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…
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!