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MIT student blogger Bryan O. '07

He’s Making A List and Checking It Twice by Bryan

The things that I found important when looking at colleges

So four years ago, I began a year-long journey to start seeing what 12 years of public school education could do for me. I started applying to college.

I kind of went about it in a semi-orderly fashion, but I do think that during the whole process with all the brochures I’d requested and discarded essays, I may have killed a tree. I’ll plant one when I graduate. This is my promise.

So similar to the list of parameters I have when it comes to my ideal mate, I had a pretty hefty list of things to consider when I applied to college.

And so the list begins:

Please keep in mind that these were the things that I found that were important, and that you may think that these things are of little importance, and that’s great. Also, feel free to comment with other things you find important.

1. Scholastic

This was the most important option in my case. I’d worked very hard like many of you, and wanted to continue my education at a place where I was going to be stimulated and driven to learn more.

Some sample questions that I considered:
– What kind of majors are available?
– What is the graduation rate?
– How hard are the classes?
– How reputable are the professors?
– What type of research opportunities exist?
– How serious do students take their work?

2. Location

I’m a coast kind of guy. I lived in the Midwest, but I was definitely not applying to any school in Texas because I wanted out. I really wanted to be in an area where there was a lot to do outside of just being at school.

Sample questions I asked:
– How do people get around? (Car, bike, public transportation?)
– Does the city cater to college students? Are there other college students around?
– What is the weather like?

3. Extracurriculars

What can I do when I want a break? While academics were of utmost importance to me, I still wanted to be able to take a break and do some things for fun.

Sample questions I asked:
– What types of activities are available?
– What are the time commitments?

4. Living

Communal showers are not my thing, and neither are having extra rodent roommates. To a degree, housing and living options were important to me as well. I did not want to live on a campus where housing was not guaranteed after my freshman year, and I also did not want to live on a campus where there was freshman only dorms just because I felt that defeated the purpose of a social aspect of college. Other amenities weren’t really important to me, but some things did sweeten the pot.

Sample questions I asked:
– Dorms: Single sex or coed?
– How far are the dorms from campus?
– Do people hang out with each other or is it more of an isolationist feel?
– Noise level?

5. Miscellaneous

There were just a lot of things that I discovered I did not like once I began visiting schools, and there were also things that I discovered were really important to me once I saw that they actually existed.

I would tend to believe from my experience that visits really seal the deal. I found with most campuses that I visited, I either loved it or hated it. There was no real grey area, but then I had a lot of friends who lived in the grey area all of senior year not knowing what they wanted.

And one last thing, if you ever visit a college campus…
ASK QUESTIONS AND PLAY HARDBALL. Ask current students anything, and you’ll be able to get a good idea of what the campus is like and what the people are like. Be careful of token responses, and if they give you an ambiguous response, ask for further clarification. This is a four year investment; be smart.

So I think that that’s it; I actually don’t think I’ve recycled the brochures I got in the mail way back when, but I will when I graduate from MIT. I promise.

Make sure you leave comments with any questions you have.

8 responses to “He’s Making A List and Checking It Twice”

  1. Atul Gupte says:

    Well…I’ve already registered on myMIT , but I didn’t receive one…as you say , it really IS nice to have something to hold in your hands…

    The admissions site is really well made though…

    But it would be nice to have a brochure…so if you just tell me who to write to , that would be nice ! Wouldn’t want you to waste time doing stuff like this !

  2. Atul Gupte says:

    is there a lot to be learned from college brochures or is all that info online these days ? and how do you go about asking MIT for a brochure ? who do you write to?

  3. Bryan says:


    You can still learn a good amount from brochures. It’s always nice to have something to hold in your hands. To get a brochure, I think all you need to do is register on the MyMIT site. If you don’t get one soon after, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. Plus, the admissions office put a lot of effort into the new viewbook, and it’s really a great taste of what MIT is like.

    – Bryan

  4. HI

    I also registered in mymit and didn’t get one.

    I would also like one if its possible.


    (MyMit account: ankit222)

    By the way how were your SAT scores Bryan and which other uni s did u apply to???

    How many uni s did u get accepted into???


    Ankit Chandra

    Gaborone, BOTSWANA

  5. Bryan says:

    Hi everyone,

    Today, I learned that due to the expenses associated with mailing things internationally that the viewbooks are not mailed to international applicants. Sorry.

    Also, for those interested in knowing my scores, I have chosen not to share them because scores are by no means everything and I don’t want you to think that since I got XXXX on my SAT’s that this is the score you need. MIT considers many factors when selecting students.

    I applied to 8 very selective universities, and was admitted to all 8. I’ll tell you one of them…MIT wink

  6. Mikey says:

    I don’t believe the mailings have gone out yet to MyMIT account holders – it also depends on what year you are (if you’re 10th grade or younger, you won’t receive the viewbook yet).

    A caveat I wanted to point out about campus visits – while you should definitely make the most out of them and really find out whether you love the campus or not, be wary of basing your judgments on isolated cases or pieces of data. Try to get the *overall* feel for the campus – there will probably always be one thing or another about every school that rubs you the wrong way, but you always need to keep the big picture in mind. I know that when I visited campuses, I would always nitpick about every single thing I didn’t like about the school, and by the end of my visits, I ended up with a negative view about all the schools I was applying to and hadn’t really considered the broader perspective. There were lots of things about MIT that I didn’t like when I visited, but now after having graduated from here I look back and realize how trivial and untrue the things I didn’t like were – I was basing my impression of the entire school on only one or two specific instances. So, just a word to the wise – make sure you can see the forest through the trees!

  7. Anonymous says:

    All 8? Woohoo! Like HPYSMCD…? Incredible.

    You must be a genius, and must’ve worked incredibly hard and long on the apps.

  8. kash says:

    Bryan, did you apply to Caltech? If so, why did you pick MIT over it? just wondering, since I live in california (yeah Cali!) and I really like MIT, but I don’t know if I want to move so far. Thanks