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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

In the South for prospective students; in the mail for incoming students by Matt McGann '00

Travel & email.

Hello from Georgia! We had a fantastic meeting last night in Atlanta, where I got to meet many fantastic students. After wonderful meetings in Miami, Tampa, and Atlanta, we now have one final meeting in Birmingham, Alabama. If you came to one of these meetings, I hope you’ll leave a comment to say hi!

Our focus is now turning to the Class of 2012. We still have some more work to do on the Class of 2011 (no waitlist news yet; please be patient), but soon the incoming freshman class will transition from the Admissions Office to the Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming office (UAAP). The beginning of this transition is the “Next Big Mailing” (NBM), the first wave of which was sent out earlier this week (more will be mailed next week, be patient).

What does the NBM include?

  • A cover letter from Stu, formally transitioning you to the UAAP.
  • The Final School Report. This report tells the Admissions Office your final coursework and grades.
  • Information from the ARC.
  • A letter about the Communication Requirement and Freshman Essay Evaluation (FEE).
  • The Medical Report from MIT Medical.
  • Instructions for obtaining your MIT computing (Athena/Kerberos) account, including your email address (!).

The last item is the one that generates the most excitement. For many students, it doesn’t really set in that they’re an MIT student until they send their first email from their MIT account. This day is almost here!

Because I care about you, here are some tips for choosing an email address:

  • You must choose a username that is between 3 and 8 characters.
  • Choose a username that you won’t be embarrassed sharing with your professors.
  • In some circles on campus, you may become known by your username, so choose wisely.
  • Feel free to choose something with some personality, if you like!
  • A couple ways to check if your username is already taken: 1) put the username into the people search; 2) point your web browser to Neither of these methods are foolproof, but they are good first checks.
  • Good default usernames are your last name (if it is fairly unique and 8 letters or fewer); your first name (if it is fairly unique and 8 letters or fewer); your first and last names concatenated (good for people whose first & last names are short).
  • Characteristics I don’t recommend: underscores (david_h), numbers (david789), unpronounceable terminations of long last names (hasselho).
  • Note: you can, through Moira, request an email list, which, if you set your username as the only subscriber, can function as a second email address for you; this list name can be longer than 8 characters.
  • Signing up for your account will give you storage space (an online “locker”) and a website at
  • A username can also get you an MIT certificate, giving you access to MIT software downloads, online library/journal access, and much more.
  • And, of course, once you have your MIT email address, you can formally become a member of the MIT Facebook community.

Here is some advice that MIT students and alums provided last year about choosing an email address:

From Anthony ’09:

Numbers are really lame, as Matt said :)

Keep in mind that the account name you choose will stay with you as long as you are at MIT. This will be the name you give to faculty, future employers, everyone, all the way through your senior year and beyond. It does not (automatically) become your alumni address, but besides that… you cannot change it. Do you really want to answer to “hotdog88” in three years when you’re in a suit and tie before a recruiter? :)

From Erin ’04:

Ah the username… back when I matriculated, you picked it when you got to campus. This gave the upperclassman an opportunity to pass out orientation handbooks that included tips on what to pick or what not to pick. Since freshman have started picking their names before they got to campus, I’ve noted an increasing number of what I would consider bad usernames. The number one rule to remember: YOU CANNOT CHANGE YOUR USERNAME.

That being said, here are some tips I’d recommend…

In my circle of friends, as Matt mentioned, we all called everyone by their usernames (except me — I got shortened down to Rhode (pronounced Roadie) for whatever reason). So take care to pick a user name that won’t embarrass you. This is also a good opportunity to pick your own nickname. I have a really good friend who wanted to be known as Breath. He made it his username — to this day, I have to think twice to remember that his name is actually Ryan. So if you want to be called fishboy, then go ahead and pick it.

I’d like to reemphasize the no numbers or underscores thing. People (at least if you meet my friends) will mock you. Also, the underscore is the only valid username character that requires the shift key to be typed — and that can get tedious. Remember that your senior year, you’re likely going to be using this e-mail address to send out resumes for job applications. Do you really want a future employer to know you as smrty_88?

Also, just to emphasis the possibly permanency of this username, because you’ll likely be well known as this name, there will be a lot of pressure to use the same username as your alum account. When I want to e-mail another alum that I don’t regularly keep in touch with, by default I always assume that their e-mail is [email protected] If it bounces, then I’ll bother to check the alum directory.

If you can do something clever that is actually related to your name, then I recommend doing that. To this day, I mildly regret not being rhodeer — Rho Deer — just for the humor. I know a guy whose name anagrams to “Manus” (as in Mens Et Manus), so that’s his username.

Most people just wind up being something bland, like jsmith or smithja. That’s okay. Really. There’s no shame in having a professional username that’s easy to remember.

From Sam ’07:

I have always regretted not being [email protected] Also, you can change your username if you get married while at MIT. So, see you all on facebook soon, I guess.

From me:

You may not know this, since I now publicize a different email address, but my actual username I chose when I arrived at MIT was madmatt. It was a high school nickname — nothing to do with anger (definition 1), more like definition 2, or this guy — which became an MIT nickname as well (because it was my username). Once I started applying for jobs I grabbed a mailing list, mcgann, which has served me well ever since.

Class of 2011, what will you choose for your username?

66 responses to “In the South for prospective students; in the mail for incoming students”

  1. milena '11 says:

    I think I’m going to go with milena. it’s pretty easy, and I looked it up in the people search and nobody has it, yay!!

  2. I’ll probably be Tshen2. Heck, people already call me that now!

  3. Evan '10 says:

    Like Matt said, the people search method isn’t foolproof. Lots of people aren’t in the people database.

    Also, I’m pretty sure that usernames are reserved for a good while even after your account gets deactivated in case you ever show up on campus again.

    For example, I wanted ebroder because that’s my standard username, but I couldn’t get it, even though it doesn’t show up in the people search and doesn’t have anything. Turns out it belonged to someone whose account was deactivated at the beginning of last year.

    That goes back to the whole “pick wisely now” business, too.

    (milena looks good, by the way)

  4. lulu says:

    and if your full name fits into the 8 character limit – wink – DO IT. people will be jealous

  5. fishboy says:

    I am totally going with [email protected]!!!
    or gillface….

  6. Nick says:

    My son graduated High school in Russia and will be graduating high school here in the US in 2008. He has participated in several competitions in Russia and has the awards and diplomas. My question is what are the power requirements for the MIT documents to foreign participation in competitions, the school, the accreditation and awards?

  7. Matt – do you know when there will be waitlist news?

  8. Shamarah says:

    hi mr. mcgann smile

    i’m shamarah, and i was the super-inquisitive girl at the tampa information session who is attending MITES this summer.
    i had a great time and i thought the evening was very informative – thanks for being so welcoming even when i kept you there until like 10pm hmmm

    :D !

  9. JamesM says:

    I am also waiting for news, but I’m sure that MIT is really busy now with all their incoming students and has a lot to sort through. Don’t worry, Patiently Waiting, I’m sure we’ll hear soon.

  10. C EZEANI says:

    Hello Matt!!!

    THINKING of applying to MIT Class of 2012 me. Just looking into all of my options. I am really glad you are EVEN thinking of starting the 2012 process this really early!! I guess it is someone else’s turn to start losing some sleep!

    Because this is really kind of SUPER-COOL. Sorta beats HARVARD to it??
    In the Early Process stakes!?

  11. Fangfei says:

    Hooray, I think I’ll just take my first name! It didn’t show up as taken when I looked it up. Hope that’s the case.

  12. Kevin '11 says:

    I’m so psyched about the e-mail, esp. since I did the whole thing and noone showed up. Also, good luck with the kids in the South. I just found out this jr. in my Cal B/C class follows the blogs religiously and MIT is his 1st choice…

  13. Gloria says:

    No waitlist news yet? Oh..I am dying to go to MIT
    Please please please let me in!

  14. donaldGuy says:

    Hey Matt,

    Glad to know you guys are shifting to think about the class of 2012 .. cause I promise the hopeful class of 2012 (or maybe its just me) has definitely been thinking of you guys! I have a couple friends who got into the class of ’11 and I can say that I’ve been massively jealous.. especially since the week that a) I finally actually visited MIT and b) they got to go to CPW.

    I fear the username I would use will be snapped up by someone in ’11 (so I’m not posting it here) .. but then I guess I’ll just fall back to my name , like this. I was hoping I could sneak it in early via RSI .. but, alas, it was not to be.

    A couple quick questions (for anyone with answers/opinions):<ul><li>Sadly, I will not be able to attend the info session with Ben (in Norfolk, VA) cause my research mentorship (that I’m doing instead of RSI). My mom was saying she would go, anyway.. is it worth it for her/me for her to do so?</li><li>Is there any benefit to designating MIT on my NMS form? Because surely MIT is my first choice, but there are other schools that have merit scholarships, if you designate them (e.g. Mudd), that I might want in the sad event that I don’t make it into MIT. So, will designating MIT be noticed (and appreciated)?</li></ul>

    Wow, I have a tendency to make long posts apparently.. so ..
    Thanks for your time,
    ~Donald Guy

  15. Maia '11 says:

    To DonaldGuy–

    No matter who you designate on the National Merit Form, if you actually get a National Merit Award, you’ll need to notify them where you’re going . And even if the school you choose is not on the initial list (I believe that MIT is not), your award will still be honored (in MIT’s case, at least). Congrats on NMS, anyway!

  16. Yuri '11 says:

    My full name fits in the 8-character limit! I kind of don’t want to use it, though. It’s pretty weird looking. …Is it silly that I started thinking about username over three weeks ago (and already did the above-mentioned checks to find that my first name isn’t as uncommon as I thought) and still haven’t made any decisions?

  17. Basant'11 says:

    I’ll use my first name! I’m sure no one else has got that name. Can’t wait to join the MIT’11 network on Facebook!

  18. Snively says:

    Psh, I think I have an idea about what I’ll use. . .

  19. Snively says:

    Just realized that the “Psh” sounded really snotty. Sorry about that!

  20. lv says:

    At least we will find out soon. I really hope for the best.

  21. I would like to second Donaldguy’s question about National Merit. My two top choices are Stanford and MIT and neither offer National Merit Scholarships. So do colleges that don’t offer the awards appreciate being “notified”? Or should we notify colleges who are likely to offer us aid for it? Thank you!

  22. im not really sure what to put as my username. I dont really wanna use my name since thats what alot of people do and my name is kinda boring. but i do have some ideas…

    1.) pyrocide :Ive had it since last year, it my gamertag that I play under at halo LAN parties. its all unique, but Im not sure what the MIT community would think about that.

    2.) drizzle :ehh, its an art class nickname.

    any imput would be fantastic.

  23. Carmel '11 says:

    to everyone wondering about National Merit..

    I put Rice as my first choice on the initial forms, because they were on the list, even though MIT was my actual first choice. I figured that MIT wouldn’t know or care, and because you can change the college you designated if and after you receive an award, it doesn’t matter.. it all worked out for the best! In fact, because I named Rice first they waived my application fee, which was sweet, and when I got a scholarship in the end it was the one you can apply to any school.

    SUMMARY: put a school that’s on the list, because you might not get into MIT. That way you don’t close off the possibility of getting a college-specific NM scholarship from a school other than MIT

    haha that was so long. sorry guys.

  24. Maia '11 says:

    Hey Audrey H.,

    I kinda like pyrocide better than drizzle, but pyros might be offended by the implication that you’re trying to kill them, or something. Plus the people you fragged might recognize your name and attack you in a dark alley. But it’s really up to you.

  25. Hope you have fun while down South Matt. “Our focus is now turning to the Class of 2012.” Ahh, I’ve never felt such joy and terror at the same time. lol Too bad I won’t be able to go to any of the information sessions. I guess there’s always Fall though.

  26. Shannon says:

    I can hardly believe that the admissions cycle for the class of ’12 is about to start.

    Very cool, but… wow.

  27. yg says:

    How about “yg” for username? It would certainly be easy =) I don’t want to be nick-named “why gee” though, lol!

  28. Donnervogel says:

    Curious…is the user name case sensitive?

  29. jen(n) '11 says:

    a while back, i was disappointed to find out that [email protected] was taken cause pretty much everyone knows me as “jen lai” (“jen lai” also happens to be a noodle place at fanueil (sp?) hall– numerous friends who visited boston sent me emails: “omg, there’s this place called jen lai!” with attached photo of the sign. when i visited boston myself, i just had to go take a picture under it.) so i guess i’ll be going with [email protected]. i hope the other jen lai at MIT won’t mistakenly get my email next year. also, i guess i’ll have to start spelling jen with two n’s.

  30. WHAT another lulu @ MIT this is unacceptable

  31. Melissa '11 says:

    Audrey – Pyrocide! That sounds awesome =)

    I’m going to be “wings”, assuming it’s not taken already (please don’t take it!). As a couple of you know, I’m a pilot, hence the nickname =)

  32. Mike A. '11 says:

    Hey matt, I dont suppose there is any way to have the next big mailing rushed? I just feel rather anxious, since I will be leaving for a three week backpacking trip for greece on may the twenty-fifth, and every day that goes by is one less day to get my username/housing lottery/stuff figured out and sent in.

  33. Yeah, is the username case sensitive? It’s a bit tiring to read names like smithja, rather than SmithJA.

    By the way, just for fun, is anyone planning to declare your username as “firstpost”? That will be unforgettable. Haha.

  34. donaldGuy says:

    yg: people could just call you something to to the effect of yig (rhymes with fig) or yug (rhymes with hug)!.. cause, that wouldn’t be annoying .. ^_^

    anyway, thanks for the people who have responded bout NM, though I’d still like to actually hear an admissions person’s take. I can designate two schools .. I know HMC (Mudd) is one of ’em, but I need to decide if the other should be MIT (since its my actual first choice) or if I should try to find somewhere else that will give me money

    Peace and Love (and Linux),
    ~Donald Guy

  35. But firstpost is 9 letters!


  36. Sh1fty says:

    i don’t think i’ll have much trouble with deciding on my username because both my first and last name aren’t common (my last name is pretty much unique, only like 5 people besides me have it). but this 8 byte limit kinda sux… my full name is 9 bytes :( but i sure won’t be using the same username as i use now, that number kinda messes it up…
    anyway, now that admissions office turning their focus on the class of 2012 spreading this link might be in order:
    all of you(current students too) are welcome to join. Matt, would you mind posting the link somewhere where people could see it? Ben said he’ll do it but i guess he forgot…

  37. Anonymous says:

    I am going to apply here this summer
    so excited! ! ^_^

  38. You can’t have uppercase letters, for those who were curious.

    And it’s official. For the next four years (or more?), I’m wings =)

  39. timlee says:

    my name is an anagram of “im leet”… thoughts?

  40. debbie says:

    aww shucks, my full name is 9 letters. =( haha

  41. Jess says:

    Entire villages were destroyed when I found out [email protected] was taken (JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE RECENTLY DEACTIVATED).

  42. FlameBird says:

    *SAME AS sh1fty said*

    I wont have any problems deciding on my username :D And I even dont mind the 8 byte limit raspberry

    And yes Matt please post the link somewhere.


  43. Lulu says:

    I think I’ll be using my full name, since it’s eight letters long. Yay for short names! smile

  44. Issei says:

    Ohh man, I have to say I was pretty happy when saw “Class of 2011 (no waitlist news yet; please be patient)…”

    I guess whatever happens, happens- but I’m still dreaming of the day when I get the cylinder acceptance letter in my mail box.

  45. Audrey H. says:

    lol, melissa and maia, thanks for the input.

  46. Phil says:

    Is anyone else having difficulty registering? I’m getting the error message:
    “The registration server unexpectedly stopped communicating with us. This may indicate a temporary problem with the registration system, or with the network.”


  47. Yuri says:

    Phil – yep, I’ve been having problems registering too. The server’s been completely inaccessible since around 10 PM yesterday. (It was intermittently working before that. I know this because I was one click away from registering! But I didn’t get to finish.) Hopefully it gets fixed soon – I want to get this done smile

  48. FlameBird says:

    I would like to have something like w00t :D

  49. Kathy B says:

    Im so sad, there’s already a [email protected] =[ i like it because it rhymes! kathy b at M I T =D but sadly im a little late. i thought about Kathy BE at MIT but im afraid that people will get the b and the be mixed up. any suggestions? btw, my last name is bui, pronounced like buoy. i thought maybe i could use a pun in the username somewhere but it’s sorta hard =[.

  50. Yuri says:

    For those who haven’t registered yet – the registration server is up again!

  51. Maia '11 says:

    WHO took [email protected]? Is there another Maia, or is it the little girl that shows up on the people search? Shucks…..

    Your name has to be at least 3 letters, so yg won’t work.

  52. '11 says:

    I was accepted and
    1)I submitted 1&2 separately
    2)I included a resume
    3)everything was in one big envelope.

  53. Grace '11 says:

    Goodness me this is a dillema. Umm…McKane? Amalgamated version of my middle and last names? Although could be wrongly construed as MC Kane. Which could get embarassing.
    Hmmm. Difficult.
    Part of me wants to go with ‘Scotty’ as I have a horrible feeling this may become my nickname at some point due to my ‘I canny break the laws o’ physics Captunn’ accent.
    I’m taking this far too seriously, amn’t I?

  54. Lola says:

    “Our focus is now turning to the Class of 2012.” YAY!

    3 quick questions, Matt: 1) When applying, can we submit Part 1 and Part 2 separately, or does the admissions office prefer both to be submitted all at once?
    2) Does MIT discourage sending in resumes along with the 5 activites listed in the application?
    3) When applicants send in resumes, teacher evals, official transcripts, etc., can they pile it all into one envelope, or do you want everything to be sent separately?

    Thanks for your time.

  55. Lola says:

    Thanks to ’11. If we send in other supplementary material (such as art), should we pile it in the envelope as well? I read on the site somewhere that to send in art samples, applicants have to send it to the architecture department?! But isn’t that something for the admissions committee to consider?

  56. Shravas says:

    There’s this website called, where you put stats online, which is available to colleges (I’m not sure what the difference between this, and your actual application is), so I was just wondering what you thought of it.

  57. Krypton says:

    All this decision making is taking a huuuuuge toll on me.. and I’m no closer to coming up with something appropriate yet tastefully clever!

  58. Robert '11 says:

    Just wondering, can we use the feature before getting to campus or we can only use it from MIT’s Athena machines?

  59. Elizabeth says:

    huh- I just went with the simple ederegt. I considered elderegt though, L being my middle initial as well as the second letter of my first name. But ederegt is typable with one hand so I like it. I just wish I had a simpler last name, one that people could pronounce.

  60. Elizabeth says:

    hey- is anyone else having trouble accessing pages? My certificate seems to work fine (I can access some of the pages) but I can’t get to the ECAT for Apple (or Dell). Anyone have any suggestions? It’s this page-
    Anyone else able to access it?

  61. mathstar says:

    Hey Matt,

    Thank you so much for visiting GA. I enjoyed the information session and am very glad that I got to meet you, Hope, Lisa, and Anne. You guys helped me know that I am making the right choice in applying for MIT. Thank y’all for answering all my questions! :D

    -Kassandra (Kasse) Stephens

  62. austein says:


    In general, answers to questions about Athena and the MIT computing environment can be found at
    If you can’t find what you’re looking for, [email protected] is the way to go for support.

    Once you have your account, you can start using Athena right away. The Athena dialup servers are available from any computer. See for more info. (The article recommends SecureCRT for connecting from windows, but I prefer putty) can be used right away, you just have to create the files using your choice of editor on the dialup, or upload it following the instructions at:

    Note that you’ll probably want to have your site inside www or Public as those two are world-readable by default.