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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

April Questions Omnibus 2 by Matt McGann '00

Today’s interesting read: Jay Mathews’ Washington Post column on merit aid (free registration required)

On to the questions…

FWD wrote, “I’m so confused. MIT has a beaver? But so does Caltech.”

Right. The Beaver, nature’s engineer, was adopted as MIT’s mascot in 1914 (my googling skills weren’t good enough to figure out when Caltech adopted the beaver). Other schools that are the Beavers include Oregon State U, hockey powerhouse Bemidji State U, Boston-area business college Babson, and the City College of New York.

Just curious wrote, “This has probably already been answered, but how do we send in our replies to get it in by May 1? Can we fax it to the office on that day?”

May 1 was the postmark deadline, which has now been extended to May 2. You may also fax it to our office, but we prefer to get it in the mail since it is easier to read.

Sylvia asked, “sorry about the unrelated question, but are you going to phoenix for ISEF this year?”

Yes! I’m looking forward to the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair (ISEF) next month. I’ll be around the public viewing on Thursday morning, and we’ll probably have an MIT reception Thursday afternoon (details to be announced).

Maybe MIT wrote, “I got into MIT and am deciding between schools right now. Quick question, I heard MIT has days off so that people don’t commit suicide. Is that true???”

MIT does have at least a three day weekend every month (see last weekend’s four day weekend). While these are sometimes referred to by students as “mental health days,” this is a fairly common term (Google “take a mental health day” to see what I mean). It’s nice to have a long weekend to decompress, to the relax, to think about the big picture, to reflect on what you’re learning.

To zoom out to your larger question, suicide and mental health are big issues on every college campus. If you are concerned about this issue, I highly recommend you read this article from Sunday’s Boston Globe (free registration required) which gives a good overview of the problem and the steps that universities, including MIT, Harvard, and Columbia, have taken to address it.

Hezus asked, “When will MyMIT be updated for 2006/2010 admissions? When will the 2006/2010 application be available? If I’m applying early action, should I submit Part 1 as soon as the new application is available, even if that’s in the summer?”

MyMIT will change for the Class of 2010 this summer (perhaps July?). The paper application will be available on campus in the early-to-mid summer and will be mailed to all rising seniors sometime after that. We recommend you submit your Part 1 early, but it need not be in summer.

Yali wrote, “I’m still in the college choosing and I am thinking if we can set up sth like a Yahoo group to help us (admitted students and current students) better communicated, because now I seems cant find much information as I cannot come to visit:(….”

Yali, there’s a bunch of stuff you should check out. The admitted students resources, including the guestbook, on the MyMIT portal are pretty snazzy. Also, there is a very active AOL Instant Messenger chat room for the MIT Class of 2009. Also, we’re happy to get you in contact with current students if that would help, too. Is there anything else that would help you?

Transfer Student wrote, “This is kind of offtopic, but Matt, would it be possible for you to tell us what the status is of Transfer applicants at this point? Have people begun reading our applications and making our E3 cards or is everything still being sorted? Does MIT sends out a “We got your application,” or “We got everything but are missing X document,” letters? Also, I know you are not directly involved, but will you be able to tell us when our applications go to Committee? Of course other insights will be appreciated as well :)” Sean
wrote, “Matt, I noticed that an SAT II is still required for transfers, any Idea (I know you aren’t as involved with that as undergrad) how much weight that would carry? I understand transfers are difficult, but when did I ever let that stop me from trying?*grin*”

I’m sorry that I’m not able to provide all that much insight into the transfer process. I do know that the transfer applications are currently being reviewed, and that we expect to continue the trend of the past few years of accepting a very small number of transfers. As far as test scores go, we consider them in the same way that we do for freshmen admissions (see previous entries for more info on that).

Jim Elephunk wrote, “CPW was awesome. MIT was way better than I expected. I have a lot of options for college (harvard, brown, stanford, tufts, etc) but CPW definitely put MIT up on top of my list. I always knew MIT had the best academics, but after CPW I can see that the social scene is awesome too. Everyone was really nice and only about 10% of the people I met fit the classic MIT nerd stereotype. Most people were amazingly fun and outgoing, just way smarter than the average person haha.”

This isn’t a question, but I thought I’d pull this comment up to this post since I know many students who have said the same thing. I was also in the camp of students who had concerns about the non-academic aspects of MIT until visiting.

amrik wrote, “Bhangra! Bruaaah!! Chak de!”

Again, this wasn’t a question, but did get me to finally look up the meaning of the phrase “chak de,” which I’ve heard many times but never exactly understood. My googling now tells me that it means “cast it off,” or “let it go,” or “throw it.” Anyone can feel free to help me with my translation. In any case, I’m most familiar with the phrase in song, as “Chak De” was a hit song from the very cute Bollywood movie Hum Tum starring Rani Mukherjee and Saif Ali Khan (I’ll be recommending this soundtrack to Kiersten). You can see the trailer for the film, set to “Chak De,” at this link.

unhappy_waitlister wrote, “I was waitlisted at MIT and I just wanted to know approximately how many people were waitlisted, is the list being ranked, is it probable that MIT will turn to the waitlist this year as stats show that they havent in the last two years.”

Between 400 and 500 students were waitlisted. The list is not ranked. I have no idea if we’ll go to the waitlist this year — in 2001, we took more than 150 students off of the waitlist, while in the last two years we haven’t taken anyone. We’ll know more in the beginning of May, after all of the admitted students return their reply forms.

FWD also wrote, “Every college acceptance letter says vague things like, “You must maintain your current excellent academic standing.” What defines excellence? Would MIT (or most other colleges) withdraw their acceptance if we were to get a 3.0?” apricotcordial wrote, “um, would MIT revoke my admission if my gpa fell to a 3.9 (if it was a 4.4 before?)…its still A’s and B’s…it just happens to have B’s now…?”

Everyone’s final grades are evaluated individually, and not by strict GPA. We hope you’ll continue to get good grades through the end of your senior year. I think it would be unlikely that we’d withdraw our acceptance over some Bs, but grades lower than that will definitely get people’s attention. Also, we won’t unilaterally withdraw an acceptance without being in touch with you first to figure out what’s going on. Basically, it comes down to: enjoy your senior year, but don’t slack off.

Anonymous wrote, “How are 2~3 B’s in non-math/science classes seen as to an admissions officer?”

I’ve written before that we’re not looking for perfection. One does not need straight As to get into MIT. Some Bs are okay. Plenty of folks who were admitted and comment in this very blog can attest to that fact.

Eric wrote, “I have another question about the admissions testing. I was thinking about the ACT but was not sure if this would put me at a disadvantage. I saw that the number of students accepted with the ACT is a lower than the SAT, is this because MIT does not like the ACT, or, is it because less students applying take the ACT? I hate having to put so much thought into tests :( Any help would be appreciated.”

We honestly have no preference between the SAT and ACT. For whatever reason, fewer applicants submit ACT scores (as a few quick points of comparison, MIT and Stanford have the same percentage of ACT submitters, 23%, Yale is at 20%, Cornell 17%).

Anonymous wrote, “It might sound dumb, but is being reserved/quiet seen as a bad thing by admissions officers? Of those you know @ MIT, how many would you consider quiet/reserved? Also, how does self-studying AP’s look like to the admissions officers?”

We look for people who are collaborative, who are good mentors & role models, who will be good roommates, who take initiative, who look to be leaders in some way. We know that students who are quiet can just as easily have these traits as outgoing people. There are many types of people at MIT, some quiet, some very outgoing. For the most part, it’s easy to find and associate with like-minded people through your living situation on campus, in your study groups, in your student groups.

Interestingly, I just read an article in the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Journal of College Admission by Thomas Hanley, the college counselor at the Loyola School in New York City, about this very question. He ends with this final paragraph: “Who might we be seeing in this year’s applicant pool? A future Lincoln, Gandhi, or Emily Dickinson – socially inhibited or demure people destined for greatness? Indeed, the evaluation of the intellectual and social skills of applicants in the college admission process is fraught with complexities of all kinds. It is crucial to remind ourselves of the unbridled potential of our youth – both the dominant and the meek.” You can read the entire article here.

Anonymous also wrote, “How does self-studying AP’s look like to the admissions officers?”

I wouldn’t self-study APs just to impress us. Sometimes this is a very good educational option for students, like in schools with few AP offerings or for homeschooled students. For some students, though, I think the time spent self-studying for an AP might be better spent playing basketball, doing research projects, spending time with family. It depends on your situation. Talk to your teacher-mentors and ask what they think.

MiT? wrote, “Matt, just wondering whether you could talk about the different student cultures at Harvard and MIT. I’m choosing between the two schools and one of the factors I’m considering is the social scenes at the schools and the overall student happiness. I read online the other day that Harvard students are generally unhappy. Is this true? Does it hold for MIT students as well? I would really appreciate a response. Thanks Matt. Look forward to seeing you.”

I don’t believe Harvard students are unhappy. In fact, I’d say generally Harvard students are happy and satisfied with their experience. Yes, there was a story about how some of Harvard’s consortium data was released, and that their “satisfaction” mean was lower than their peer group mean. But these things have a lot of data, and the mean of one question doesn’t tell you all that much. I’d be interested in response rates, trends, distributions, etc. Furthermore, I’d say that MIT students are also happy and satisfied with their experience. Harvard is a great place for some people. MIT is a great place for some people. I hope you’ll get a chance to experience both cultures and decide where you’ll fit best.

nghi wrote, “what advice do you have for all the premeds out there that have to be very grade-conscious and are in fear of attending MIT because they feel like they will have a lower chance of getting into medical school?”

Maybe I just had super-smart friends, but I didn’t know a single person at MIT who didn’t get into a very good medical school. My friends are/were at Harvard, Harvard/MIT HST, Duke, Mount Sinai, Chicago, Pitt, Tufts, NYU, BU, Baylor, and Stanford for medical school. Some are doing MD/PhD, most doing straight MD. Remember that MIT allows anyone to be premed and apply for medical school (it’s not a school that only presents statistics of their “pre-screened” candidates; also, the statistics include grad school students and alums as well as undergrads). Also remember that while grades are very important, medical school admissions committees *DO* know what classes/schools are rigorous. Just like undergraduate admissions, medical school transcript evaluations aren’t done in a vacuum.

I’ve found MIT to be a pretty supportive place of premed students as well. I’m told our premed advising is actually one of the best around, and the student premed group, AMSA, is active and produces a very helpful MIT Premed Guide (PDF, and meant to be printed out double-sided).

nghi asked, “Is it okay if I take 8.01, 18.01A, and 7.03, and a HASS? Or do most people take 5.111 in the fall and 7.03 in the spring.”

To which “Some crazy sophomore” helped me out by replying, “Most people take 5.111/5.112/3.091 in the fall and 7.013/7.014 in the spring. But 7.03 is only offered in the fall. If you want to take 5.111 when most people do, you might consider taking 5.12 in the spring instead of 7.03. You could also try to get into 7.02 in the spring, if you’re planning to be a bio major, but as a frosh you’d have a harder time getting into it because they give preference to older students.”

North coast Dad wrote, “Matt, first thanks for Blogging, Can you share any insight on when the notices for the MITE2S program will be sent?”

Sorry for the lag time in answering questions… MITE2S decisions have been sent. It was very competitive this year (lower admission rate than MIT freshman admissions, I believe).

Anonymous asked, “Do you have more information about the orchestra/band @ MIT? (I play the clarinet)” And FWD asked, “When do incoming freshmen audition for select groups like chamber choirs?

You’ll audition for musical groups after you arrive on campus, probably in early September. You can learn more about music at MIT and our music groups at many places on the web, including the Office of the Arts website. Also, you should definitely swing by the Music Department office when you visit campus.

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