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MIT staff blogger Quinton McArthur

Campos on Campus by Quinton McArthur

A True Westside Story

Hey everybody. I must confess that if I were not a college admissions officer, I think that I would have had fun trying to be a journalist. I like to think of myself as someone who asks the tough questions and is not afraid to get to the heart of issues. So in the spirit of Charlie Rose, James Lipton, and Bernard Shaw, I present to you my attempt at journalism.

One of the best things that I have found about the MIT community over the course of my time here is that the students are absolutely incredible. They are some of the most talented, accomplished, interesting, and fun people that I have ever met. Andrea Campos is a senior Course 15 major who has been a campus leader at MIT for the past 4 years. In addition to working in the admissions office and assisting with the recruitment of Black, Latino, and Native American students, she has juggled many roles and been active on campus. Last week, I sat down with Andrea and got a chance to hear what she had to say about her experiences at MIT. Check it out!

So Andrea thanks for sitting down with me to do this interview. I know that you are really busy and involved in a bunch of things on campus, so I really appreciate you finding time to fit me into your schedule.

No problem. I always have time to share my story and tell prospective MIT students what MIT is really about.

Perfect! That’s just what I wanted to hear, so let’s start at the beginning. Where are you from?

I’m from North Hollywood, California, which is in the San Fernando Valley of the greater Los Angeles area. My neighborhood is mostly Latino. It’s the type of place where you can get around just speaking Spanish. There are far fewer Filipino, White, and Black families in my community. I attended Francis Polytechnic High School , which is a public school in Sun Valley with a population over 4,000 students.

How did you get to MIT?

I guess it all really started in middle school. I was doing well in my classes and one of my middle school teachers encouraged me to apply to a math & science magnet school. At the time, I was apprehensive about joining a magnet school and parting ways from my middle schools friends. However, I realized I wanted a more challenging school curriculum and due to proximity to my home, I ended up applying to Francis Polytechnic High School , which had a math, science & technology magnet program.

In 10th grade I heard about a couple of seniors in the magnet program who were the first from my high school to be accepted to universities such as MIT and Stanford. The students who were accepted into those schools had good grades, and I had good grades too, so I figured there was no reason why I shouldn’t be able to get into a top school too.

So in 10th grade, MIT became the dream school. I was interested in civil engineering and architecture. I was very talented at drawing and thought that MIT was a great fit for what I wanted to study.

In my junior year I applied to the MITES program, having no idea about the competitive acceptance rate and prestige of the program, and I was accepted. When I applied, I didn’t mention it to my dad because I knew he would not like the idea of letting me leave home for a whole summer. You have to understand that my parents didn’t go to college and they didn’t know what the MITES opportunity meant. Eventually, after begging and pleading with my dad, he allowed me to attend the MITES program. He warned me not to get too excited though, because he definitely wouldn’t let me go to college all the way across the country!

MITES Summer 2004: Students coming out of dinner at Vinny T’s on Boylston St, Boston with Admissions Officer (Andrea Campos on far right)

MITES was great for me! For the first time, I met students with the same work ethic and level of ambition as me. Once I finished MITES , I knew that if I was admitted into MIT, the experience would be very challenging but I would absolutely have to accept the offer. I loved the place.

Sure enough, I applied to MIT, was accepted, and my parents were extremely opposed to letting me move away to Cambridge, MA. In fact, my whole family (aunts, uncles, cousins, everybody!) was opposed to letting me leave the Los Angeles area. After numerous conversations and explanations about the prestige of MIT, my parents eventually gave me their blessings and approved my plans. It took a lot of work to convince them that attending MIT was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I think they were more afraid I would resent them for not letting me pursue my dreams so they ultimately decided to accept my decision and support me.

Wow! That’s a really incredible story! It sounds like you really had to make the a great case to your family for coming to college 3,000 miles away from home. Were the finances a big issue that your parents were concerned about?

For me, the finances were thankfully not an issue. I had the full tuition paid for by MIT. I also had an outside scholarship to help cover the other costs, so I didn’t have to ask my parents for money. My parents’ concerns were more about their family ideals than anything else. In a traditional Mexican family, the expectation is that a daughter does not move out of her family’s home unless she is getting married. It was unacceptable to allow me to live across the country far from any parental supervision or family presence. Even after my parents came to accept my decision, they still faced opposition from our extended family, but over time I have set the example for my younger cousins, who now aspire to attend college outside of California.

Now, the time has flown by and I am almost ready to graduate!

When you got onto campus, did anything surprise you about MIT?

When I came to CPW (Campus Preview Weekend), I learned about the Mexican American community on campus. I was surprised to find a sizable and vibrant community of Chicana/o and Latina/o students. Initially, I thought that I would be solely surrounded by nerdy, introverted people who I would not relate to. But that wasn’t the case at all. People were very down to earth. Many students were just like my friends back home, but they were also as academically driven and ambitious as I. MIT students are generally down to earth and everybody here has some nerdiness in them.

Student Photography – Winter 2009 by Evelyn Gomez, Class 2010

What do you like most about MIT?

The housing options at MIT are pretty nice. My first three years on campus, I lived in La Casa Castellana (Spanish House), which is a community within the New House Dorm. One of the best things about La Casa is that you will never miss a home-cooked meal, because everyone in the house cooks. Sunday through Thursday, two people are assigned to cook food for the entire house that consists of approximately 30 members. And if you don’t know how to cook, that’s not a problem because we pair you with someone that can teach you!

This past year, I decided to move out of Spanish House. Now I live a ten-minute walk away from campus in a 3-story condominium! I have three other roommates who are MIT and Tufts grad students. One of my roommates is a good friend from Spanish House, so it’s almost like I never left because we always have Spanish House friends over.

Spanish House Group Picture Spring 2005: Andrea Campos (far left, front row) on 2nd floor balcony of Spanish House

That’s pretty special to have home cooked meals while you’re living in a dorm! When I went to college, I would actually have to go to someone’s home who lived in the area for a home cooked meal…..I wish that I had had home cooked meals when I was in college…Nevertheless, I digress. What have you been involved in at MIT?

Since freshman year, I have been heavily involved in LUChA (La Union Chicana por Aztlan), the Mexican-American cultural & social student organization on campus. I served on the executive board as Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President, and President. Now that I’m on my way out, I act as a senior advisor to the organization.

LUChA Chicano Graduation Class of 2008: Seniors w/ Mexican sarape stoles

Early this year LUChA had a big conference at MIT called East Coast Chicano Student Forum. This conference is hosted three times a year by the Chicana/o organizations at different elite east coast colleges. The theme of LUChA’s conference this winter of 2009 was “Desarrollando: Developing our Chicano Communities” and had approximately 150 student attendees. In the primary conference workshop, participants competed in creating their own development projects & proposals and presented them to expert city planners, economists, and other professionals.

[email protected] Winter 2009: Student participants focused on hands-on workshop

[email protected] Winter 2009: Student participants enjoying traditional Mexican meal w/ Jarritos drinks

[email protected] Winter 2009: Live performance by Baile Folklrorico de Aztlan of Harvard University to start off the ECCSF reception

[email protected] Winter 2009: Live performance by Mexican Conjunto from New York City for dance party following the reception

You really have been busy during the school year on campus. What have you done with your summers? Have you had any internships?

Absolutely! I’ve done and internship every year since I have been at MIT. Freshman year I searched for an internship on Craigslist
and found one with a start up company that imported organic food products from all over the world, Essential Living Foods . It was a very hippyish office. It was nice to work at the start up because everything you do can have a really large impact. I created a sales manual for all of the company’s products. I critiqued some of the products. I was a general business, marketing, & accounting intern.

Sophomore year I worked in the human resources department at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne , an aircraft engine manufacturer. I got this internship through INROADS , a nonprofit organization that places talented minority students in internships with different companies so that they can develop corporate and community leadership.

I worked in the Human Resources department and soon realized I wanted to be at the forefront of the company instead. I knew this would not happen if I was a business major working at an engineering company. PWR was still a good experience and I got to go river rafting, see a rocket launch in person, and visit the launch center. It had its perks. They also sent the California interns to the Pratt & Whitney headquarters in Connecticut for a couple of INROADS intern events, which was pretty awesome.

Pratt & Whitney Summer 2007: Andrea Campos (middle, top row) river rafting in Kernville, CA with fellow employees & interns

Pratt & Whitney Summer 2007: Andrea Campos (middle) with fellow interns at INROADS conference in East Hartford, CT, Pratt & Whitney’s headquarters

Pratt & Whitney Summer 2007: Andrea Campos (far right) with fellow interns visiting rocket launch center

Junior year I decided I wanted to work on Wall Street in New York City. I diligently searched for NYC internship opportunities and attended company presentations at MIT. Eventually I received an IAP externship offer for the month of January and had the opportunity to live in Harlem while interning at JP Morgan Chase . I worked hard to do a good job and impress everyone. I worked 12 hours a day and was exposed to the areas of sales & trading, investment banking, and research. Luckily, everyone who I worked with was really nice and helpful. My direct supervisor was an MIT alum, and everybody at JPMC really was open in providing me with advice and perspective on their experiences. At the end of IAP, I was offered the opportunity to return over the summer.

New York City Winter 2008: A night out in Times Square with best friend, fellow MIT student, Maricela Delgadillo (right)

This summer I will be doing finance research for Banco de Mexico in Mexico City. I got this internship through the MISTI Mexico Program , which sponsors MIT students to participate in internships and study programs in some of Mexico’s greatest cities. I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to go abroad and experience the work-life and culture of a different country. I will be living in the very center of the city and hope to come back with lots of stories and pictures!

What advice would you give to a high school student who is interested in MIT?

In general, I think that you should get involved in things that you love or interest you, because you need to be passionate and shine in those areas.

Work hard and be the best at the things you do. Don’t just be a bookworm either; be involved in other things outside of academics. If you have breaks from school, you better be productive with your time and not just veg out at home. Do your research to understand what MIT is all about and figure out if this is a place where you will really fit in. MIT is a place for very talented people who want to change the world through technical fields. Make sure that those fields are what interest you if you are going to come to MIT. Above all else, you better like to work hard because MIT is no joke. You will work hard and play hard. Expect to be challenged here.

8 responses to “Campos on Campus”

  1. nanofreak says:


    tao xiang

  2. Tommy '13 says:

    What a fantastic story! I wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors!

  3. Jon Mitchell says:

    I can sympathize with Andrea about parents not wanting to go to a college too far away. I live in Louisiana, and I’m dead-set to going to MIT in five years from now.

    I digress; thanks for posting this interview Quinton, it was insightful.

  4. Oh my gosh…Quinton. Nice, helpful post…It is great to experience MIT

  5. Jon Mitchell:

    Take it easy and BREATHE SLOW. You seem way ahead of your curve, kid.

  6. ---- says:

    It is not fair that she got a full ride to MIT. Students who are middle class cannot afford the entire MIT tuition, so they are required to take out loans. Why should poor students not be forced to take out loans as well? After MIT the middle class student and poor student will have the same opportunities and therefore the same ability to get a high paying job. The poor students and middle students cannot afford the full tuition, yet only the middle class student is forced to take a loan (which they, the STUDENT) will have to pay back out of their future wages.

  7. Quinton says:

    Hey —-,

    Thanks for weighing in with your post. There are a couple of things that you should know.

    89% of students at MIT receive financial aid
    70% of undergraduates receive either a need-based or merit-based scholarship.
    58% of MIT undergraduates are awarded a need-based MIT scholarship that doesn’t have to be repaid, and the average award is $26,800.
    49% of undergraduates have student loan debt at graduation, and the average debt at graduation is $14,150.

    MIT is continually working to make our education affordable to students from all income levels. As we always have in the past, MIT will work with our students and their families to provide financial assistance that reflects the reasonable assessments of each family’s current need, even when a family’s economic situation has changed significantly since the student was originally admitted to MIT.

  8. irmak says:

    i really liked the answer of this question:
    “What advice would you give to a high school student who is interested in MIT?”
    the answer is so realistic and incentive!!
    thank you very much