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Guide to CPW: Why It’s Special by Yuliya K. '18

all the things that make CPW amazing

CPW 2014 was the reason I chose MIT. At the time, the Institute wasn’t even my top choice, but after the amazing weekend, I caught myself spontaneously planning my life here on walks around the neighborhood and during long showers. “Oh, I gotta remember to audition for a capella!” “I could totally blog about this.” “I wonder if I could get that grant if I applied?” “Bio doesn’t seem that scary anymore, I think…” “Maybe I’ll dye my hair green next time I visit East Campus. It’d be so cool to live there, too.” I was surprised how naturally I transitioned into MIT life, in my head. Prior to the visit, I was terrified of taking Biology at MIT. After CPW, it just felt possible, mostly because I met so many people I knew I could work with.

MIT is a unique place, and it can’t be home for everyone. That’s why CPW (and the Admissions blogs, if you can’t visit in person) are so important—they’re designed to give you a glimpse of what life here is really like, and we’re open about both the good and the bad. That’s why our unofficial slogan is IHTFP, which means either “I have truly found paradise” or “I hate this fucking place,” and, honestly, for most students, IHTFP has meant both during different times in the year. Before you comMIT, you need to to determine if the IHTFP life is a good fit for you. I knew that I wanted to be part of the MIT community after CPW, because I knew that they’d carry me through both IHTFP and IHTFP times. I was right. I hope you feel that way too when you visit.

While there is no right or wrong way to do CPW, I’ve compiled two posts with advice and reflections. This post is about what makes CPW @ MIT special. Here is the link to a mini-guide to CPW with advice on packing, planning, and the weather. You should also check out this post by Selam G. ‘18 on how to CPW.

What makes CPW special (a partial list):

  • It’s nerd paradise! There’s plenty to geek out about. You might attend a Lord of the Rings movie marathon, or late-night Firehose lectures taught by students, as well as probably geek out informally with your classmates. One of my most memorable CPW moments was going at 2am(!) to the Firehose lecture series, hosted by MIT ESP (Educational Studies Program), to hear about number theory, then getting a lecture on Polynesian geography when our student-lecturer got bored of talking about numbers. I still remember clearly laying on a giant soft foof with my new friends, listening about an upperclassmen geek about something so totally unexpected, and falling in love with MIT. (note: you can attend FIREHOSE! this year as well, here)
  • The energy is amazing. CPW is a special time of the year for everyone on campus. The excitement the prerfrosh bring to campus mid-semester is contagious. We all get to see MIT through your eyes as the wonderful, bizzarre, and special place it is. And for four days in the spring, we feel almost as excited as the prefrosh, and remember all the cool things that attracted us here in the first place, way before all the psets and the projects. Thank you, Class of 2022!
  • 700+ events! Not much to add here, other than, where else but at MIT could you find enough dedicated students, faculty, and staff, to organize 700+ events?!! All so you can customize CPW (and later MIT) for the best possible experience.
  • There’s always something fun going on, and there’s probably food involved. I attended two admitted students’ weekends my senior spring, one at MIT and the other at, let’s say College N. At CPW, I struggled to decide which of the many simultaneously ongoing events I wanted to attend. I wanted to go to, say, the Professor Talent Show, but that would mean missing a game of mafia at Burton Conner, or ice cream with the math department, or the UROP expo, or a class lecture. Even late at night, I had a choice between multiple diverse events—anything from a Harry Potter movie marathon at Random Hall to midnight pancakes at Next House to a party at Baker Hall to Firehose lectures with ESP. I ended up migrating to random events with rapidly changing groups of people, never having time for something more as mundane as a class lecture. At College N, my day started with a powerpoint presentation from the finance club. Up until noon the next day, the only “event” was breakfast in the dining hall, and in the evening, all we had scheduled were parties at various dorms. I ended up calling my parents four times that weekend, something I never had time for at MIT.
  • We are excited to meet you! At College N, my host had two other prefrosh besides me. At MIT, there’s an actual waitlist to host prefrosh! A friend of mine recently mentioned that she couldn’t get a prefrosh for the past two years, and was almost ready to give up and not even apply for the host lottery. This might not seem that special until you think about the sheer number of prefrosh visiting: ~1,000! That means about 1 in 4 (or 5?) students wanted to host at least one prefrosh. And that doesn’t even account for people who opt to interact with visiting adMITs through other events in their student groups, departments, or FSILGs!
  • Faculty and staff are excited to meet you too! Another favorite CPW moment for me was during the 2014 Professor Talent Show, where one of the math professors demonstrated his talent, “I have a big mouth” (you might have seen this legendary moment online!), while a writing professor did belly dancing and a theatre professor led a meditation and a chemistry professor sang a chemistry superhero song! Also in 2014, as a blonde long-haired prefrosh without glasses, I attended the CPW math department open house (with ice cream!) and briefly talked to a professor from Ukraine. He was incredibly nice, and gave me all the reasons I should choose MIT over College N, as well as some great advice on becoming a math major. In 2015, as a crimson- and short-haired freshman with glasses, I observed that same professor’s giant 18.02 lecture for an education class assignment. After class, I approached him to ask quesions about his teaching method. “Do you remember me? We talked during CPW,” was the first thing he said to me. As if I could forget that awesome interaction! I was stunned to hear that he still remembered me from that brief conversation from a year ago, even though my appearance had changed so drastically, and it showed how much he truly cared. During that same 2014 CPW open house, incidentally, I learned of a casual bet another professor, a world-famous researcher, made with his colleague about the P vs NP problem.
  • You’ll meet your future classmates, and maybe your future best friends! At CPW, there’s no shame in wearing the prefrosh nametag. It’s an invitation for a conversation, and a way for you to identify people to roam campus with. I remember the excitement of seeing the CPW tags while crossing the campus at night with one group, and then merging with the other prefrosh for an even larger group. It’s never been easier for me to meet new people than during a weekend arranged specifically for adMITs to meet each other! Remember that, and try not to travel on your own. There are no cliques during CPW, so join any group you’d like, and start as many conversations as you can.
  • There’s so much free stuff and free food! If you spend your own $$ on food or MIT swag, you’re doing it wrong. Although there’s nothing wrong with buying an MIT t-shirt at the Coop (our on-campus swag + textbook store), it feels a lot better to get a custom MIT t-shirt for free from, say, the Math or History departments. Or a stress-release hippo toy from MIT Political Science. The Academic Expo on Friday and student group Activities Fair on Saturday are great destinations for swag like that. Just make sure you have space in your bag! Oh, and you’ll find free food pretty much at any FSILG or departmental event, so pace yourself.