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MIT student blogger Snively '11

MIT Brings You Unwanted Attention by Snively '11

You want to be popular? Really?

There are definitely perks to attending MIT. For example, at MIT I’ve built yo-yos

Five(!) robots

A pirate ship out of water bottles

and, most recently, a working metal lathe

But there are certainly downsides. I think this comic does a great job summarizing:



You may laugh, but you’ll laugh for a different reason if you’re a student here, because you’ll realize just how true it is. Once you transform into an MIT student, you are held to a standard that other people just aren’t. Ok, maybe not “held to a standard,” but people do look at you in a different light and expect you to be the expert in everything. Trust me, this isn’t true, we aren’t the experts on everything.

A friend of mine was an editor for the MIT student newspaper, “The Tech.” As editor, his name was printed in every paper and he was associated closely with MIT news. It was as an editor that he received a letter in the mail. The letter was from a man who had convinced himself that an underground dam had helped to create giant underground lakes in ancient Egypt . . . at least I think that’s what he convinced himself. It wasn’t entirely clear. I’ll be honest, we all sat around in my suite reading this letter and had a jolly good time laughing at it. It began something like:

This was the second letter he’d sent to MIT regarding this dam. The first letter was all but ignored by its intended recipient (because, let’s be honest, you can’t take every single e-mail you receive seriously, there are just too many wackos out there) so he sent this second one to President Hockfield, Dean Colombo, two professors, Chancellor Clay, and my friend. Needless to say, he was a bit confused, especially when he kept reading.

Wait. . . seriously? STAR CHARTS!? At that point we were almost obligated to keep reading.

Alright, that just doesn’t make any darn sense. (for the full letter, click here)

As funny as it was, my friend was a bit concerned. He didn’t want obsessive individuals like this contacting him, which is totally understandable, so he contacted some higher ups at MIT and he has everything all fixed now. Luckily it was an easy fix.

This is just one example of the types of things that happen at MIT. There was an incident over at Bexley (a dorm) when a man called the front desk and demanded to know whether the moon was a planet or not. The letter and the moon incident seem funny, but over time they can get really annoying and sometimes be scary. The world is full of weird people out there, be careful.

So, do you really want to be popular? MIT is an excellent school, it’ll definitely set you apart, but be careful, sometimes it’s nicer to just blend in and keep a low profile.

See ya!

39 responses to “MIT Brings You Unwanted Attention”

  1. Anonymous says:

    As a high school student, just wanting to go to MIT, people assume you must be better at certain things than most people. Not really at the standard of going to MIT, but my MIT-hopeful friends and I also get asked to do certain things most aren’t asked about.

  2. Faisal says:

    Thanks for the post.

    “Bring my dog back to life…you go to MIT.” LOL smile

    I just hope that I will get accepted.

  3. Armin says:

    You shouldn’t wear shorts Armin, you’re applying to MIT!

    – come on, it’s summer

  4. tiffy says:


    i failed out of kumon in elementary school…

  5. Amonynous says:

    Quick logistical question — I have heard a bit about the NBM (Next Big Mailing), but not from reliable sources. Has all this information been put up on the orientation web site, or will we be receiving a package in the mail with more information?

  6. Snively says:

    NBM should be getting to you either today, tomorrow, or very very shortly afterward (east coast has received theirs, others are en route).


  7. Aura says:

    @ Amethyst

    It’s funny because it’s true raspberry Even more here in Argentina, where you say that you want to study in the USA and everyone thinks either that you’re nuts or that you’re the next Einstein. I mean, it’s not THAT hard… of course, the international admissions are very competitive, but that doesn’t mean that a human being can’t be accepted in top tier colleges . Oh well, maybe there will always be stereotypes of some kind…

  8. when i tried to get my mit certificate on the account, it didn’t really say anything or confirm that I got it. is this normal? I got a kerberos id and filled out the certificate stuff, but i don’t know if i did it right. HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. christi says:

    HAHAHA! This is so true! Even now (I’m a prefrosh) people think I can suddenly do things never before expected of me. They’ll occasionally make comments like “Oh come on, you’re going to MIT,” which does get annoying because nothing has really changed

    @Amethyst and Aura
    It’s so interesting to hear you talk about your classmates’s view on leaving the state/country because the whole college process at my school is sooo different. I’d say about 10 of 75 students in my grade are staying in state and half are still going to a private school. It’s weird, for me, to think this is far beyond the norm. I think it’s great that you went for it. Even though my classmates are all going to amazing colleges, I still feel singled out because I am going to MIT.

  10. Gina '14 says:

    @ Christi my school wants to use my sudden (and very unexpected ) acceptance to promote itself. Talk about singled out… :S

  11. 167 sd 16 says:

    lol i can calculate tips in my head.

    i was in a grocery store once, and the total bill was printed out, and then i realized i had forgot to put a few things on the counter to be scanned.
    they were going to scan that to add to the new price, and i said “dont bother, the total is XXXX, tax included.” i was right.

    somewhat unsettling knowing that i can (and unconsciously do) memorize credit numbers, pin numbers, passwords, etc, just by watching the numebrs on the screen, but then again, I’m not going to M.I.T…..

  12. Anonymous says:

    I couldn’t stop laughing for an entire minute!
    Sad part is that I can somewhat relate to this..

  13. Nasser '17 says:

    Everyone who is admitted to MIT is indeed very special.

  14. Where to begin. . .

    -C’mon, you got a(n) X on your SAT/ACT!
    -C’mon, you’re X in our class!
    -C’mon, you take AP X!
    -C’mon, you do (geeky activity) in your spare time!

    It’s interesting to hear about the different benchmarks people use. . .

  15. Amethyst says:

    Try being at the top of an app. 655 student graduating class and one of a handful (10 or fewer) going to an out of state college…and the vast majority of the students going to a local community college which is not bad by any means, but fondly referred to as “13th grade” for your school because *everyone* goes there and half the professors also teach 9th-12th (dual enrollment). It’s weird, because YOU know that students at “big name” schools aren’t omniscient and omnipotent (you certainly aren’t!)…yet you always get looked at funny because *anyone* who even *attempts* MIT or Harvard or Vanderbilt or Princeton *must* have ten kajillion brain cells, a blackbelt in mental karate, and the ability to build a lunar lander with a pencil and three rusty paperclips. And it’s sad, because you know that half of the ones doing the longing and drooling would probably be perfectly capable of the very same attempts if they applied themselves in their work and took initiative!!! X_X

  16. Jared says:

    “The cake is a lie!” – oh man.
    Enjoyed the post. :3 Keep writing.

  17. 12 Parent says:

    Even as parents we feel the MIT effect- I personally do not like the reaction, as I have another sibling going to a different state great engineering school.The public reaction is ridiculous. (However, we are delighted with other aspects of MIT- Opportunities for really cool UROPS and an international perspective).

    When asked where my kids are at school I just answer with the names of the cities- So my MIT son goes to school “in Boston” and then I take a conversational tangent on what he likes to do there…

  18. Amethyst says:

    @Travis: For some reason your name seems really familiar, but I have no clue why…weird.

    @Christi: It depends a lot on the demographics of your school, too. Especially smaller schools–I used to go to a tiny military school which was a lot like yours, sounds like (at least in terms of college admissions). Sometimes, also, in smaller schools maybe people are more encouraged to try for the “big leagues”?

    @Aura: 1) Your name is pretty smile 2) I share your pain!

    @167 sd 16: I think you have an extremely good talent for numerical manipulation. ^_^ I used to have a better memory for numbers, but then I lost a little confidence and started becoming calculator-dependent and it hurt me, I think. :( Working on it–my father has some wonderful books on logic…At least I have my verbal-visual gifts.
    PS: I emailed you on gmail with the address you left back during our “intelligence” conversation. Did you ever get it?

  19. Armin says:

    There’s nothing better than UROP and IAP. However, international perspective is not brilliant with 8% quota.

    Does the PetaBurger you recently had with Lulu help putting on weight?

  20. @ Armin

    8% is the [EDIT:federally] MIT mandated limit, but that’s based on citizenship, not address. Last year more than 11% of incoming students were living abroad. Add another ~1% of foreign students living in the US and you could infer that 12% of last year’s admits have a very strong international perspective. That doesn’t even begin to factor in campus culture and student groups.

  21. Snively says:

    What does that even mean? I haven’t spoken to Lulu in over 2 years, and what’s a PetaBurger?

  22. BoredAlum says:

    I got asked to fix the printer in my high school science department office. I was also the class dunce in the school newspaper on April 1st that year.

    I never volunteer to name my alma mater in any conversation unless directly asked. By the same token, I seldom ask people where they went for undergrad. I try to guess it. And I’m getting better at it, especially for international students.

  23. Armin says:

    @ Dave

    Thank you very much.
    Students outside United States, more likely know less about MIT.
    I tell as in my case, watching OCW was the big deal about thinking about MIT not as a monster school. By the time I could apply as a freshman, I was comparing MIT with colleges of my own country and concluding that the best college in the world would require tremendous memorizing ability and an astonishing GPA. We would compete over fractions on our tests to get into a college. (I was lost in the race :D
    OCW shows what hands and minds mean. Something you would never know just by reading a motto.
    Internet speed is not in the favor of downloading the lectures for everyone. It’s still not fast enough in my country.
    I suggest OCW to put a lower quality version too. I give DVDs to my friends to show them science/MIT are not actually monsters.
    Americans, they can visit the campus… well you know better than me.

    @ Snively
    Sorry, I often mix Lulu and Jess. I mean the big chocolate burger (fatburger?) here’s the link to Jess post.

  24. I just read the full letter. Beautiful, just. . . beautiful. . .

  25. @Amethyst: There are some Whitakers around:
    -Ewen Whitaker, British-American astronomer
    -Rogers E. M. Whitaker, editor of The New Yorker magazine
    -Uncas A. and Helen F. Whitaker Building for the Life Sciences at MIT
    -There’s a notable Whitaker at the JPL, but I can’t recall his name. . .

  26. genius ('18) says:

    Those comics look like something from Xkcd! wink
    Great post, soooo true!

  27. martin '14 says:

    @Snively: The Burton Conner i3 video is ABSOLUTELY GREAT

  28. Teri says:

    Remember to have compassion when you receive attention from people. Asking for help is not always literal–sometimes it is hidden in a message. We as people need to react to scary incidents and letters with safety first and then compassion. Whether or not we can help, we can be respectful of the differences in cognition and mental health. Use the attention MIT brings to promote tolerance in the human race and challenge yourself to grow.

  29. Banerjee says:

    I envy you guys. In an admiring, non-violent way =)

  30. genius ('18) says:

    Hmmm. Seems like MIT is more modest than “that other school down the street” (read HARVARD) wink
    I once knew a guy whose entire family went to Havard, and his parents worked there, and even he said that most Harvard people could not keep quiet about their degrees… It would be interesting to see if people expect more of Harvard grads too…

  31. Josh '13 says:

    @so excited ’14: You can test using this page:

  32. Armin says:

    @ Snively

    Thanks, so your dreams kill you!

    I’m wondering how Oregon is pronounced. Link provided in your blog’s about page directs to a removed file.

    P.S: I’m so slim and it’s killing me.

  33. Norman says:

    I’ve gotten “No one can do natural logs in their head” “Unless you’re Norman”. The best part is that after taking calculus, I actually now can approximate them by integrating 1/x.

  34. Anonymous says:

    when you guys look at international admissions do you prefer students from other countries more than foreign students in the US? I am asking b/c in your post above you said only 1% of your students are apparently foreign students that live in the country, so the other 7% of the international quota must be students from out of country….

  35. a says:

    the silliest thing is when jealous people go out of their way to find a teeeny weeny fault. then they point that fault out and say “dont u go to MIT?”

  36. anonymous says:

    did you make that comic with your lightscribe pen

  37. @a
    Yeah.. You’re right,, even after my classmates heard that I’m applying that was a chalenge for them… And after my mistakes they laughed at me… and said:”Look, that’s MIT prospective student…”

  38. '85 EC says:

    Thanks for an excellent post.
    The letter to the editor reads like a vintage Lazlo Toth missive. Back in my Course III days we got quite a kick out of Lazlo Letters. If you have a chance, look them up (there are now at least two volumes, both published by Workman Press); they are a fun read and a great reference. If nothing else, they’ll give you a solid foundation on the impending correspondence an MIT alum is likely to face during his/her latter years smile.

    Thanks again,