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MIT student blogger Bryan O. '07

Making The Switch by Bryan

Making the transition from high school to college, Chapter 1

Hello, I’m a PC.

Hello, I’m a Mac.

If you haven’t seen one of these commercials, I really don’t know what to tell you except turn on the TV.

But the never-ending battle between the two computing platforms is not the subject of this blog entry, but if you do need advice about buying a computer for college, I can share my thoughts.

This blog entry, however, is about making the switch from high school to college.

If I had to make a shortlist of the changes that I made or had to make when coming to college, the list would include:
– sharing bathrooms with females
– no breakfast from mom in the morning
– managing my own money
– no curfew or parental supervision
– actually studying for classes
– moving from suburbia to an urban city
– doing my own laundry
– no car

Now while I was excited about making several of these changes, there were many that I was not looking forward to, but one of the biggest aspects of college is trying new things, exposing yourself to new people , and exposing yourself to new ideas.

For me, personally, in the summer leading up to the beginning of my MIT career, I spent a lot of my time humbling myself and preparing for the world that I would be presented once I left the comforts of my home for college. Additionally, having lived in Miami when I was younger and learning the basics of living in an urban environment, I had a headstart in that regard. However, no transition is without a few roadblocks or mistakes along the way.

If I really have to think about what the hardest transitions for me were when I came to MIT, it would be the “responsibility” transition. I’m not saying that I came to MIT as an irresponsible wreck, but my responsibilities were different. As the son of a single parent with three younger siblings, I had to help mom out with making sure that my brothers got started with homework, showers, sports practices, etc. My brothers weren’t coming to college with me. For the first time in a long time, the only person I had to be responsible for was myself, and for me, that was a lot harder than being responsible for my brothers and myself. So my first semester at MIT, I spent a lot of time figuring out how to manage myself.

Managing myself included making sure I wasn’t spending too much money, making sure that I went to classes, making sure that I exercised, making sure I didn’t get consumed in classwork, making sure I didn’t get consumed in extracurriculars. Doing everything that you want to do requires a delicate balance and strong time management skills and a strong will to learn to say “no” to yourself and others when it is the appropriate action.

So, what is my advice on this topic?


It’s really hard to say that there is a golden remedy for being a responsible college student. Also, the definition of responsible is a very fluid concept for many students. I have a personal expectation for myself which drives a lot of my actions, and those personal expectations vary from individual to individual. If there’s one thing that I think can be helpful, I think a daily planner and a “sketch” of a daily schedule. They really help you stay on track. I’m not saying schedule every minute of every day. I think that’s somewhat unrealistic, and probably not a best practice at a place like MIT where many of the things that happen are fairly spontaneous. If you have a test, set aside time days before the test to start studying. If you want to go out with your friends to dinner on a Friday night, I wouldn’t expect to come home and work on those problem sets. Try to start them ahead of time. You have to simultaneously be prepared and flexible at the same time. No one said it was easy, but then if you’re looking for an easy time, you wouldn’t be coming to MIT.

Oh, and THE BIGGEST PIECE OF ADVICE I CAN GIVE to anyone going to college, keep an OPEN MIND about things. I used to be a very hard-headed individual with very cut and dry definitions about everything in the world around me, and I was not willing to traverse those boundaries. Taking chances and trying new things (when reasonable) is a great idea. I *highly* recommend it.

Did this help any?

21 responses to “Making The Switch”

  1. AnotherMom says:

    Great post Bryan! As a parent I think your words hit the mark. I hope the prospective students (and current students) heed your sage advice. Your mother has much to be proud of.

  2. Kevin says:

    Makes sense. Especially the part about suburbia, the car, the laundry, and the breakfast. Thanks, from one soon-to-be former Houstonian to another.

  3. Snively says:

    Ooo, nice post! Keep these coming, I value your opinion. I think my problem will be just sitting down and studying and ignoring all the distractions around me, but then again, I’m going from dial-up internet and a PC to a laptop and Wi-Fi, quite possibly the most distracting thing ever.

    Quick question about laptops, since you’re course 2. Should I get a PC? I heard somewhere that Mechanical Engineers use SolidWorks a lot and as far as I know that’s a windows deal. Also, will that program be available for download at MIT or should I look into buying it?

    Thanks for the post, I’ll be reading this little string of entries religiously.

  4. Vytautas says:

    Hey Bryan, nice and helpful post. It’ll help me prepare for this big jump. It’s far away for me, but I think it’s never too early to start preparing.

  5. Yuri says:

    Thanks, Bryan! The transition’s always been something I’ve kind of worried about, and it’s really great to have advice from someone who has the experience smile

  6. Basant says:

    Thanks Bryan, for such a wonderful post smile

  7. Daniel '12 says:

    Great post, Bryan! Very good advice. I am also considering buying a new laptop, and thinking about what I should get.

    My current laptop is a PC, and I’ve loaded Ubuntu Linux on it… There’s definitely a functionality and compatability gap there (maybe something I could fix if I knew anything about Linux), and I’m wondering if I would see the same thing on a Mac. I want to get away from Windows, but I don’t want to lose any computing capability while I make the transition… help?

  8. Joe says:

    The bathroom situation will vary from dorm to dorm. Here in Simmons you only have to share with your roommate usually. The dorm selection process is pretty important…and hard. My advice is to use the time you’re at MIT (CPW, pre-orientation, orientation, etc) to figure out what dorm suits you best. Over the summer MIT will send you a bunch of stuff about the dorms. Each dorm generally has a certain kind of style or reputation. You’ll probably hear people say things like “Baker is a party dorm” or “Simmons is the quiet dorm”. While these descriptions usually aren’t too inaccurate, they don’t give you the whole picture. For example, Simmons is on the whole fairly quiet but there are certainly sections where it’s very social.

  9. Vytautas says:

    Speaking of laptops I would really buy a Mac. I have one now(a PowerBook G4 with PPC) and it’s cool. I don’t know if it’s good when the switch comes, but now, as a high school junior, I use it more than PC’s.

  10. Bryan says:


    As far as laptops go, they now have the Macs that also run Windows so you could get one of those if you wanted to. You can get Solidworks for free, and if you’re willing to endure the semi-inconvenience of not having it in your room or on your laptop, there are mechanical engineering computer clusters with the software loaded on them that you can use.


    I solved the breakfast problem by participating in a sweet deal with one of my best friends where she’d make breakfast and I’d take care of lunch. Teh awesome.


    Without knowing what exactly it is that you want to do with your laptop, I can’t really give too much advice, but if you email me at bryanblogs[at]mit[dot]edu, I can try and be more helpful.

  11. Franklin says:

    Very helpful. Recently, I realized how unfamiliar the turf will be and how unfamiliar daily life will be after the transition. Thanks Bryan!

  12. milena '11 says:

    Ooh great post!! I was actually thinking about this today… Thank goodness for Interphase, though. I’ve been told that it will help me adjust to life at MIT before I actually start my freshman year, so it seems like a pretty good thing. Besides, having a 3-month-long summer, I have a lot of free time in my hands.

    Reading about the changes you’ve had to make, I feel I’ve been blessed with good time-managing and money-saving skills. I’ve saved some money (which I worked for all this year) in case of an emergency. AND I can also cook for myself, so breakfast probably won’t be much of a problem. Unless I have no time to cook, which would be sad, because I’m a pretty good cook. But I had never thought about the sharing-showers-with-the-opposite-sex thing. I do share my bathroom with my brother, but he’s just one guy, compared to the load of guys that will use the same bathroom as me. That’s going to be… weird. Wow this is a lot of stuff to think about… I’m eagerly waiting for chapter 2!! lol

  13. Arkajit says:

    Hi Bryan! Thanks for the post – it was very helpful! So how did you solve the breakfast part? Can you get a meal card for a dining hall or do you have to buy breakfast every day?

  14. Melissa '11 says:

    Great post, Bryan! Thank you =)

    So: Mac or PC?

    Oh, and in later chapters, please include the being alone without family/friends aspect and making new friends =)

  15. Anonymous says:

    so I don’t have a laptop and I am assuming having one would be a good thing, so what should I get? Not just a PC or Mac, but what capabilities? I think a blog on this would be a good idea, because a lot of people are getting computers for college and don’t know what to get.

  16. Larisa says:

    It is a very different thing to take care of others and then to try and take care of yourself.
    All the time I thought I was losing in taking care of others I technically have now but somehow I still have the same amount of time to do things.
    It’s a surreal feeling that is hard to get past. Right now I’m looking for it as I comment instead of analyze a fat packet of poems.
    So to answer your question this post did really help.
    Annnnnd about that computer guidance possible blog…it would be greatly appreciated. I was formerly mac but somehow urged my mom to buy a vaio ultra portable laptop (convenience and smallness was her highest priority given that she travels All the time). Usually I don’t use anything more complicated than word, mozilla, itunes (of course) and finalle (a music notation software that does take up a decent amount of memory).
    What would You suggest for the MIT life?

    Sorry that my comment is so long-winded. Late at night my inner-editor is unavailable.

  17. bon says:

    thanks for the post. Biggest change for me…no car! I drive 20 minutes to get to the nearest gas station and 30 to get anywhere worthwhile. Living in a city will take adjustments…What exactly is public transportation? Joking but almost not. Do you have any good living in the city suggestions?

  18. Rawr! says:

    For those that haven’t seen it, MIT has a list of recommended computers/laptops:

    Personally, I just bought a Thinkpad T60p and I’m excited…

  19. Anonymous says:

    Oh! Thanks I had not seen that yet.

  20. Colleen says:

    yeah…this blog helped alot. Even tho I didn’t get into MIT :(, I got into the school that tied with MIT as my dream schools and I figure I can use ur advice when I go there.