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MIT student blogger Jess K. '10

IAP? No.. YOU’RE AP by Jess K. '10

Possibly the worst title EVER. (Also, answers to your questions, but under the worst title ever.)

(Yeah, okay, that was a really bad title. I GET IT. Not everyone can have their neighbors be eaten by countries, have entries dedicated to them in conjunction with Ben’s mom, etc.)

IAP began a little over a week ago and stands for Independent Awesome Period (not really, but it might as well). I’m taking the EMT class, which is not only an amazing deal (we only have to pay for the cost of our book this year, while EMT classes at other campuses can cost several hundreds of dollars and take much more time) but also an intense 8-hour daily triathalon of taking quizzes, listening to lectures, and training in the afternoon. (It’s also the reason why this post is so late.. I’m really tired by the time I make it crawling and bruised, limbs hanging off in stray directions, back to my dorm.) Our professor/teacher/instructor guy/…let’s just call him Mark is an active man with the power to withstand our class’s constant poking and prodding, as long as he gets to bite back.

Aside from class, there’s a huge variety of different activities, lecture series, and crash courses you can take during IAP, which Melis talked about earlier, or you can just enjoy yourself, because a lot of people have substantially smaller workloads. Yesterday I saw Monet’s water lilies up close at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, then went shopping on Newbury Street; a few nights ago I had dinner at California Pizza Kitchen with Trevor, Aditi, and Christina during which we revealed embarassing personal secrets such as Trevor’s love for the chick flick A Lot Like Love. We then proceeded to attempt to watch it in the Simmons multipurpose room. (Attempt only, because very tragically, the projector was broken. Poor Trev.)

Enough about my happenings, though. You have questions! I have answers and droolworthy pictures. (This isn’t really a fair trade, is it?..)

Ella ponders: I read what you wrote in a previous entry (er..I think it was October..?) about being evaluated as a person and your personality, not your record alone, but it just seems so important to have a good portfolio and everything. I don’t live in America right now but I’d love to go to MIT and it just seems like there’s so much competition, everyone’s just trying to shove as much as they can under their belt. Does that actually…work?

Blahh, I hope not. I’d like to think it doesn’t. But I know it happens, and it sucks. People join like, blind pistol clubs or something else equally useless that they don’t care about all the time just to put it on their college applications. This is bad. You can, however, actually benefit from these types of peripheral activities, though, if you genuinely diversify your interests in this manner – genuine being the key word. If you do, it’ll hopefully show through in your essays and your interview.

A really important thing to remember is that you’re not evaluated on anything alone. Yeah, it’s great if you’re a really funny kid with an optimism like nobody’s business, but that’s not going to compensate for a complete lack of extracurriculars and a 400 on the SATs – and vice versa. Don’t go too crazy with diversifying yourself, though, just because “everybody’s doing it” – the competition is always going to exist whether you conform to it or not. And yes, people living in America might have different opportunities available to them as well, and that’s fine – the admissions office will recognize that this exists. Don’t let it get to you!

Monica queries: I have been wanting to got to MIT since I was little, do you have any advice or tips to help me? Right now I am in the 8th grade. And what exactly is a problem set?

Take challenging classes that interest you at the same time. This is kind of hard, especially in high school, because a lot of the time you just have to go through the motions. If you find yourself getting bored by the monotony (and you probably will), do something new. Start a club. Enter a science fair. Take a class at a community college. Learn how to manage your time efficiently. Beat up anyone who gets in your way.

(Don’t actually beat up anyone who gets in your way.)

Above all, high school can actually be pretty rewarding if you don’t get sucked into the everyday routine. Enjoy yourself! Make friends with everybody! Run around screaming! Don’t actually run around screaming! Best of luck!

(Regarding problem sets: They’re homework, usually assigned weekly. Christina answered this pretty well: You know how in high school you’re given, say 1-21 odd? A problem set at MIT consists of 1-23049234 ALL and then a bunch of tricky questions the professor makes up him/herself. They’re wonderous.)

Josh V questions: so i just read that you’re a swimmer…on a team? what do/did you swim?
its all about the 100 fly for me (and unfortunately somtimes the 200 im-ugh!)
do you swim for mit? varsity? do they have club or jv teams at mit? (because i’m def no varsity swimmer)

also, what’s it like being asian at mit? do you not even think about it? do you just go with the flow and chill like everyone else? and i only ask because my elementary/middle school was pretty much an all filipino (maybe like 70-80%) school, and when i moved to seattle prep (my hs), it was like 70% caucasian so it was kind of a big change and major deal to me and i noticed it not frequently, but often. and because i’m also in the multicultural club and i think about things like that.

I swam for my high school JV team and on a summer rec team; around my senior year I practiced with a year-round, but I’m really out of shape now so I swim on my own. I believe the 200 IM is actually used as a form of torture in some parts of the world. (No, not really. I hate it, though.) MIT does have a varsity swim team and a master’s team, as well as a REALLY nice olympic pool that’s pretty much open to anyone as long as you have a gym membership.

As for the Asian question, I’m kind of confused as to what you mean because the typical stereotype is that there’s a lot of Asians at MIT, but I feel like you’re asking me if I feel differently as an Asian person in a non-Asian environment. (Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, though – you said “chill like everyone else” as in “chill like everyone else who is not Asian”?) Let me put it this way. To me, being Asian at MIT is like being Asian at a grocery store. Or being Asian at a Holiday Inn. Or being Asian in a tree. There is no difference. I am an American, and a human being, and I have friends that are other human beings that happen to be white and brown and black and yellow and orange and green and blue. This might be something important to digest before you go to college, MIT or not.

Ashley asks: How is food in MIT? I remember you writing about that amazing sandwich, but you can’t eat that sandwich everyday for 4 years.

Do you cook/make your own meals?

Do you have time to fit all your extracurricular activities and workload in your schedule? You did write about tons of activities, but are you still involved in those activities while finishing up your problem sets?

Ashley, you can if you continue to discover amazing sandwiches.

This is, however, providence, and not something that we can control. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the food at MIT, but college food in general is a big step away from home cooking. The great thing is, though, we’re so close to Boston that it’s really easy to go out and find really good restaurants, like the incredible Flour Bakery on Washington Street where my sister and I found those really awesome sandwiches (hers is egg; mine is caprese), or even at the CambridgeSide Galleria, the mall that has your bigger chain restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory, and of course, California Pizza Kitchen.

It’s funny that you just asked me about cooking, though, because over IAP there’s only one dining hall open that is a lot pricier than just cooking your own food, and a bunch of my friends decided that we were sick of eating bread sandwiches (that would be bread in between two slices of bread) for dinner, so we headed out to the grocery store to buy enough food for 8 people for one week. A lot of people do cook during the year – the residents of French House cook every night and have an awesome fully-stocked kitchen, but Next House only has one big kitchen in the basement and a dining hall, so it’s not as much a priority.

Cooking can be hard during the year, though, with all your other commitments. It IS kind of hard to deal with balancing your activities, especially when you come from high school and you’re used to doing five million things at once because all you have to worry about is whether you want an A or an A++, and then you come to college – especially MIT- and the workload is a lot different from what you’re used to. Even those kids who got straight A’s, were president of the Computer/Chess/Computer Chess club, ran varsity track and field, wrote a movie critique column online, played the panflute, and still had a social life have to learn to adjust. I did eventually drop out of Concert Chorus because of the five-hour practices, but I was still a member of MedLinks, Plush Daddy Fly, Dance Troupe, and now I’m training to be an EMT, but I really value each of my activities for different reasons. So yeah, if you don’t spread yourself too thin, extracurriculars are not only manageable, they’re really worthwhile. You could start over entirely at college and become a yoga master or something. Put down your panflute. I think I’m trying to be metaphorical here. It’s not really working out. Next!

Amy scrutinizes: I was just curious – a while ago you posted about getting a new Macbook. What’s it like switching from a PC to a Mac and how does it fit into an MIT-style life? Are you liking it so far? Do computers play a big part in life in general at MIT, or just for Course Six-ers?

I went home for break two weeks ago and took my MacBook home. I set it up in front of my PC, on the desk, and nine times out of ten went for the laptop instead of the gigantic machine running Windows that I’d used for two years with the double monitors and the subwoofer and the spacious hard drive. I don’t really function without my MacBook, seriously. Switching from a PC to a Mac was pretty much a no-brainer, and the interface is much, much cleaner – but then again, it often comes down to personal preference. Computers in general play a big part in college life, MIT or not; you’re going to be writing papers and checking your email (and facebook) every two seconds, anyway – you might as well get one you love.

So I told you how I was really pressed for time during the week with the EMT class, right? I’ve been trying to post this for the last four days – to the extent that I’m finally putting this up during my lunch break. I’m so late getting back to class, though – Mark is probably going to sit on me – so I’ll see you in four hours!

33 responses to “IAP? No.. YOU’RE AP”

  1. First entry. Have a nice time Jess during IAP. eh heh do videos play a very important part in college admissions. May be videos on quizzes you took part in.

  2. Solomon says:

    Have a nice time Jess during this IAP. Do you think videos play a very important part in college admissions that is videos on quizzes in which you have participated.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I love your pictures!

  4. milena says:

    Oooh I just switched to Mac like a month ago (my dad bought me a MacBook too) and I love it!! Everybody should switch, I think they’re way simpler than PC’s…

  5. kellie says:

    i *heart* you

    and miss you too!

  6. Manisha says:

    Hey, I was just wondering… is Aditi from India? How many Indians were admitted to MIT for the class of 2010?
    Do graduate/Ph.D students get an IAP?

  7. Farhad says:

    Hello. I don’t know if it is too late to ask a question (it probably is). Anyway, the thing is I just realized a few months ago I want to attend MIT, I’m not a U.S. citizen or anything like that. I think I can do pretty well on the SATs and even improve my grades, write some nice and honest essays and have my intervew. But I’m worried about extracurricular activities… I think I don’t have much of those… I play chess, for example, don’t know if things of that kind count, but that’s not like the science club or something. I have done many different things and activities, but many of them by myself, so i don’t know if that counts too. Also, schools over here don’t promote lots of activities… So it’s kind of hard to participate in a math olympiad or something like that. If anyone could help me with that I’ll be very thankfull.

  8. Jess says:

    Josh V – No hard feelings! I shouldn’t’ve come off so harshly – it’s just something I feel really strongly about. But yeah, as you said, this is very differently worded different from your original question. It’s NOT just your own observation, either – we definitely had the racial cliques at my high school, which I always had a problem with (as you could probably tell!) because it got to the point of exclusivity – as in “I’m not going to hang out with her, because she’s not (insert nationality)”. What IS that?! Okay, so you’re going to find that people of different races do feel a sense of belonging when they meet someone of the same ethnicity. It just happens that way, and is unavoidable – to a point. I feel like (or at least I hope that) this doesn’t happen as much at the university level, because people mature and branch out.

    There are a LOT of cultural clubs (and even cultural houses) at MIT that are great and genuinely do celebrate our differences without excluding anybody. Not all hope is lost smile Thanks for writing back!

  9. Laura says:

    Dude, Mark rocks. I’m mad I didn’t think to take a picture of him and blog about it last year. Hee. =)

  10. Yuting says:

    Jess, beautiful pics of us!

    I do come home before 10pm once in a while. Besides, I think Cooking with Damon would make a better late night show, away from the eyes of our precious youths today, what with our vulgarity and everything :D

  11. Stephen says:

    Haha, yeah, the 200 IM can be torture sometimes. I had to swim it sophomore and half of junior year. I was so glad when I switched to the 200 free instead.

    Now, the 200 fly, especially in long course meters, is torture no matter where you are in the world.

    John V-I know how you feel about waiting for March. I hope to see you around MIT’s pool next year. I swim now,(50/100/200 frees or 100 back)but I haven’t decided if I want to swim in college.

  12. Farhad says:

    Thanks Iteloo, that kind of relives me smile I mean, there’s still time because I’m still attending highschool, but yeah. Also the thing is that I don’t know if admissions people will see if I have the needed skills and talent and stuff for attending MIT if I don’t have a bunch of extracurricular activities to show them that.
    Anyway, I will keep reading this amazing blogs and just try to do my best from this point that now I’m determined to attend MIT.
    The interview sounds like a really helpful thing.
    Thanks again.
    Oh, and greetings to all the swimmers smile

  13. k8 says:


    i am afraid i must correct you on one point.

    bread sandwiches are, in fact, those basil mozzarella tomato sandwiches at laverdes that are essentially 99.999999999999999999% bread.

    plz get your mitty terminology right.

  14. Zaira '11 says:

    Hello, Jess. I was wondering about changing from a PC to a Mac too. I used to be totally anti-Mac, but I’ve been using my friend’s Mac lately (and checking out the Apple site), and I’m falling in love with Macs.

    What type of laptop should I get for college? On on side I can get a PC with tons of programs, downloads, familiarity, and ‘cheap’ prices. On the other side, I can get a Mac with it’s super cool OS, interface and capabilities. What should I do?


  15. Snively says:

    I’m gonna say that Windows Vista is going to look very Mac-ish when it comes to OS, so I plan on just sticking to Windows, far superior. Although, Marilee was def using a Macbook for her info session so I know that Macs have quite a following at MIT. But, if it’s simply an OS preference, Vista should take care of that.

  16. Everyone should run Linux. It’s beautiful. :p

  17. anonymous says:

    great post =D love your blog

  18. Colin says:

    Is the “Remember Me?” button ever going to work? I blame you, Kamber.

    I have to meet with my advisor in two hours and I’m so terrified that she’s going to be like, “yeah, actually, you have to take 8.011 and you can’t take 8.02 concurrently, so if you want to be Course 16 you can just stay at MIT for an extra year.” If that happens, I will probably die.

    I keep trying to think of something to say that’s actually relevant here, but so far it’s not really working. Oh, except that your snowman doesn’t look like a snowman, and I think we should go out to eat soon cause I am tired of this “I have workworkwork all daydayday and then I’m going to go to Harv and then see you for ten minutes.” I mean, GOD, Kamber, I know you have a busy schedule, but SOME OF US aren’t doing anything over IAP and get really bored. Do it for the [lazy] children.

    Is the “Remember Me?” button ever going to work? I blame you, Kamber.

    I have to meet with my advisor in two hours and I’m so terrified that she’s going to be like, “yeah, actually, you have to take 8.011 and you can’t take 8.02 concurrently, so if you want to be Course 16 you can just stay at MIT for an extra year.” If that happens, I will probably die.

    I keep trying to think of something to say that’s actually relevant here, but so far it’s not really working. Oh, except that your snowman doesn’t look like a snowman, and I think we should go out to eat soon cause I am tired of this “I have workworkwork all daydayday and then I’m going to go to Harv and then see you for ten minutes.” I mean, GOD, Kamber, I know you have a busy schedule, but SOME OF US aren’t doing anything over IAP and get really bored. Do it for the [lazy] children.

    <3 @ you.

  19. Colin says:

    Also there was supposed to be a heart at the end but I neglected the “you may use HTML tags for style” bit and forgot about the < issue.

    So basically, <3 @ you.

  20. Monika says:

    well- I love cooking..(nice snowman!!!)

    I agree: Linux is awesome! Its only for the rest of the world that it is difficult to handle, because no one else uses it.

    btw:Whats the weather like there? We have that storm here, named Kerryl, and the roof my school’s roof flew away wink So I won’t have my final presentation tomorrow!!!!*jeah*

  21. Sarab says:

    I love Mac’s too

  22. Trevor says:

    Of all the things you can write about, you tell everyone that I love “A Lot Like Love.”

    Thanks Jess.

  23. phil kim says:

    hellooo neighbor! =P nice entry, i like how u summed up things well. haha.

    it’s getting so colddd!

  24. Christina says:


    *kamber posts picture*

  25. Aditi says:

    dear Jess,
    thank you for making me famous. I’ll dedicate my first oscar to you.
    dear Jess,
    thank you for making me famous. I’ll dedicate my first oscar to you.

  26. Christina says:

    Josh – here is a picture of some of my best friends and I after our secret santa breakfast before we left for break.

    I’m posting it, even though my eyes are closed, so you better get some meaning out of it. smile

  27. Iteloo~ says:

    Farhad: don’t worry about it. I believe MIT takes the context into account, and plus, if you are good this way then why try to find things that you might not enjoy doing just to impress the adcoms? Just remember to tell the them in ur app the things you do (by yourself or with a group) and things you are passionate about, or else they won’t know it.

  28. Josh V says:

    whoo. to be honest, i kind of felt a little sting with that last sentence in your response to me, but whatev, i probably just interpreted that statement differently than you intended. but yeah, i kind of feel like i should defend myself or something because obviously I know that whatever differences people have with each other should be celebrated, not pointed out for any negative purpose. and of course i have friends that are orange, blue, magenta, etc. yes, it shouldn’t even matter–we are all human beings/children of God/however you want to put it. don’t get me wrong, i’m not contesting that nor am i ignorant of it.

    i guess it was just how i asked my question, which i’ll admit was confusing (i even had a hard time putting it into words). so i explained the whole situation of my old school vs. my high school. in middle school, we all pretty muched worked together as one big family. in high school, i noticed that there were many more cliques at school and, being observant, i noticed that many of the groups were of people that had the same background. it was probably just that kids had the same interest and it did not have anything to do with background (or that that background influenced that common interest). i don’t know if you can tell, but i’m trying very hard to be careful of how i word this. anyways, every year during our post-MLK assembly discussions in class, someone always brings up that “all the minorities always hang out with each other, and the white kids have their own clique”. maybe what i was trying to ask was whether or not there was same kind of cliquey environment at mit. (or maybe i was trying to ask something completely different. i don’t remember anymore). but you have clearly explained that people at mit work together and have fun together because they share common interest, and what i was saying/observing was probably just my weird observations. and yeah, there might be that certain group of people one hangs out with, but it is because of interests. (and it is probably just the same thing with my school) i don’t know…it’s hard for me to explain my question without me thinking that how i’m writing it makes me sound like a racist or something like that.

    at any rate–your response was helpful. don’t feel you need to respond to this if you don’t want to.
    I GET IT =).

    ps: march CANNOT come soon enough! and on the one hand, i’m dying for it to just come so i can know if i got in or not, but on the other i also dread that day because i know that as long as i am still waiting for the decision, there is still hope that I might get in.

  29. Josh V says:

    Thanks Christina! That was meaningful–it’s nice to see an example…=)

  30. cristen says:

    o_o I actually laughed out loud at your title.

  31. Jess says:

    Solomon – I’m really confused as to what you mean – videos don’t typically play a part in admissions. The only place where I could see you getting this idea would be in Legally Blonde where she makes that video of herself in a hot tub to send to Harvard, but people don’t usually do that in real life, I think..

  32. christie says:


    hmmmm I want an even better comparison between PC & Mac. HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN IT’S TRUE LOVE?? One macbook using friend said hers freezes up when using multiple programs, which was precisely the image burned in my mind after using iMacs for 3 yrs in middle school.

  33. Ben says:

    AWESOME ANOTHER SWIMMER! 50 and 100 free for me. I think I sort of volunteered to start swimming the 500 free also. It’s true the 200 IM is torture. I think the 100 fly is worse though.