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MIT staff blogger Ben Jones

Fall Travel Day 7: Philly by Ben Jones

Part 4 of my Fall Travelogue.

At the end of my last entry, I was sitting in the Tampa airport waiting to board my flight to Philly. The flight was uneventful, and I landed in Philly around 10PM.

After getting my luggage, I took the shuttle to Budget where my rental car was supposed to be waiting for me. I’d reserved a low-profile Taurus or somesuch. After hitting it off with the Budget guy, he remarked “the car you reserved isn’t ready at the moment, but I’m going to hook you up with something better for the same price. You’re in spot A-12.”

Okay, I thought. A midsize instead of a compact? Great, whatever.

Then I reached spot A-12.

Sitting in said spot was a brand new, gleaming silver Ford Mustang GT, which I was getting for the price of a subcompact.


I opened the door and was flooded with “new car smell.” Delicious. I got in, turned the key, and heard that throaty roar that makes the Mustang V6 famous. Bliss.

And then I thought about all of the places I’d be traveling in the next five days, some of them not the most car-friendly spots in the world. And I’d be leaving this car for hours at a time on busy city streets, where dings and scratches are practically inevitable. And truth be told, somehow I just don’t trust myself with a ~$40,000 automotive masterpiece.

“It’s not you; it’s me,” I said to the car. “This just isn’t going to work out.” I think she understood.

I turned the car off, shed a tear, and headed back into Budget. I can hear all of you collectively booing me. It’s okay, I deserve it. My 5-year-old Pontiac Grand Am and I are feeling more secure on the streets of PA and NJ, however. And the story isn’t over – the Mustang GT and I will meet again someday. When I’m a little older. ;-)

My mom lives in Philly so I’m staying with her to save MIT some money (and sleep in my old bed). I got to her house around midnight and she’d made dinner for me – aren’t moms awesome?

Sunday night was the Philly central meeting. I had dinner with two of the Philly EC’s, Mark and Steve, at a nice mexican place close to Germantown Academy (where the meeting was taking place).

We were in Germantown’s Arts Center theater, and thank heaven we were, because 500+ people showed up. The theater holds 514, and there were an additional 65 folding chairs there, and still I could barely find an empty seat. The EC’s were enormously helpful (we had six in total) and I think that generally folks had a good time at the presentation.

My mom came to see her kid in action and really enjoyed herself. She gave me some good feedback on my presentation – two things to be exact. I’ll clarify them here in case any of you Philly folks are reading this.

1) When I’m talking about MIT athletics and I show the pic of the cheerleaders, I say something like “MIT cheerleaders are beautiful and smart.” My mom thinks that this makes me sound like a dirty old man. For the record, I include this in my presentation because I am still annoyed by the CC thread from last year in which someone said that MIT cheerleaders must be unattractive because MIT students are smart, and that smart and beautiful are mutually exclusive. Grrrr. I denounce that statement every chance I get, and that’s why I bring it up during central meetings – not because I am a dirty old man.

2) At the end when I talk about the advancement of women in science and engineering fields being a big priority for MIT, and then talk about Susan Hockfield embracing this, my mom thinks it could be misinterpreted – that people might think that I’m saying Susan Hockfield was chosen foremost because she is a woman. No no no no no no no no! I wholeheartedly apologize to anyone who misunderstood me. To clarify, the point I was trying to make is that Susan Hockfield was the best candidate by a landslide, and the fact that she also happens to be a woman reinforces the fact that women overwhelmingly belong in science and engineering fields as much as their male counterparts do. The world simply needs to do more to encourage them at a younger age. And what better place for that movement to start than at MIT, under the direction of Susan Hockfield.

The reason that I feel compelled to address this issue at my info sessions should be obvious, but in case it’s not: (1) MIT has a history of being male-dominated, and though this has changed in the last couple of decades (class of ’09 is 47% women), the negative stereotype persists, and (2) frankly, women are (in general) not encouraged from an early age to dream of places like MIT in the same ways that men are, and I think that is criminal.

So hopefully I’ve cleared those two things up a bit. (Thanks mom for the feedback!)

Woke up early this morning and had three great school visits in Philly today. More on those in the next entry – I think this one is long enough. :-)

20 responses to “Fall Travel Day 7: Philly”

  1. Mollie says:

    “When I’m talking about MIT athletics and I show the pic of the cheerleaders, I say something like ‘MIT cheerleaders are beautiful and smart.'”

    Hee. This made my day.

  2. Ben says:

    Thanks Mollie. grin I knew that you of all people would understand, since you were the one fighting the good fight in that very thread.

  3. Mike says:

    I was at the GA session with you! and afterwards I went to the Mexican place! Then I got to drive home on my learner’s permit! It was a great night. My mom really got a kick out of the washing machines that were wired to the internet. It was a great presentation, good work!

  4. Great reports, Ben: sounds as if you’re doing a terrific job on the presentations! And given the attendance you’re reporting and the enthusiastic questions, I am going to make a prediction: y’all are going to have *WAY* more applications to read and consider this year!

    You heard it here first. smile

  5. Merudh says:

    hey ben,

    seems like you are getting closer to your NJ visit…tmrw!!! I’ll come by and say hi =)

    anyway, so how do I go about getting one them mit blogs…

    …they seem way cooler than xanga lol

    the first thing (if i get into MIT) I’m gonna ask for is a blog thing.

    very informative + shows that people at MIT are great people with interesting lives

    I was surprised that someone from my own school district (MCVSD) *cough* laura got into MIT… this means that our district is on MIT’s radar woot!

  6. Mike Axiak says:

    Ben, awesome job!

    Hope you’re having fun on the road. ‘Tis sad you had to practice prudence when given the Mustang. . .

    Mike – The washing machines are better when you can use them tongue laugh.

  7. Kenechi says:

    Ben, u did an amazing job!

    I was at the GA presentation. It was so funny, I’m still cracking up from all the videos and the motorized couch. It really showed that MIT students are fun people to be around and negates all the stereotypes associated with them.

  8. Merudh says:

    hey just got back from east brunswick presentation… very informative.

    hope you have a good time with the rest of your trip

  9. Laura says:

    Way to go Ben. Fight the good fight about the attractive women at MIT. It was actually that thread (or maybe a very similar one) that actually compelled me to create a CC username just so I could argue for all the attractive female engineers out there. =)

    Hope you liked your visit to Jersey. It’s a great place. =)

  10. Timur Sahin says:

    Personally, I like saying that MIT is the only school I know of where there are girls who spend part of the day in a uniform and part of the day in a labcoat.


  11. Georgia says:

    Hey, it’s half of the silly pair from the Hackensack thingy. I have an anecdote that I feel would be a worthy addition to this entry.

    The local Hooters (which, you may have noticed, is spitting distance from BCA’s science wing) opened last year, and one of our more *ahem* well-endowed seniors got a waitressing job there. (By an uncomfortable coincidence, she was working the one time I ever went to Hooters.) She’s now a freshman at MIT.

    The end.

  12. Hey Ben…awesome to hear how those information sessions are going. I hope you consider giving a few international ones in the years to come, because I’ve been to MIT this summer for RSI ’05 and it’s an amazing place! While I was there, though, I heard something about the differences between women being “hot-hot” and “MIT-hot”..hehehe. But I think you just disproved that, and I’m willing to consider your point wink

    Anyways, you’re now officially on my hitlist for leaving the Mustang. Was it the 2005 model with the “GT” circle in the middle? If it was, don’t be surprised when I fly over from Kuwait to the next info. session and run in with an axe. Nah, it was a smart choice…I personally prefer Lamborghinis, though, wouldn’t you agree? smile

    Keep up the amazing work you’re doing with these blogs, as MIT is now officially my favorite applications website!

    Best Regards,


  13. Peter says:

    Impressive feat of self-discipline with the Mustang, Ben! I applaud you! Although perhaps you could have used the money you were saving by staying with your mom to buy car insurance?

  14. jpsi says:

    Wow. You started to write soooo long posts wink.

  15. Bernar says:

    don’t know exactly where to post this. so apologies if i messed up.

    just one question?

    which kind of teacher recommendation do you normally value more, a really good (meaning the teacher values the students highly) one from a relatively new (1-2 years) teacher, or a less extravagent one from a more senior teacher?

  16. Robb Carr says:

    That kind of reminds me of myself going back and saying “Just incase there was any confusion I was not implying x or y, infact I meant Z”. This is an intresting post and I have been mulling over the subject lately…

    “frankly, women are (in general) not encouraged from an early age to dream of places like MIT in the same ways that men are, and I think that is criminal.”

    I am definetly inclined to agree there on all counts, and it really is sad. However we are beggining to see a shift in this, and I think the next generation will be quite different in this regard. As we have begun to see a serious shift already; not neccesarily when people of the current generation were at a young age so while they are encouraged now the world views dont correspond. Again, it really is criminal. Please DO NOT take this as me saying that females of this generation can not become mathematicians/scientists/engineers, or anything for that matter, I am merely implying that society poses limitations on them in some cases, a very psychological limitation. Again it is no fault of their own, that burden rests on society. However I think I think that it forms a bit of an exponential positive feedback system, and as we see generations progress and women establish themselves as an important part of the Mathematical/scientific community we see an exponentially larger amount the next generation. I believe things will be alot better next generation.

    Sorry about the slightly incoherent structure there (Why can’t I just communicate with mathematics!) I do not harbor any illusions about being the best of writers. I really think its amusing how our minds work, from a mathematical statement I could look at it, and write an multiple page proof (Obviously this is very vauge as not all mathematical statements require proofs, and I obviously cannot prove all of those that do, its just a …generic example); however I have difficulty organizing a paragraph.

    All this blogging has made me want a blog of my own…again…maybe I will actually write in it this time :p I will post a link soon. Mathematics themed!

    -Robb Carr

  17. April says:

    umm…i’m not really sure where to post this question..but is there any advantage to applying early admission over regular? i mean is your admit rate higher for early applicants?


    btw, i was at the hackensack info session…fantastic job…very informative and not at all boring like some i’ve been to..thanks for proving to the world that info sessions can be fun and interesting! raspberry

  18. Robb Carr says:

    Hi April, if you do not mind I think I can answer that for you:


    Mr. McGann Wrote:

    “Last year, early action [MyMIT]:

    2794 students applied early action

    384 students admitted early

    2240 students deferred to regular action

    267 deferred applicants admitted during regular action

    Last year’s overall statistics:

    10,443 students applied

    1,495 admitted”

    “We do not give an edge or “bonus points” to those who apply early. We are committed to admitting no more than 30% of our class during the early action round. Students who are deferred to regular action are considered again and equally with regular action applicants.”


    In general I would not want to merely quote statistics at someone and claim that it answers a question, given the…nature of statistics. Eh in this case I think the data and Mr. McGanns comments speak for themselves. If you have say a x/y chance of being admitted applying for early admissions does not give you (x+k)/y chance of getting in, but merely two x/y chances. However as MIT admissions is not a roll of the dice you cannot really view it as “Twice the chance of getting in”

    and statistics do not have a memory anyway.

    Anyway I think it can be viewed as beneficial but to what degree will varry greatly depending upon who you are, a look at the comments would indicate someone who is just exactly want MIT wants would obviously not benefit that much (as they do not need the edge), or someone who is on the opposite side of the line. However a border case could definetly benefit from early action. (Please do not assume I am making any generalizations about you, because I am not). Do not consider my answers definitive by any means, just trying to help. Good luck with the process smile

    -Robb Carr

  19. dude says:

    dude… thts just lame.. wata sissy.. y dint u jsut take the mustang … lol ud prolly still crash it but still.. least u get to driv one for a sec.. until u realize u gota pay 40k