Skip to content ↓
MIT student blogger Paul B. '11

Hitchhiker’s Guide to CPW by Paul B. '11


Arthur Dent: You know, it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space, that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.
Ford Prefect: Why, what did she tell you?
Arthur: I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Well, I’m not your mother (thank you Captain Obvious) and you’re not trapped in a Vogon airlock (or are you?), but I do have advice for you. Yes, that means you, pre-froshes! And I will be very sad if you, like Arthur Dent, don’t listen – but I guess he turned out mostly okay in the end, and you probably will too.

So, there’s this thing that’s going to be taking over MIT’s campus in five days. You may have heard of it…it’s called CPW. And it will be amazing.

Gather close, pre-frosh. Don’t let the upperclassmen or the Admissions Office hear, for this is top-secret information. But everything you have ever heard, seen, or read about CPW is nothing but a pale imitation of the truth – valorous but vain attempts to express the ineffable, to name the indescribable, to quantify the infinite. The fact of the matter is that CPW is an experience far beyond mere words, even beyond pictures. The only way to describe it…is to be there.

(I’m not kidding. Well, not entirely.)

That being said, there are a few other things you should know.

#1: Get to know your host.

For the duration of CPW, each pre-frosh is paired with a volunteer student host, who should be e-mailing you in the next few days. These 900-plus volunteers come from every dorm and other living group on campus and represent pretty much every major, and Admissions really does their best to pair each pre-frosh with a host that matches your own personality and interests – academic, athletic, and/or extra-curricular.

In addition to providing you with a place to sleep at night (if you want to sleep during CPW ^_^), your host is a great resource to ask for advice about choosing which of the myriad CPW events to attend. Plus, if you want to visit any classes, your host is the perfect person to tag along with. Just talk to your host, they’ll be more than happy to help.

Personal tidbit: My host was a Course 20 sophomore (now a junior) from Michigan who lived in a fraternity and was active in student government. Both of us are now MedLinks and still good friends (I just had an awesome chat with him yesterday), so I’d say I got a good match – and hopefully you will too!

Personal tidbit #2: There were actually so many applicants to be hosts this year (according to one of the admissions counselors, over 2,000!) that the Admissions Office simply couldn’t give every student a pre-frosh. To my disappointment, I was one of the many prospective hosts who wasn’t matched with a pre-frosh…but don’t worry, I’ll definitely be around. ;) And if you happen to see me in any of my classes, come over and say hello!

#2: Don’t be afraid to do your own thing.

Yes, I know I just said your host is a wonderful resource – because they are. But that doesn’t mean you have to hang out with them 24/7 during CPW. After all, your host probably has their own obligations during CPW – helping plan events for their living group, representing one of their student groups at the Activities Fair, problem sets…that sort of thing. Besides, you will probably have the most fun just hanging out with your fellow pre-frosh, so don’t worry if you’re not always with your host. It’s very much a “you win, I win” situation.

Speaking of hanging out with your fellow pre-frosh…

#3: Meet as many people as you can – pre-frosh, students, staff, and professors alike.
(Corollary: Remember their names.)

It’s sort of funny, but CPW is kind of when your social life at MIT begins. I originally met two of my closest friends completely randomly during CPW (hi Sam! hi Jordan!), in addition to running into a bunch of other 2011’s whom I’m still good friends with – Kevin, Sivakami, Hank, Claudia, Anna, Charlotte, Allie, and Roseanne are just a few of the people I originally met at CPW. So seriously, meet as many people as you can (especially if you already know them from the Facebook group). If you run into someone completely randomly and end up having a conversation with them for an hour or more (this is what happened with me, Sam, and Jordan), then you’ve probably just made a friend for life.

There’s a second great reason to talk to people during CPW: the simple fact that these could be the people you’ll be spending the next four years of your life with. I don’t mean to imply that you have to like everybody (nor should one bad interaction totally turn you off from MIT), but if you have a lot of really positive conversations and experiences with your fellow pre-frosh and current students…well, I’d say that’s one strong sign MIT is the right place for you.

#4: Go to class. No, really.

Just because you’re (legitimately) skipping school to go to CPW doesn’t mean you should avoid the classroom completely. The first two days of CPW are actually great opportunities to visit some of the 3,761 classes the Institute offers. I’d primarily recommend a class in your (prospective) major, but exploring the GIRs and other typical freshman classes can be a great experience as well. Your host should be able and more than willing to help with this.

#5: Explore. Learn. Discover.

As a pre-frosh, you have a ridiculous amount of freedom to do what you want, where you want, when you want. Whether you want to explore dorms, go to a fraternity party, sit in on classes, tour a lab, or just do random crazy things like building your own USB drive, being a pre-frosh means you will be welcome basically anywhere you go.

#6: Immerse yourself.

In other words, leave the Internet off. I’d highly recommend not spending too much time (if any) checking your email, poking your friends of Facebook, etc. There’ll be simply too much going on! Even if you’re going to be a guest blogger, I’d recommend waiting until after CPW to start your blogging masterpiece. Of course you can jot down notes if you think it’s necessary, and you should definitely take lots of photos…but trust me, there will be plenty of time to blog after CPW!

#7: Don’t be afraid to talk to anyone about anything.

Confused about how to find E51-1151? Not sure what Course N is all about, where n is a natural number such that n<=24 and n!=19, 23? Are you worried about the workload, or maybe still considering other colleges? Whatever your question is, CPW is your time to ask it.

#8: Shatter stereotypes.

Yes, we’re nerds here. But we’re also very friendly, very social, very well-rounded nerds. Whatever stereotypes you’ve heard about MIT students (about MIT students in general or the residents of a particular living group), there’s no better time than CPW to actually put those stereotypes to the test. You’ll find that a small number are true. But most aren’t. As someone who values individuality, I think that’s a very good thing.

#9: CPW is the only time when it’s okay to take food from strangers.

I can’t put it much better than Bryan: “If you’re paying for your food, you’re doing something wrong. Campus Preview Weekend is full with free food all over campus. Open houses, free pizza, liquid nitrogen ice cream, donuts, dinners at fraternities. So keep the cash in your wallet for your MIT sweatshirt.” But if you really want that burrito from Anna’s (and you should), or any other food location on campus, you’ll be given the pre-frosh equivalent of TechCash when you arrive, so technically it’s still free!

#10: Keep your eyes and ears open – mischief abounds during CPW. Don’t miss a minute of it.

The final countdown is upon us. If any of you have any last-minute questions, please feel to post them here (or on Bryan’s entry) and I’m sure someone will help answer them.

I’m looking forward to seeing all of you in just a few days!

48 responses to “Hitchhiker’s Guide to CPW”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Awesome! You had time to post during CPW!

  2. Connie '12 says:

    Are the frat dinners/breakfasts open to females? Do we get to keep whatever USB thing that we build?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Solid post, but no Fibonacci or anything? Oh well.

  4. milena '11 says:

    @ Connie ’12-

    Frats LOVE girls (it’d be kinda weird if they didn’t), so it’s fair game to eat their food grin That’s pretty much what I ate during CPW.

    Also, there’s something seriously wrong about wanting to get a burrito from Anna’s. Smelling like Anna’s is NOT a good thing!

  5. Judy '12 says:

    @Milena – what’s wrong with Anne’s burritos? Is it not as good as Chipotle or QDoba?

  6. Jeremy says:

    CPW!!! It’s finally here! I think I’m going to cry.

  7. Mollie says:

    I’m still good friends with the prefrosh I hosted as a freshman, too — I just went to dinner with her and a bunch of our other mutual friends last weekend.

    The prefrosh I hosted as a senior is now an integral component of my former living group.

    Awww, CPW.

  8. Karen '12 says:

    Suggestion: volunteer to get bumped from your return flight. Flight vouchers will come in useful when flying home, and if your flight is scheduled to return early (like mine is), that’s valuable doing-homework-in-the-airport time!

  9. Paul says:

    @Connie ’12: Ditto what Milena said, girls are more than welcome. smile

    Quick comment, though – at MIT and most college campuses, “frat” is generally seen as somewhat derogatory slang. It’s not a big deal (I certainly know you didn’t mean it offensively :D), but just something to keep in mind.

    @Judy ’12: Anna’s burritos are delicious, but (like anything) they can get old as a while. Plus, I’d still say they’re not quite as good as Chipotle. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try them at least once! smile

  10. Judy '12 says:

    @ Paul – I tried them the last time I went to MIT and I did really like them, but I guess one would get sick of eating them as much as one would get sick of Chipotle everyday.

    btw, will the dice hack honoring the Dungeons and Dragons still be on the lawn for CPW?

  11. Paul says:

    @Judy ’12: Aha, I see. That makes sense. smile

    Unfortunately, the D&D die hack was taken down after two or three days (the average life of most hacks). You can still see some photos here, though. Sorry to disappoint, but hopefully you will find other things to interest and fascinate you during CPW!

  12. Piper '11 says:

    [I thought I’d do my resurrection here.]

    Wow, do any prefrosh I know still stalk the blogs? I’ve been gone for too long. Also, HELLO EVERYONE!

    Listen to Paul. He’s a wise fellow [there’s a lot he suggested that I didn’t do at my CPW – it was still a blast, but it could’ve been blasty-er].

    Except I completely disagree with Anna’s thing. I ate at Anna’s once and may never eat there again. Of course, I’m also half-Mexican and used to real food =P.

    As for hacks, keep your eyes peeled! You never know when one will come around. Hopefully some hackers will do something for CPW =).

  13. Piper '11 says:

    Oh, and just to emphasis what Paul said about not letting a bad interaction get in your way – seriously. I knew someone from before CPW that I didn’t like, and this person got in, and this worried me a little – but I haven’t run into said person once.

    And at this point, if I do, it’s not gonna matter =D.

  14. Keri says:

    Mollie – I thought you and Adam hosted Timur your senior year. Am I wrong? What’s wrong with me? (Both?)

  15. Anonymous says:

    Excited and worried to miss school. Lol…second semester grades are killing me – no really.

  16. A note about buying food: you will be given a TechCash card, which will probably have $20.12 on it. When I was a prefrosh, I had read the blog entries and the whole “don’t spend money on food” thing, so I mostly did not spend this TechCash, because I figured that was wasting money and I should be able to find food for free. Then, when I got to MIT in the fall, I tried to spend it and was dismayed to find that it didn’t work. So, think of this as free money that expires, and spend it during CPW.

  17. Star says:

    Piper’s alive! And yeah, I still stalk the blogs :p

    As for the actual post, great advice Paul. Can’t wait!

  18. Viva says:

    captain obvious from non sequitur FTW :D


  19. Nick says:

    Why can’t N = 19? wink

  20. Kayla '12 says:

    so we’re completely but legitimately skipping two days of school. however, to make it a “legal college visit absence” i need an excuse letter on MIT letterhead. who will i need to stalk down at CPW in order to receive this letter?

    (i need it so my absences won’t add up and i can be exempt from exams which is always a good thing.)

  21. Paul says:

    @Nick: Okay, I suppose I meant official majors. wink

    @Kayla: My year, I seem to remember getting a form in my big CPW packet about “requesting an official absence” or whatever…so check that out first. I’m sure all of the friendly Admissions people at the check-in or check-out desks will be happy and prepared to help.

  22. Judy '12 says:

    ohhh… four more days ’til AWESOMENESS!!!

  23. MJ says:

    Nice Post

  24. Steven '12 says:

    Man.. I haven’t read The Hitchhiker’s Guide in a LONG time.

    I think I will go to a class. raspberry

  25. Paul says:

    @Roshan ’12: You should get a call or email from your host within the next day or two, so be on the lookout for that. Even if you don’t hear from anyone, just show up for CPW anyway…we’re not going to turn you away. wink A sweatshirt costs about $30+, but it’ll last almost forever and it looks freakin’ sweet – so it’s a good investment. wink

  26. Judy '12 says:

    @Paul – can we use our coupons from the tube for sweatshirts? It says for online purchase, but could it possibly work at the store?

  27. Piper '11 says:

    (( You can buy sweaters online ))

  28. Jeremy says:

    I think we need a blog about how to survive the days between now and CPW. Seriously! How do we get through the next few days of school without annoying our teachers due to our excessive jumpiness and fidgeting?! AAWWAAWAA!

  29. Judy '12 says:

    hmm, I know, but I’m not a big online shopper. After some bad ebay experiences, I’d say I’m off from buying stuff of the Internet. :(

  30. Anonymous says:

    I’m afraid that my host will be offended if I say I want to go hang out with some other people…..

    DATE: 04/06/2008 10:36:52 PM
    ^^And I don’t want to be rude, since he/she volunteered to help me out during this weekend.

  31. '12er says:

    What is this I hear about Frat dinners? It’d be cool to take advantage of their food, but aren’t all MIT frats across the river? Isn’t that kind of far away from all other CPW activities??

  32. lover says:

    anonymous – i think your host will definitely understand if you want to hang out with other people – after all, cpw is a great time to meet other prefrosh, not just your host’s friends (although that’s good too)

    ’12er – there are several fraternities on campus, but during my cpw, it was very easy to get across the river. saferide (our free shuttle to various places in cambridge and boston) has extended hours, plus walking to the other side takes maybe 10 minutes (and you can check out the smoot markings!)

  33. yiwen '12 says:

    Ahhhh I can’t wait! Three more days! I wish I could be in 8 places at the same time…there are too many events at CPW and I want to be at all of them!

  34. Piper '11 says:

    Aww, but MIT is a trustworthy place. Ebay is about whoever wants to sell whatever =). I think the certificate says it can only be used online, but I’m not 100%. If it doesn’t say anything like that, I would call the COOP and ask.

    ’12er – In addition to saferide, many FSILGs have their own means of transportation and come to campus even more than usual specifically so that prefrosh can come hang out with them =)

  35. Muffinator says:

    So…… Exactly do we prevent our heads from exploding before we get there?
    …..And if we make it that far, how do we prevent our brains from awesome-sense-overload once we get there….?


  36. Lainers says:

    To go back and reference Paul’s intro, it all did begin on a Thursday…

  37. Paul, how ever did you do the randomizing of the weblink? I LOVE that the staff link posts to different people depending on when you click in….

    I need to know!!!

  38. Oh, I figured it out. You are wicked, man, wicked!

  39. Roshan'12 says:

    When do we find out who our undergraduate hosts are? I vaguely remember reading something about getting a call, but I never got one [maybe because I wasn’t supposed to?]. Also, Were we supposed to get some kind of official confirmation that we were registered for CPW? And – how much does an MIT sweatshirt cost at the Coop?
    Thanks =)

  40. Judy '12 says:


    Can’t wait >.AGHHHHHH … DOS DIAS MAS X.X

    Can’t wait >.<

  41. Doug'12 says:

    Unfortunately, my spring break is during CPW, so I don’t get off of school, but I am still pumped!

  42. Judy '12 says:

    Hey Paul, could you provide us with a list of classes and the times they are held? TY

  43. Caroline '11 says:

    teresa, darling, i heart you dearly, but 8.022 is WAAYYY cooler than anything 8.02 could ever be. =)

    and why, you prefrosh ask? because mcgreevy (our professor) is that freaking amazing. i suggest coming to our lecture at 10am on friday in 6-120 and enjoy watching mcgreevy shock himself on the demos (again). just try not to giggle aloud whenever he says “V-twiddle.” =D

    (and if you still aren’t convinced of his awesomeness, check out his silly emo-myspace-style photo and FANTASTIC paper titles on his bio page:

    fyi: 8.022 and 8.02 are two versions of the class that fulfills the institute requirement for one semester of electricity and magnetism. 8.02 is the regular version with oh-so-annoying TEAL; 8.022 is the more rigorous/theoretical version, but without forced group work or lectures rendered incomprehensible by horrid room acoustics compounded by having to sit at tables. similarly, 8.012 and 8.01 are the same thing for the mechanics requirement. again, 8.012 >> 8.01. and, of course, the professors for 8.0×2 classes are waaaaaayyyyy more awesome than those for 8.0x classes.

  44. Ahem. My 8.02 professor is as awesome as they come. Friday 9-11am in 32-082, prefrosh. Cool demos guaranteed!

  45. Whoops, 9-10am. Forgot that we’re deprived of that second hour on Fridays.

  46. Teresa '11 says:

    yay!!! 2ish more days!!
    just an addendum for the prefrosh not coming to cpw- don’t worry about it! i didn’t go to cpw (first robotics nationals were during cpw last year), and yet i still met awesome people when i got here, such as paul and his host from cpw last year!

    just a tip for classes to go to, if you want to experience freshman physics, 8.02 (electricity and magnetism) meets almost every hour on friday in the basement of Stata. personally i would recommend going at 11am, the lecturer is really cool (he was on late night with conan o’brian)

    o, and have fun!

  47. Teresa '11 says:

    i almost forgot, as a girl who spends a huge amount of time at a fraternity, yes, girls are more than welcome at fraternities, and don’t worry about getting there. most fraternities are within walking distance, and there will most definitely be transportation to all of them.

  48. Wow, another Teresa ’11…