a better perspective from Matt himself. Especially check out this one: “What’s the big deal about 40^2?”

Thanks Jane! I might also add, in response to Eric’s second question, that we just hope that you’ll use your free time in the summer well, since time is your most valuable resource. You definitely don’t have to do any kind of formal summer program. Many of our admitted students worked last summer, some travelled, some took classes, some took care of their younger siblings, some rebuilt old cars. Use your time wisely and as you best see fit.

“Accepted at RSI” wrote, “I am so excited to hear about my acceptance to RSI 2005! I have one question, though. Were you involved in international RSI Admissions? (did you also happen to come through my application during selection…j/k about that one). Is there anyway to get in touch with other RSIers? I am looking forward to at least chat with them.”

Hi Accepted, I wasn’t involved in RSI international admissions. I don’t know of any formal way of being in touch with other “Rickoids” before the program, but you could try contacting CEE.

Helen asked, “Quick question… what exactly is HowtoGamit and where can I get a copy of it?”

To which Michael replied, “HowToGamit is distributed free of charge to all incoming undergrads (in the fall, I think). It’s basically a guide written by students for students (not sure if Administrators have anything to do with writing it) about all the nooks and crannies of MIT life.” And “Some crazy sophomore” added, “Michael’s got the right idea. It’s an extremely comprehensive guide to student life at MIT that is given free of charge to incoming freshmen each fall and can also be bought at the Coop. It is staffed pretty much by students and young alums, and is not an administrator-produced book.”

Ann continued the thread by writing, “Hey, cool! Will How to GAMIT be mailed after enrollment or given after you’ve arrived on campus?”

To which Michael correctly replied, “I believe howtogamit will be given out to the freshmen who enroll either during freshman orientation or during the first few days of classes.”

jtron wrote, “matt–out of curiosity, i was wondering whether you gave some of the information sessions this summer. i have been reading your blog now for about six months, yet it wasn’t until the other day that i realized you may have been the one who did the session i was at. the guy i saw talked for a bit about some canoli’s he picked up in a boston italian place, i believe. although irrelevant, i think it would be cool if i had been reading this blog for so long and not known that i had met the person writing it.”

Yeah, jtron, that was me… in July, right? Mmm… Modern Pastry (and Mike’s Pastry)… super yummy.

kiki wrote, “Matt! Btw thanks for the blog. I’ve been reading it (and today I was crazy enough to post) and it’s helped a whole lot. Will you be at CPW, and if so, where and when? I’m not stalking! Just wanna say howdy.”

I’ll be at CPW basically the entire weekend (with a few trips home for sleep). I’ll be busy most of the time (I’ll be at Registration for most of 9am-4pm on Thursday), but Saturday night there will be the (somewhat embarrassing) Meet the Bloggers party. It will be on the 3rd floor of the Student Center starting at 8:15pm. We plan to have root beer floats!

CPW Weather Watch: Thursday, 50% chance of rain (evening: 70%); Friday, 50% chance of rain in the morning; Saturday and Sunday, no longer a threat of rain.

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