I’m Jenny Rifken and I am the new Director of Recruitment and Associate Director of Admissions at MIT. I’m so glad you’re joining us on this blog. Marilee, Stu, I, and the other guests hope to each write once a month or so to tell you what we’re thinking about, working on, and hear your thoughts on this whole admissions process. I look forward to getting to know you.
To tell you a little about myself, I’ve had the privilege to be an admissions officer for nearly ten years at three terrific universities (including MIT). I never aspired to have a career in admissions. To tell the truth, I didn’t know one could have a career in admissions. Until there is a really popular TV show depicting a college admissions office (what an idea, by the way), high school students probably won’t think about admissions as a job opportunity. Just think, it could be the ER or Ally McBeal of admissions. But I digress…
I fell into admissions by being a tour guide at my alma mater. I loved college and all of the opportunities it offered and loved being able to talk to students and their families about going to college. When I graduated, I knew I’d go to graduate school, but wanted some real world experiences first. Being an admissions officer gave me wonderful professional opportunities and I could continue to talk to families about college. Plus, I really like living near a college or university. The lectures, concerts, interesting conversations, and amazing discoveries that take place on campuses are inspiring. I couldn’t imagine a more exciting place to call home. I liked my job and the environment so much, in fact, that I decided to earn my master’s degree in higher education administration.
What I have liked the best, though, is meeting the students. It’s easy to feel optimistic about the world when you meet (either in person or through their applications) the bright, engaged, motivated, and exciting young people who are applying to places like MIT.
Because I’m new to this place, I’ll be learning about MIT just as you are. I’m excited to share with you all that I’m finding out and I hope you’ll tell me of the things you discover as you go through your college exploration process. Universities are never-ending places to learn — in and out of the classroom — and there will always be something new to talk about.
One thing that I hope you’ll do (and I’ll be doing as well as I learn MIT) is to challenge the stereotypes of every school to which you’re thinking about applying. While its good to listen to the advice of others, you have to find out for yourself if a school is the right fit for you. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when I came to MIT. I knew the students would be smart and I knew how much I liked the people in the admissions office, but I had heard all sorts of rumors about how intense the place was, how competitive and unsocial it is. I’ve only been here a few weeks and I have found all of those negative claims to be false. Everyone I have met so far, in human resources, freshman advising, athletics, academic summer programs, the coffee houses, and, of course, the students, have been wonderful. And they all tell me how much they like MIT. Actually, they tell me that they love it.
When I ask them what they like, they say they like that it is collaborative and that they constantly get to explore new aspects of their work or their jobs. They say they like the people and how friendly they are. They like the playful spirit and sense of humor of the campus. I have found the people here to be incredibly giving and helpful and I’m really enjoying my new home at MIT.
I know I have only scratched the surface of this place, but thankfully, I have a lot of time to explore. I hope you’ll join me on this journey and tell me what you find interesting and exciting.
It’s nice to meet you and I look forward to our travels together!