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MIT blogger Cami M. '23

Dear prefrosh, by Cami M. '23

a letter to you

Over these past couple of weeks, I’ve had the absolute privilege of working closely with MIT Admissions to help organize CP*, MIT’s virtual take on Campus Preview Weekend. Who knew that the years I spent wasting away on Discord would one day come in handy for something as important as this?

During this time, I’ve been able to talk and spend a lot of time with 2024s and it’s been an absolute joy. I somehow convinced the admissions team that I was trustworthy enough to a) run my own CP* events b) have my own channel to livestream to adMITs and c) host my own Q&A session on MIT Admissions’ official Instagram account.

Running these events and interacting with the prefrosh has been so incredibly rewarding, and it reminds me a lot of my own CPW, though it may be taking place in different forms.

But as CP* rolls to a stop, I really wanted to write a kind of dedicated letter of sorts to the prefrosh since I’ve had a lot of questions in my DMs and asked publicly and on the IG live that I really wanted to address and I guess this is something I really want all of you to read and understand. I would give you all a big, big hug if I could.

Dear Prefrosh:

Firstly, congratulations on being admitted to MIT. I always say this, and it sounds super obnoxious, but you’ve literally been accepted to one of the top universities in the world. My freshman year is ending in a couple of weeks, and I still have moments when I walk past little Dome and feel this tightness in my chest because I’m still in awe that I’m attending MIT.

I’ve talked with many of you, either on the Discord or on Instagram or maybe even Facebook, but I really wanted to sit down and write something that was meant for all of you to read. I’ve been getting a lot of questions and concerns regarding MIT, like:

  • how do I know MIT is right for me?
  • how hard is MIT *really*?
  • i dont know if i’m smart enough to go to mit.
  • how do i cope with impostor syndrome??

And a lot of things within that vein. I thought it might be good to try and write down my responses in one document so someone can read it.

MIT is stressful and I don’t know if I should go because of this. I don’t know if I’m smart enough for MIT.

So, this was something I was really concerned about when I was choosing MIT over USC. I was really concerned that I’d be sacrificing fun and friendships for a degree, but I think you have to understand there’s much more to MIT than its rigor. MIT, yes, is one of the most difficult schools in the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean these next four years are going to be constantly filled with stress.

I had a prefrosh ask if MIT was four years of stress with spurts of fun scattered somewhere in between. I argue that in fact it’s the opposite. Super duper fun, great people, encouraging environment, with moments of stress and doubt and those all nighters you have, etc.

I chose MIT not for its academic rigor, but for the people. The people are what make it absolutely worth it because I guarantee you you will not meet a smarter, more passionate, and diverse group of people. During my CPW, I was hovering between USC and MIT, but when I just started talking to faculty, other adMITs, and upperclassmen, I realized that there was a lot more to MIT other than just this prestige. In fact, while the prestige was nice, that was kind of a minor part of what was attractive about MIT. MIT was the first place I’ve ever gone to where I felt like I could fully just be myself.

I’ve always described MIT as having this specific energy, something you can just feel on campus. It’s this feeling of people at work, constantly thinking and creating and working towards their passions. Every single person on campus I’ve talked to has a passion, and it’s something I really admire about MIT students. And it isn’t always STEM related. While yes, MIT is a very STEM heavy environment, we also have incredible humanities and people who are passionate about the humanities. We have talented musicians, dancers, artists, writers, and many more who find ways to demonstrate their creativity and love for art in so many ways on campus.

The people are what make it worth it and you have to understand that MIT is a collaborative environment. It’s incredibly difficult so you understand that you need to collaborate, work with others, and rely on your peers and classmates to succeed. It’s a way to teach you that you aren’t alone and that your weaknesses can be someone else’s strengths, and your strengths can be someone else’s weaknesses.

I want to remind each and every one of you that MIT accepted you because they know you can handle the rigor and are up to the challenge. And please remember that no one ever has to go through MIT alone. It’s just not how the school works.

I was someone who entered MIT expecting to struggle a lot. And, in fact, I ended up struggling way more than I originally anticipated. I’m not gonna sugarcoat it — there were nights where I’ve stayed up staring at code because I just didn’t understand, or days where I’ve just thrown my pset at the ground and just started crying. But in these moments where I’ve struggled, I was never alone and I was able to push through it.

Yes, MIT is rigorous, but there’s no one actively out there wanting to see you fail. I’ve told my professors so many times that I can’t complete an assignment because I’m overwhelmed or just straight up said “I have no idea what’s going on in lecture, can you help?” and they will take time out of their schedules to help me. Even with undergraduate TAs, who have their own busy lives to attend to, check in on me via Messenger or Twitter because they knew I was struggling with the class earlier and wanted to see my progress. Overall, it’s just such a super encouraging environment unlike any other that makes up for those moments of difficulty I’ve encountered. And in these moments where I did think I was stupid or unqualified, I was able to find support in my peers and in the class faculty and they helped me push through it and showed me that I am, in fact, qualified and smart enough to get through it.
I don’t have a great STEM background and I don’t have experience in the major I want to pursue.

I originally applied to MIT as a bioengineering major (Course 20). It was only recently (in January) that I realized I wanted to switch and try and pursue computer science instead…

With no computer science experience whatsoever.

I took 6.145, an expedited Introduction to Programming via Python class, and it was so hard for me because I had no experience coding in Python whatsoever. It was really disheartening at first to see my friends finish the code in a couple of hours where it would take me a couple of days to get there.

But something that I later learned that I really want to tell all of you is that MIT doesn’t expect you to have all the experience or skills already. They didn’t accept you because you had those skills, they accepted you because they knew you had the capability to get there, and MIT is going to provide you those very resources to do it. Yes, it sometimes gets really hard when you’re struggling with a pset or problem that others seemed to finish really fast, but you have to understand that MIT is not a competition or a race against your peers. It’s, well, it’s more like a collaborative adventure. Your peers are there to help you and offer you guidance where you struggle, and when they struggle, you can do the same.

Coming from a cutthroat competitive high school, it was really hard for me to start asking for help and be “okay” when I couldn’t catch onto a concept quickly — high school just didn’t program me like that. But at MIT, I’m slowly learning that it’s okay to be bad at things. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to make mistakes. There is no one at MIT that wants me to fail. There is no one at MIT I’m competing with. Instead, I’m here to improve and grow as an individual and as a student, and I will learn at my own pace.

Is MIT accepting?

Absolutely. I think one of the great things about MIT is the presence of counterculture on campus, like East Campus and Random Hall. It was something incredibly unique to MIT that I didn’t really find at any of the other universities I applied to. Everyone at MIT was so open and accepting of people’s identities and passions that I felt so at ease and at home. There’s an incredibly warm and welcoming LGBTQ+ presence on campus, as well as so many cultural groups waiting here for you. I was one of the only Filipino kids in my high school, and coming on campus and hearing people speak Tagalog to one another and bringing each other adobo and bulalo was really heartwarming. Also, I moved onto a floor (Loop) that is historically Very Very Queer, which was really exciting for me. It was so nice to hear people just openly talk about being and being women loving women without any repercussions. In some dorms, we’re able to just paint our rooms whatever we want, we have pride flags hanging around, we thirst after girls and talk about how pretty they are. It’s just…incredible to just feel understood and accepted in a way I never really was before.

Is everyone at MIT nerdy…? I don’t want to go to school with a bunch of nerds.

I guess if you define passionate about something, then yes, MIT is full of nerds and we are a nerd school. But also we have thriving social lives and some of the best parties, if not the best parties, in the Boston-Cambridge area. MIT kids practically invented the saying “Work hard, play harder” because I have never known a school to go as hard as MIT does.

East Campus built a whole fucking carnival from scratch for Resident Exploration Week (REX), with a functioning train station. They built a rollercoaster in past years. We’ve pulled hacks on campus where we put a literal police car on top of the big dome. I not know what else to tell you. MIT may be filled with a bunch of nerds, but when you gather a bunch of 18-23 year old nerds in a dedicated space, it results in a lot of wild happenings. A lot of them.

In conclusion

I love MIT. Obviously I’m biased, because I go here, and I wish everyone could experience the magic that is MIT. But all I can really do is just tell you and show you and hope that you believe me. I know MIT is not for everyone, but for anyone who was on the fence, I hope this cleared some stuff up for you! My DMs are always open (either on Discord or Instagram or Facebook or my email which you can find on my blogger page) if you want to talk more about decisions and making the right decision and seeing if MIT is the place for you.

But all in all, I just wanna give you all a big hug because I know times have been tough. Your senior year was canceled, graduation was canceled, prom was canceled, and now you have to choose where you’re going in these next four years without the opportunity to even visit and have face to face interactions. But I’m really proud of all of you for taking it all in stride and riding along with our weird idea to host events virtually and thank you for being so accommodating and understanding when we have our mess-ups. Giving tours of MIT on the Minecraft server and talking with all of you have been some of my most favorite memories ever and I cannot wait to meet you when we’re on campus next.

Good luck with decisions, I know it’s tough, but I believe in you and I know you’ll go to the place that fits you best!!! Sending you all the love in the world.