“[In many ways, picking a college is a lot like marriage: the courtship, the ceremony, the cost. So it’s not surprising many players compare it to falling in love.] Make the decision with both your head and your heart, … When you’re at the school for you, you’ll know it.” – Kelli Keuhne (professional golfer who attended the University of Texas)
Right now, many of you have probably procrastinated on making one of (what you think is) the biggest decisions in your life. Perhaps you are choosing between MIT, a state-school that is giving you nearly a free ride, an Ivy League school, a college with easy access to a beach, or one with a top-seeded basketball team. You’re probably receiving pressure and advice from tons of people, each imparting their tidbits of knowledge and advice. I was in your shoes two years ago, choosing between MIT, an Ivy that gave slightly more money and a big research grant, and a state-school with a free-ride. I’ll admit that I chose MIT and that the decision (for me) wasn’t very difficult. Seriously, I couldn’t pass up this place, and I’ll tell you why.
So why, oh why, did I choose MIT? First of all, I lived in Boston for two summers (I’m originally from Maryland) while I was in high school because I had a sweet research job working in the labs of Massachusetts General Hospital. The first summer, I lived in a loft apartment right across the street from Fenway Park. The first floor of the apartment building had a brewery/bar and the smell of grains would fill the lobby every day. It was gross, because in my opinion it smelled like garbage. Anyway, there’s nothing cooler than living next to Fenway during the summer, the whole place is bursting with life (and drunk baseball fans) and you can’t help but catch the Boston bug. As a result of my two summers in Beantown, I fell in love with the city with 135,000 college students and just an incredible intellectual feel to it.
Ok, so if I were only in love with Boston, then I could have chosen from 35 fine universities. But there’s something special about MIT that I couldn’t find anywhere else. I can’t walk down the Infinite without hearing someone talk about a problem set, seeing a flier for one of the billion activities going on that weekend, or peeking into a lab doing some sort of cutting-edge, uber exciting research. I love the sense of freedom that prevails. Don’t like something? Then change it. There are a million ways to get involved in a million different activities. Research, glass blowing, wood working, juggling, cycling, improv comedy, a capella, drama, pistol, movie making, journalism… you name it, we have it. And not only do we have it, we have a group of super dedicated students just waiting to teach you more. For example, as a first-semester freshman, I got some emails about joining MURJ (the MIT undergraduate research journal,) and I had always been interested in writing but never had a chance to join my high school’s paper. So, I showed up to the first meeting of the year, talked to some of the students, expressed interest, and immediately became an editor. Now I’m in charge of the Fall 2006 issue and I hope some of you all will want to be involved next year too! Also, MIT gives you the full month of January to participate in these independent activities. I don’t know of any other school that does that… and IAP is cold but AWESOME.
So that brings up another point. Yes, the winters are cold. I once almost got frostbite walking from the Student Center to Next House when it was -20 degrees outside. But, now I get to complain about it to everyone who will listen! Plus, it makes the spring ALL the sweeter. It’s only 50 degrees today and everyone is hanging out outside, because the absolute temperature might be low but the relative temp is like Florida, baby. Break out the skirts.
And finally, I have to mention the UROP program. The research opportunities for undergraduates at MIT are endless. As a freshman, you can work in the lab of Nobel laureate or get your work published in a research journal. Whether it’s nanowires or supernovas that tickle your fancy, you can study them in more detail then you’ll ever find in a textbook. Or, you can take a lab class, like 2.007 (Design and Manufacturing) to build your very own remote controlled robot, or 16.00 (Intro to Aerospace Engineering) to build a blimp.
Also, in many ways MIT is just like your normal college. There are frats and sororities, huge parties on the weekend, couples (yea, people date, who would have thought), and sporting events (our piston team is #1 in the country, we beat the military!). We have class rings and class shirts, jocks and legally blondes. But, as Mollie said in her Top 10ish Reasons to go to MIT, our cheerleaders can do Fourier series and Laplace transforms. Boo ya. We’re nerds and we love it.
You will have work work hard, very hard. Your limits will be pushed. You will do more problem sets that you ever thought was humanly possible. There will be some days when you dream in code (I have heard of many people who do this) or toss in bed while wondering if your robot will work (I have done this.) But why do something if it’s not hard? Diamonds form under pressure! In the end, hopefully, you’ll graduate with no regrets, but amazed at all the stuff you have learned and accomplished.
Even if you choose not to come here, I have no doubt that you will perform amazingly at the school of your choice. So I’ll be lame and close with a quote: “There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.” – Thoreau
Feel free to ask any last minute questions or voice your concerns.