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MIT student blogger Yuliya K. '18

Guide to CPW: Logistics and Planning by Yuliya K. '18

packing, housing, strategy, and events

Note: this post has been updated from the 2016 CPW mini-guide for the Class of 2020 (<3), now with fewer minions memes.

CPW 2018 is next week!!! We are thrilled to meet and host you, Class of 2022! GET HYPE!!!

For the past week, our inboxes have been filled with CPW reminders and requests to help with events. We got our prefrosh hosting assignments, and everyone thinks they will have the best guest. The magic algorithm that matches visitors to hosts definitely works.

Now, for us, CPW is a familiar event. The excitement of the new Class exploring MIT is extremely contagious. Campus feels festive. We get to meet new people. There’s free food. However, many of you may be plagued with logistical travel and planning issues. What should you pack for the four fun-filled days? How do you pick a reasonable fraction of the 700+ events to attend? I was definitely one of the more anxious pre-frosh two years ago, so I figured it might be helpful to post a Mini-Guide to CPW for your final hours of prep. And if I miss something, feel free to ask additional questions in the comments or email [email protected] directly. Also make sure to visit for the official logistical information.

Below you will find information on: 1) Packing, 2) Living Arrangements, 3) Strategy, and 4) Event Recommendations.


Packing is a familiar concern. First, ask your host if you need to bring a sleeping bag. Chances are, your host will have an air mattress or a sleeping bag of their own.

Once the sleeping surface issue has been clarified, here are things you should bring:

  • One carry-on bag and/or backpack. Travel light. A carry-on suitcase with a backpack is the max reasonable load, especially if you don’t need to bring a sleeping bag. Space in the room might be limited, especially if your host’s roommate is also hosting someone, so don’t bring a full-sized suitcase unless you absolutely have to.
  • Space in the bag. Ok, not really something you can bring, but be aware that you’ll probably get loads of free swag over the weekend—anything from cups and t-shirts to books and toys.
  • Clothing. This one’s the most challenging decision. The weather’s been crazy recently. Fortunately, the weather forecast predicts a warm and dry CPW. Still, remember that you’ll be out exploring both during the day and at night, so bring a jacket, preferably with a hood. You’ll only be here for four days, but try bringing more than four changes of clothing. Things can get a bit messy. Lastly, you’ll be moving a lot. Bring your most comfortable and least fancy clothing and shoes.


  • Towels and other toiletries. Pretty self-explanatory. You’ll need to take a shower and stuff at some point.
  • Sleeping stuff. Again, this is something you should discuss with your host. Do you need a sleeping surface? A pillow? A blanket? Is the room going to be steamy or chilly?

What NOT to bring:

  • Homework. If at all possible (i.e. if you don’t have The Most Important Assignment due Monday), do not bring your schoolwork. Chances are, you will have approximately 0 hours to actually do it.
  • Nice things. It’s going to be muddy and messy. A gold chain and black suit will not help.
  • Food. There will be a lot of free food on campus. You’ll get a small monetary allowance, as well as dining hall passes, which are especially helpful if you have any dietary restrictions.


You’ll get your hosting assignments soon. All hosts are asked to reach out to their prefrosh asap, so look for an email in your inbox, and email [email protected] if your host doesn’t respond, or if you’re having any issues with your host.

Things to note about your host:

  • No students is ever required to enter the hosting lottery, so your host is excited to meet you!
  • Your host is your peer, so they’ll be your primary point of contact for exploring MIT, and a great resource to ask about life, academics, and anything else, without judgement or repercussions.
  • Your host filled out a similar form to enter the hosting lottery that you did when registering for CPW. That means they likely have the same preference for the amount of time to spend with you as you did to spend with them. That said, make sure you don’t stay in your room unless you have to and meet as many other students besides your host as possible.

Things to ask your host BEFORE you arrive:

  • How they plan to meet you. Tell them how and when you’ll be getting to campus (there’s a free shuttle from the airport, fyi!). Your host will know how much time to allot for you to check in and meet you afterwards. They might also ask a friend to connect with you if they’re in class.
  • What sleeping arrangments they have for you. Many students have sleeping bags (often given out for free from hackathon hosting gigs) or other comfortable sleeping surfaces. Make sure you ask them about this so you don’t have to carry extra stuff.
  • How to best contact them. You might need to send them quick travel updates, so ask which way to reach them is fastest (usually text or FB messenger), and tell them what works best for you.
  • If applicable, how they can accommodate your allergies or other needs. The major restrictions should have been sorted out with the hosting form, but it’s worth checking nevertheless. For example, you can ask if they keep their room hot or cold if you’re sensitive to temperature changes, or if their hall is clothing-optional or allows cats (note that you will not be placed on a cat hall if you indicated you were allergic).

Things to ask your host AFTER you arrive:

  • What events they recommend. They might give you some great pointers based on shared interests indicated in your hosting form, or provide intel on great off-the-books events.
  • How often they want to check in with you, if at all. You’ll probably want to have at least one conversation with your host, which would be especially helpful at the end of the weekend.
  • How to get into their room. Although you’ll have card access to the building, some students also lock their room doors. If your host doesn’t lock their door, and you’re uncomfortable with that, let them know right away (I got locked out of my own room when hosting once, which was awkward).
  • What the room inhabitant(s)’ sleep schedule(s) is/are like. If you’re coming in at random times to sleep, shower etc, it’s good to anticipate when you’ll need to be quiet.
  • Whether they’d like you to stay in touch. Your schedule will be pretty sporadic, and theirs might be too, so it might help to stay in touch throughout the day in case one of you goes to sleep early or something like that.
  • Any lingering questions you have about life or academics. They’ve gone through at least one semester at MIT and can give you an insider’s perspective on what it’s really like. If you’re comfortable, you can even ask questions about social life topics like dating or parties or noise levels in their dorm. It might be helpful to set up a lunch with them for the end of CPW to reflect on everything you’ve seen.


  • Don’t plan the majority of your weekend. You definitely don’t need to print out the schedule in advance and highlight the important events. The CPW moments I enjoyed most were those I went to with a group of cool people. That, in general, is a good strategy. Follow the cool people and make connections. Few pre-frosh travel alone. Although, if you want to attend some helpful academic or financial aid event, go for it. One of my most helpful CPW interactions was at the Math Department Open House. The other was when I went to play with foam swords on the rooftop of Random Hall. I would’ve never guessed I’d enjoy it, but I did immensely because of the fun crowd. CPW is about taking risks and doing unexpected things. Be open to exiting the comfort zone. Really, no one is going to judge.
  • Talk to as many other adMITs as possible. You’ll all get name tags at check-in, which themselves are conversation starters. In general, you should feel free to talk to anyone wearing that tag. You’re all there to meet each other, and most of you won’t know anyone else. There are no cliques, no “popular kids”, and no social distinctions—you might just unexpectedly encounter your new best friend! But if you don’t make meaningful connections in one weekend, that’s fine too. You’ll have many more opportunities in the fall.
  • Talk to the current students. Ask them about their living groups and extracurriculars. Upperclassmen have always been the best resource for me to figure out MIT life. And talking to current students is really the best way to gauge where you’ll be most comfortable living. So when you visit the various dorms and FSILGs, make sure to talk to at least one current student—they are the only ones that can tell you what it’s like to live there, which the best way to prepare for the housing lottery in June.
  • Try to visit all dorms. You’ll need to rank all of them in June for the Housing Lottery. Also, don’t listen to rumors about the different dorms and FSILGs, see them for yourself. MIT’s housing system is based on cultural fit, which means that only you can decide where you should live. I was scared off visiting one of the dorms during CPW, and I really wish that wasn’t the case. Also, don’t ask students in one living group to describe other living groups. It’s the first-hand experience that matters.


Some events are normally highlighted in the CPW booklet (or, these days, the mobile app). Those are important ones, acording to MIT, and it’s a good idea to attend. The schedule for 2018 isn’t out yet (it will be here when it is), but the types of events remain pretty consistent, and here are some that seemed particularly helpful at discovering MIT to me:

  • Fairs. These are great for seeing what opportunities exist at MIT and gathering free swag.You’ll get to talk to MIT faculty, students, and staff about potential things you can do at the Institute. The main ones are the Activities Fair for student groups (Sat) and Academic Expo for departments (Fri). This year, there will also be a Mass Tech Activities Halfway for the less traditional “organizations” like MIT Confessions, Memes, Timely Confessions, and MIT Onion.
  • Admitted Student Welcome and CPW Closing Show. The former is the first time you’ll see all your classmates in one place! You’ll get welcomed to MIT and have some quality bonding time (I’ll be there too, so make sure to say hi!). The latter is a chance to see some cool MIT student performances and again get welcomed to MIT (as well as hear some glorious nerd jokes). If you’re at all interested in auditioning for a performance group or just enjoy seeing what other students are up to, the Closing is a lot of fun. And both events do an awesome job of setting the CPW mood.
  • Residence Hall Events. In June, you will pick a living community that fits you best through the Housing Lottery. So during CPW, take the time to explore what each dorm has to offer (and stuff your face with free food!). Join a fun group of prefrosh and go. Check out the FSILG Events as well, even though you have to remain on campus for the first year and even if you can’t join a sorority/fraternity. Interact with the students in each living group. If they’re hanging out at events, they want to meet you. We won’t give you dorm recommendations during CPW, because that’s technically for Freshman Rush in August, but we’re still happy to talk about our MIT experience, and you’ll still be able to get a feel for the dorm culture. On a personal note, I invite you to stop by East Campus. We’re excited to meet you and will be grilling burgers/dyeing hair all day, plus doing other exciting stuff.
  • LGBTQ+ Events. There is now a whole guest blog post about it! Learn how to have a queer CPW here.
  • Academic-Research Events. These are helpful if you’ve already started thinking (worrying?) about your major and UROP prospects. Department Open Houses are generally really helpful. I loved talking to all the awesome professors at the Math Department Open House my CPW. And you’ll be sure to meet many like-minded prefrosh. Lots of prefrosh sign up for UROP tours as well.
  • Random Recommendations. Stop by Meet the Bloggers if you want to see the people behind the avatars and eat pie with us (also helpful if you’re considering being a blogger yourself). CPW A Cappella Concert is a cool opportunity to hear all 10 MIT a cappella groups. The concert during my CPW was my first experience with a cappella, and it was magical. For a late night learning and chill session, stop by the Firehose! event and learn about anything from large numbers to Polynesian geography. There are soft cushions and passionate people. And, lastly, check out the Spinning Arts CPW Performance. Students breathing and spinning fire are guaranteed to impress. Where else could you get that experience?

And that’s about it for this post. Most importantly, allow CPW to be exciting and spontaneous. Be open to new friendships and knowledge. Be ready to discover something about yourself and the things you want to do in college. See your future life at MIT.

We can’t wait to meet you. See you soon!