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MIT student blogger Snively '11

MIT Info Session by Snively '11

Courtesy of Ben Jones

Barkowitz and I have decided that today would be a good day to liveblog a Ben Jones info session. Now, we’ve never done a joint liveblog before so be easy on us, but the way this is supposed to work is that we figure we can each only type fast enough to catch half of what he says, so between our two entries you’ll get either ALL of what he says or half of what he says . . .twice. Woo-hoo! Here we go, we’re in 26-100 and Ben is now beginning his pitch.

He began by asking who was from where, getting a feel for the demographics. There are no international students here so it looks like we get to skip the Intl admissions part of the speech.

He’s now giving a brief history lesson of MIT. In 1861 MIT was founded by William Barton Rogers but it didn’t actually open its doors until 1865. It wasn’t in Cambridge at first, it started right across the river.

“MIT is very much a problem solving based approach to education”
“We encourage you to come up with your own procedure to solving problems”

He’s talking about how, for example, in Eric Lander’s Bio class (human genome guy? yeah, that’s him) you will spend the first three minutes learning what would have taken an hour in your AP Bio class and then the next 57 minutes learning stuff that you didn’t even know existed and learning how to actively learn, pursue topics, and be inspired by the education you get.

“Why do you like teaching undergraduates?” Ben asked professors.
“There are two main ways to leave a legacy,” they say, “I could work 24 hours a day coming up with groundbreaking research or I could take some time off from that to touch thousands of people and create the next generation of scientists.”

Schools of Science, Engineering, Architecture, Sloan School of Management, and Humanities/Arts/Social Sciences.

Humanities!? Look, you can be a great scientist, but unless you can explain your work, you’re pretty much useless to the world. You have to take just as many humanities classes in the humanities as you do in physics/chemistry/math.

You don’t apply to each of these schools, you apply to MIT, that’s all. You aren’t limited to a specific school because it’s important to see what you really are interested in during your freshman year. Yes, that means the “intended major” part of your app is barely considered (so STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT).

MIT operates on a 4-1-4 schedule (4 months of school, 1 month of IAP, 4 months of school).

What’s IAP? IAP (Independent Activities Period) is the month of January where instead of taking REAL classes, you take awesome classes (completely optional awesome classes) like chocolate tasting, LEGO robots, charm school, and ballroom dancing (there are hundreds of others). IAP is a nice break from academics and a chance to just chill (wouldn’t want a bunch of undergrads going insane would we? No, that’d be bad).

UROPs (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) are very popular amongst undergraduates because it allows a chance for young students to get research under their belt and to explore the nitty-gritty of some real topics that they’re interested in. You can start a UROP as a freshman, first semester, by just finding an area you’re interested in and start asking professors. After a quick application process BOOM, UROP. Granted, it’s a bit more complicated, but I’m summarizing because this is a live-blog. As such, on to a different topic, forward ho!

Work Hard, Play Hard:

But Ben, I like having a life, if I come to MIT then my life will be boring and suck!

MIT has hundreds of clubs and organizations with almost any variety of anything you’d ever want to do. Seriously, everything. Underwater hockey, curling, juggling, it’s all here.

Sports? 41 varsity (most division III, some division I (crew, pistol, fencing)) and many many more intramural. Apparently MIT is a great place to go for water, shooting, ropes, and fencing. That means if you ever want to be a pirate, come to MIT (rumor has it that there is actually a “pirate’s license” that you can earn if you take all the PE classes in these disciplines. Aaargh!).


Hacking is the students reminding the administration that they are smarter than them.

’nuff said.

Summarized? Read the blogs, they’re honest, real, and helpful. Now it’s time to talk about the application!

The rumor is that you need perfect scores to get into MIT.

Scores are used in conjunction with many other things (classes taken, academic rigor) to decide whether or not you will be able to do the work here. Take hard classes, do well, and you’ll be in good shape.

Ooh, here’s a gem. Said by Ben Jones himself, “If you have a 7_ _ anything on an SAT then DON’T TAKE IT AGAIN.” You will be judged exactly the same as anybody who gets an 800 or a 790. 700=800, that’s why MIT is awesome.

He’s now walking through the components of the app (teacher and counselor recs, interview, essays, and all sorts of other exciting stuff).

Application Component — What is something you do purely for the fun of it?:
They look for a sense of balance, they want to know if you’ll be able to just take a break and do something you enjoy when you get here. If you put something like “I like to go to the nursing home and change diapers” then the admissions office will, um, tilt their heads sideways like a confused puppy and wonder about you.

Application Component — Teacher Recommendation:
Find a teacher that knows you, that you’ve seen outside of class before. Admissions doesn’t want letters explaining the curriculum of BC Calc and why you were awesome at it because that doesn’t help them. They want to know about how you work, they want to know about your learning style and about you as a student, not about how you pwnd math.

Application Component — Interview:
The interview is an excellent “scale tipper” when two applicants are very well matched. If one person has a glowing interview report and the other has no interview report, the phosphorescent kid will have the upper edge.

Application Component — Extracurriculars:
There’s a reason there aren’t spots for 10 ECs. It’s about quality, not quantity. MIT wants to know about you, not about how much crap you can shove into your day. If 4 or 5 ECs and some room to describe them can oftentimes be more descriptive than listing a bunch of random sports that any one of several hundred other applicants are also listing. What about those sports helped you as a person? Why did you choose to list them?

Ben just rattled off some admissions stats (all of which are available on this website). Now he’s talking about financial aid, which I’ll leave to Barkowitz to blog while I take a typing break.


*sniff* I want financial aid . . .

Study Abroad:
MIT has a study abroad office, research abroad, internship abroad, and all sorts of “Get me out of this country” options. There’s a program in Cambridge and Spain that helps MIT students to study there. If you’re interested in Study Abroad, know that there a lot of options, and that you should bug Chris about it because he probably knows much more than I do.

Q&A Session:

Male to Female is ~55/45

Is it easier to get in as a woman? No, female applicants are much more self-selective while some guys tend to just fling themselves at MIT (I imagine this kind of like “Defend Your Castle” with the castle being MIT and the hordes being the male applicants).

Class sizes? Freshman classes can be large (lectures upwards of 500 kids) but recitations are much smaller (twenty or less) and that’s where a lot of the learning happens. Don’t worry about class sizes too much, it’s not a big adjustment from high school. Think of lecture as a big talking textbook and the recitations as your typical classroom settings.

That’s about all I have left to blog. He’s talking about housing now, which isn’t something I’m willing to touch in a liveblog (too much there to talk about, I couldn’t do it justice in a setting like this) and I think everybody is about to be whisked away on tours. If you wait about 15 minutes I’ll get a group shot uploaded, hope you had a good time!

54 responses to “MIT Info Session”

  1. Davorama says:

    damn. thought i would get it

  2. senna '12 says:

    YAY!! It’s so cool!!
    And I’m LIVE-reading it!! (read: REPEATEDLY REFRESHING the page)!! ^^


  3. Davorama says:

    You guys should ask some insightful questions.
    Or completely random ones if people aren’t raising their hands.

  4. Snively says:

    What should I ask?

  5. Davorama says:

    Can’t think of any =X – I feel sorry for the guys who called me back in Dec or Jan.

    I’ll be sure to tell you if I think of good ones.

  6. senna '12 says:

    Wow Snively you sure is FAST!! ^^

  7. Anonymous says:

    who ben’s personal favorite blogger is cough cough snively cough? or what the average mit student’s sleep schedule is. or what his favorite lolcat is. or if he can name off the top of his head all the scientists names surrounding killian court. or his favorite admissions stat ever.

  8. Paul says:

    Ask him what the best part of his job is. wink

  9. Abhishek says:

    hey snively you usually check ur emails coz i mailed u and u didnt replied??

  10. Davorama says:

    Ask him for all the reasons why MIT is better than Caltech [or even Harvard across town] – you know kids get into that split when they get admitted to both.

  11. Snively says:

    Alright, when I get a chance.

  12. senna '12 says:

    Ask him about students whom the world wouldn’t expect to be accepted by MIT, but MIT admitted him/her! (it would encourage LOTS of students =))

  13. Natasha says:

    I am so loving this!

    I second Davorama’s suggestion, even though I feel a question like that could be somewhat inappropriate. But, you could give it a try!

  14. Omar '12 says:

    Haha this rocks! Did Ben introduce you snively? Are there a lot of hopefuls ohhhing and ahhhing at you lol?

  15. Snively says:

    MIT and Caltech are like brothers/sisters in how education actually happens (more similar to each other than other Ivys. CalTech is actually an “academic ally” If you get into both and have to choose, make the choice based on culture and people. You’ll get an excellent education at both, so make sure you’ll be happy there.

    He thanks you for the potentially uncomfortable question.

  16. Davorama says:

    Also, I second, Natasha’s comment, “I am so loving this!”

  17. Aditi says:

    oh yeah, you HAVE to ask that =D

  18. Anonymous says:

    Ohhhh! Daniel Barkowitz answered my question before you did!

  19. Anonymous says:

    *sniff* i want snively back….

    what happened to you?!

  20. Aditi says:

    way to go Ben =)

    (ignore my previous comment)

    I’m still going to stick with the MIT>>>Caltech (nobody hate me please =P )

  21. Davorama says:

    the anonymous about DB was me. not the second one.

  22. Anonymous says:

    do people from tropical countries freeze and die in Boston/Cambridge? o.O

  23. Davorama says:

    Oh shoot – idk I think you probably answered the question first. Sorry. I wasn’t looking at the comments. Either way, yours was more thorough :X

  24. Natasha says:

    @ Aditi
    It’s 12:30! Go to sleep!

  25. Aditi says:


    I sleep at 2. raspberry
    whats the time at your end?

  26. Aditi says:

    Its over?

    oh well…I guess I’ll sleep now!

  27. Davorama says:

    Awesome blog. Thanks. Great idea with the double/joint blog. I see Mr. Daniel Barkowitz got his group photo.

  28. yiwen says:

    Hah I remember going to an info session like this two years ago. Back then I was leaning towards Caltech, but after the session Ben pretty much had me sold on MIT =).

  29. '12 parent says:

    I’m so glad to see that admission staff members are leading information sessions. When we visited last year in March, the information session was given by a current student. The student did not follow an outline of what to discuss. She just talked about whatever came to her mind. That information session didn’t begin to compare to the other college information sessions that we had attended. Had we not gone to an amazing MIT presentation in our home state prior to visiting MIT, my son may not have considered applying to MIT. The admission staff can provide a level of professionalism and authority about MIT that a current student might not be able to do. Keep up the good work!

  30. Kelly says:

    I see “ICCA A Cappella” written on the chalkboard in the background. I love a cappella;-)

    I shall be making my way to one of these info sessions soon. I was actually going to come today but my mom didn’t want to go on a college tour in the rain.

  31. Dima '12 says:

    Snively, you should become a professional blogger!

  32. Snively says:

    @Dima ’12
    Technically, I am a professional blogger.

  33. Judy H. says:

    “Hacking is the students reminding the administration that they are smarter than them.”

    Too bad high school isn’t just the same…

  34. About the perfect scores comment: I have a 690 in the writing section. Does that 700=800 rule apply in that case, or is 700 a strict cut-off line? I’m taking the tests again anyway, I’m not happy with my critical reading score.

  35. Snively says:

    @Paul Hoops
    700 is by no means a cutoff.

    (ps, people may get annoyed if you put a ’13 after your name when you aren’t actually accepted. It’s kind of a “badge of honor” you get if you’re accepted)

  36. Paul Hoops says:

    I apologize to all persons I might have offended. Thank you, Snively.

  37. AK '12 says:

    @Paul Hoops

    I scored 690 in the writing section, and decided to play Munchkin instead of retaking the SAT. Munchkin probably stimulated more brain cells.

    You have better things to do than spend a nice Saturday morning writing another essay about “Is knowledge a blessing or a burden?” lol.

    Well, that’s my take on it, for what it’s worth.

  38. Paul says:

    @Paul Hoops: Taking the SATs again because you want to improve your CR score is an admirable goal. But regarding the 690 specifically, I agree with AK and Snively. And anyway, the writing score is the least useful SAT I – the quality of your essays is much more valuable in showing how good of a writer and communicator you are.

    For the record, quality doesn’t necessarily mean following all the rules of grammar or the “five-paragraph essay” format the SAT wants you to adhere to. Rather, it means being able to engage and educate your audience about your chosen subject (i.e. tell the admissions officers something interesting and revealing about you). In other words, your essays should have a reasonable flow of action; a strong message; and a personal, engaging voice – but it’s not as if you need a thesis.

  39. Roshan '12 says:

    That was an awesome post!
    [yes, I know I’m late =)]
    Sniv, you’re definitely the best blogger!!
    Thanks for responding to my email, by the way!

  40. Roshan '12 says:

    Can you do a blog on housing next?

  41. @ Paul Hoops – I got a 670 on my writing section. And I still got itn. :X (I actually took it twice and got a 670 on writing both times.)

  42. Chris'12 says:

    For what its worth, my opinion on SATs is don’t worry about them. I mean, I studied, and drilled and all that jazz but I only took them once, I went in and did my best and when I got my scores, that was that. If you do your best the first time, by definition you can’t do any better (and it’ll save you 4 hours and $65 smile some of you may say “but Chris I took my SAT nth times and made 100 points better”. Thats true. 100 points. out of 2400. They won’t really matter. My two cents anyway. (besides if you don’t score that high and you really tried, why would you stress yourself out trying to do something thats simply not you?)

  43. Chris'12 says:

    Also, excellent post Snively. you get 1 Schrutebuck.

  44. Davorama says:

    I scored 100 points higher the second time haha The first time I was disappointed – my score was lower than my PSAT – Plus March to October was a big time difference. I was not, however too concerned with my writing score [especially since reading was my highest score].

    A 690 on writing is great anyway. I wouldn’t retake it just because of the writing. That section is also weird because It’s new and many colleges don’t seem to be sure what to do with it. I also agree with Chris ’12 – if you tried your hardest, why go through all the stress again?

  45. Daniel '12 says:

    Snively, why was it at all necessary to, um, link “Jones” to a Gamasutra article about Super Mario Galaxy (which, by the way, was a good read)?

  46. Tanmay '12 says:

    Daniel and Snively, it was a job well done. grin

  47. Paul Hoops says:

    @Snively, AK ’12, Paul, Davorama, and Chris ’12
    Thank you, guys. You are very friendly and helpful. I went from “Ugh, I got below a 700 and I annoyed people by improper use of numbers added to the name,”, to, “Yay, everyone’s saying my score is good and nobody’s insulted.” You guys are all awesome.

  48. Davorama says:

    Glad to help – hope you get in next year!

  49. Steph says:

    Thanks Snively. This post was informative.

  50. Try 680 on math… :/ But hey, must’ve worked for them!
    I got 710 and 790 on the other two sections, but math’s the biggie.
    Time to go study Calc…

  51. Ben says:

    Roman, that just meant that there weren’t any international students in the audience, so I got to skip the parts that are specific to international admissions, as those parts wouldn’t have applied to anyone there. It’s why I always find out where my audience is from – so I can talk about things that are most useful to them.

  52. Roman says:

    “There are no international students here so it looks like we get to skip the Intl admissions part of the speech.”

    That hurts me.. I’m an international :(

  53. Snively,
    thanks for the great blog! I’m copying the info and posting it in my classroom! smile