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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

More Notes by Matt McGann '00

A quick update.

  • Thanks to reader Timur, who sent the bloggers some “holiday’d” banners, festive for the season. The “uncapped” banner will return after the holidays.
  • Over the last few days, we’ve been trying to catch up on all the tasks we put off during Selection. For me, this meant lots of returning email and phone calls. On Monday, I finally returned a call I had been meaning to get to, and found out that Ben had just answered her question! Rats, foiled again! I also hope to catch up on blog questions as soon as I can.
  • I was talking to a guidance counselor over the phone today about class rank (her school is considering doing away with it), and I was reminded of an article I read a few years back:High schools work to ease stress in GPA competition

    At MIT, whether or not your school offers class rank does not affect our decision. And at schools like the one in the article, it would probably be better not to rank…

  • I just got a visit from two actual members of the MIT Class of 2010! Thanks for stopping by, Quentin and Kallie!
  • At today’s meeting of the faculty, it was proposed that the Biological Engineering department assume Course number 20. Having an official Course number is a pretty big deal at MIT, so this completes the ascension of BE to superstardom. Yay for Course 20!
  • Tomorrow, I’ll head to my parents’ home for the holidays. I will still be blogging when I can.
  • Over at Ben‘s latest post, some folks seem to think I look like a Ferris Bueller-era Matthew Broderick. Hmm…

55 responses to “More Notes”

  1. Timur Sahin says:

    Hahah! I kringled the MITBlogs!


  2. Timur Sahin says:

    Sorry, this has so just made my day. smile

    Happy Hollidays!

  3. nehalita says:

    Ferris Bueller INDEED! Scratch that, you guys don’t look alike; you guys are the same person. Matt is there something you aren’t telling us…?

  4. zoogies says:

    Reading the article again, I think Huang is a little too focused on grades (seriouuuuuuuusssssly). After all, grades are simply an imperfect measure of learning…although the example of placing out of Chinese I to honors Chinese wasn’t very convincing of the symptom. If I were fluent in Chinese, I would do it too. What’s the point of taking a class where you won’t learn anything? It would’ve been remiss if he hadn’t.

  5. Leon says:

    Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

  6. Jason Murray says:

    I side with those in the article who support doing away with class ranking systems. This just comes from getting tests back in Chem and hearing very friendly, respectful, well mannered, and generally restrained classmates curse like sailors so to speak when they make one tiny mistake that drops their grade from a 100 to a 99. Students are already pushed to the limit by themselves and parents to do well, they don’t need the stress of worrying over a 1% change in their grade.

    I do see the resemblance, it’s rather weird to tell the truth. Are you sure you’re not related?

  7. dally says:

    My school has weighted GPAs and such, but it doesn’t rank. I think it’s pretty nice overall, because I know several people who would probably hire assasins or something if we did rank. It is a bit disappointing, though, because I live in Texas and I was rather looking forward to an automatic safety… heh

  8. Caroline says:

    “I just got a visit from two actual members of the MIT Class of 2010! Thanks for stopping by, Quentin and Kallie!”

    Can you really just walk into admissions to meet all you cool admissions people (who give x-mas cards smile )?

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hi!!! I just need a help.There was a mistake with my application fee because the fee waiver was selected by mistake,I realized that I was not eligible for fee waiver.I didn

  10. M.D. says:

    In response to Victoria and Wenhao… let me say, I’m jealous of you guys. My school does rank and does use weighted grading, and my class is very competitive. Ultimately, this has not served me well. After tenth grade, I’d completed all the math my school had to offer, and so chose to continue the calc. sequence over the summers at a community college in the area. I thought this would be great – I finished calc III as a junior and made room for more science classes and stuff in my schedule. What I didn’t take into account was what this would do to my GPA. During my freshman and sophomore years, while I was taking (weighted) math at my school, I was within the top ten positions in my class. But my junior year, when I was taking a second (unweighted) science course instead of a math one (because there were none left), my classmates who were studying (weighted) precalc surpassed me because I couldn’t load on as many weighted classes. I don’t like this system. :(

  11. M.D. says:

    In response to Victoria and Wenhao… let me say, I’m jealous of you guys. My school does rank and does use weighted grading, and my class is very competitive. Ultimately, this has not served me well. After tenth grade, I’d completed all the math my school had to offer, and so chose to continue the calc. sequence over the summers at a community college in the area. I thought this would be great – I finished calc III as a junior and made room for more science classes and stuff in my schedule. What I didn’t take into account was what this would do to my GPA. During my freshman and sophomore years, while I was taking (weighted) math at my school, I was within the top ten positions in my class. But my junior year, when I was taking a second (unweighted) science course instead of a math one (because there were none left), my classmates who were studying (weighted) precalc surpassed me because I couldn’t load on as many weighted classes. I don’t like this system. :(

  12. Yay! Finally, I see that the division that I hope will take me in has a course no.!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Respected Sir,

    I had two questions regarding the admission to MIT.

    1)Is it possible that MIT will take more than 1 student from the same school?

    2)Is it true that if I apply to MIT as a major in an area, which is not that competitive as compare to engineering, do I have a greater chance of being admitted? Can I change my major (school?)after getting in?

    Thanks for all your help and time in making MIT’s admission process comfortable and enjoying!

  14. The article reminds me of my own senior class, which has always been unusually competitive. There’s barely a fraction of a difference between my GPA and the two students behind me. What frustrated me most, though, was that I was working harder in sophomore and junior years and ranked lower than students with lower GPA’s in the classes ahead of us. That is, junior year I was ranked 6, but my GPA was higher than the senior valedictorian’s.

    I agree that competition is an impetus to make you work harder, but there are times when it becomes needless. I love every subject I’m taking this year, and good grades are really only favorable result of learning the material. It isn’t fair that my rank should be comparatively less for being among competitive people. Then again, maybe being best friends with so many amazing, intelligent, multitalented people is what taught me to love the material in the first place.

    Anyway, I just got the MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences for my birthday – Course 9 is awesome. wink

    Merry Christmas/Hanukkah (we celebrate both) everyone, and here’s to a happy new year for the [future] class of 2010. Hopefully I’ll be doing IAP this time next year.

  15. Wenhao Sun says:

    My school doesn’t weight class rank, which I think is ridiculous. This means that an A in Yoga has the same impact on rank as an A in IB Math HL (we are an IB School). This also means that the huge majority of people opt out of the IB Diploma program, the hardest coursework available, in order to maintain a higher GPA so they can be ranked higher. It’s really frustrating, and really defeats the whole purpose of this education thing that we’re so privileged to have here in America. Instead of going to school to get a real education, people are going to school to get some ultimately meaningless numbers. Also, the 13 people at our school who did decide to challenge themselves with the IB Diploma program find themselves (ourselves I guess) outranked by people who haven’t even taken a math course past Algebra 2. In addition, no valedictorian in my high school’s history has ever been an IB Diploma Candidate. I wish I was kidding. The worst thing is, by the term ‘class rank’, it would seem that the people who took the easy way out are more academically merited than IB people. I just hope that MIT doesn’t take into account too much unweighted class rank.

  16. Wenhao Sun says:

    Haha, I didn’t mean to come off as angry, which I think I might have. I just think it’s a little unfair sometimes. Of course, like David said, taking the most difficult courses has it’s own innate rewards, such as awesome teachers, hardworking friends, and a very inspiring and motivational work environment. However, when I see some of my closest friends get rejected from schools that, aside from class rank, they were seemingly well qualified for (even though no thing in particular leads to a rejection), it just seems like it’s an unjust and unnecessary impediment. That’s all.

  17. Most recent Anonymous: MIT certainly will admit more than one student from the same school. And you do not apply to MIT “as a major”, everyone is considered in the same pool. Applications are not evaluated with respect to what you might major in, and you do not even declare a major until spring of your freshman year.

  18. B says:

    In my school, I noticed that there were two groups of bright students: those who studied a ton at home to do well gradewise and those who felt that school wasn’t challenging enough and were too bored to do much work so they seeked challenge outside of school instead. Even though the second group often contained equally bright or brighter students who understood the material because they didn’t spend the extra time to memorize problems and data that would rarely be useful, none of them ended up going to “elite” universities while the other ones did. Personally, I find it silly when students feel the need to memorize material that won’t be beneficial to long term learning but thats what it took to be in the top of the class. After I graduated from high school and visited one of my friends at Harvard, I realized how much other people were studying and I am in absolute shock because I was never in the super-competitive lifestyle when I was in school. Unfortunately, high school grades are rather closely tied to time spent studying.

  19. Timur Sahin says:

    (This is all coming from a student who himself was rather bored with his high school experience, and is in such a situation, so please don’t anyone take it offensively).

    B: I believe the logic in that is that students who were too bored and sought outside challenges is that the same thing will happen to them when they get into said more elite universities. There is a kind of quality in these people that makes them struggle between what’s cool and what’s required. And of course, you could argue that they just never let their schooling interfere with their education, but then you have to realize why universities are weary the same thing will happen.

    I know for a fact that some upper level universities have historically not had good experiences in admitting the borderline genius/low-grades types… not because they couldn’t do the work, but because they were so involved in doing all the awesome stuff they failed the core classes.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Hi!!! I just need a help.There was a mistake with my application fee because the fee waiver was selected by mistake,I realized that I was not eligible for fee waiver.I didn

  21. Victoria says:

    My school doesn’t release class rank. I’m very happy about this.

    Of course, the way they calculate class rank (apparently just to satisfy our curiosity) takes into account school courses, but not ones we take over the summer. And summer school courses that cover an entire year’s work only get you credit for a semester. Which I think isn’t fair, but I guess I should be glad I got credit for it at all. *sigh* I’ll stop complaining now, although you might consider it when you visit next year (if you can… I know you couldn’t this year)… Mr. McGann… not that you have to, of course. Just a thought…grin

    Yay for Course 20!

    I think it’s the hair and the eyebrows. grin

  22. Victoria says:

    And Happy Whatever. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Wintermas, Festivus, New Year’s,… I think I’ve run out. And have a good Something-or-Other!

  23. zoogies says:

    Mercedes (Anonymous), you can’t have created another account on MyMIT? O_O When my account was locked, my password lost, and the password retrieval answer also lost, I tried creating another account, and it wouldn’t let me.

  24. molls says:


    I think it should be scrapped across the board, because it means so many different things in different areas/schools.

    At my high school, which doesn’t weight grades, ranking acts as a disincentive to taking rigorous courses.

    I’m ranked 14th in my class. (3.95/4.0) But only one student who is ranked ahead of me has taken as many AP classes as I have. Some have taken none. (I’m pretty sure that our counselor doesn’t share that with prospective colleges.) So how meaningful is the class rank? Not very, IMHO.

  25. richard says:

    I guess Matt is the “Producer” of MIT 2010!

  26. Heyy Matt!!

    Hahaha…the resemblance is pretty just need a hair dye, some foundation an you’ll be a carbon copy of him wink

    As for Quentin and Kallie HOORAY FOR RSI ’05 wink They were my floormates this summer wink BIG SHOUT OUT TO YOU!! smile

    I just stopped by to thank you for all this pre-college’s fun to actually chill out on these blogs every once in a while and meet potential future classmates ;P

    Just take care please Matt and have a great holiday !!

    Abdulaziz (Aziz) Albahar

  27. Doug says:

    Class ranking is ridiculous at my school. We’re a large IB school (about 120) students working for the IB diploma and all our IB classes are weighted. However, we also have a sixth elective class and if you choose to take a course you enjoy (I took comp. programming freshman year) that’s not an AP/IB class, your weighted GPA drops. Because of one class I took freshman year, my weighted GPA ~4.96 is good for 8th.

  28. krisennay says:

    So… did Huang get in?

  29. zoogies says:

    I can definitely see the resemblance…well, if you remove the redeye and +contrast your side a bit…

    I was wondering when BE was going to get its own course number! It seemed so “out there” and alone, being called “B.E” while everything else was “18” and “8” and so on.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Yay for Course 20!

    Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is my favorite movie. I have to admit, Matt, the resemblance is there, even though it’s not exact.

    And because I can’t help this…

    “Ferris has been absent from school nine times.”

    “Nine times?”

    “Nine times.”

    “I don’t recall him being sick nine times…”

    “That’s because he wasn’t sick, Mrs. Bueller. Ferris was skipping school.”

    (Sorry. It’s my favorite quote, simply because I can’t help but laugh every time someone says “nine.”)

  31. thekeri says:

    Oh, yeah, the comment above was from me.

  32. Hmm…nerd charades…well first of all alright I see a fair number of rickoids are already posting wink .. can’t expect me to remember everyone who went up in nerd charades!!! Heck, it took me around 15 mins. to figure out when we played nerd charades ;P .. then i remembered i was given gauss and the fact that I tried to use a lower rear body part to make it out…never mind let’s not get into details ;P ..hehe…sran…okay i give up ;P I can only remember me and the other aziz going up .. =P Give up? Hints?

    Aziz wink

  33. sran says:

    YAY RSI! And Hann, why weren’t you at the Holiday Party?

    OK, back to business…

    For my MIT application, I am considering submitting several supplemental materials. Is it too much? They are:

    -Cover letter (explaining what everything is)

    -RSI, MIT mentor letters of rec

    -3-4 ABSTRACTS ONLY (very short, around [less than?] 100 words)

    -1-page transcript from a humanities program I did (Very little of my interest in the humanities is coming through elsewhere)

    -Tables describing summer programs, awards, activities. Most of my activities, awards, etc are very unconventional; I’ve done almost no “normal” stuff like newspaper, debate, science club, etc, and the names of the activities are not very descriptive. So I do think these are pretty essential.

    Any help is appreciated.

    Thanks muchly,


    (’05 Rickoids, guess who. Hint: Nerd charades)

  34. InMyPark says:

    identical! =)


  35. Kim says:

    The new banner is awesome. Happy holidays!

    And thanks just in general for having a blog and making the admissions process seem rational and well-organized, if not quite warm and fuzzy smile

    (And of course yay RSI! I’m disqualified from guessing, sran, since we realized we were both on AoPS at the beginning of RSI. First time I’ve been recognized by my writing – er, speaking – style.)

  36. Hey Matt, I’m planning on submitting a computer program on CD with my application. Should I assume that admissions have Windows XP, or should I make it compatable for a different OS? (Windows is preferred)

  37. Hann says:

    Haha the rickoid invasion continues. I definitely agree with Kim – the entire blogs system has made admissions far more accessible and hot-chocolate-and-marshmallow-y (hey I’m Singaporean, food is central to my world =P).

    sran = sukrit? Looks plausible, at least. And if it isn’t, I’m sorry! And I was tied up with family, so I couldn’t make the party. Hm. Perhaps this is a good point to desist from converting the comments list into a RSI chat forum. =)

  38. JP says:

    When I had my admission interview, I also discussed movies with my EC. He recommended Bueller’s Day Off to me.

    And I have to admit that this film is awesome. It did not reach my alltime-favourites like Donnie Darko or Seven Samurai, but is very close.

    btw do you know how many international applicants (who created a mymit account) really send their application? I guess at least 50% of those who intended to apply don’t manage to get their SAT, TOEFL and school reports within time.

    Especially the TOEFL seems to knock out many international applicants. It is really not that difficult, but most test-centers are occupied for a couple of months!

    I was really lucky to pass it in december.

  39. LooL yeah oops I forgot to mention that my only guess would be sukrit…I was reading the names list for the rickoids and he was the only one whom I thought could be it… is it you sukrit?? I’m pretty sure it is wink if not, hey I tried =P Yeah I think it’s better not to continue the convs. here…except to wait for “sukrit”‘s answer ;P happy holidays to all smile


  40. Unmasked says:

    Point well taken. Desisting after confirming Hann; I am indeed Sukrit. And I’m coming to SF!

    And Kim, that was funny. But your speaking/writing styles are near identical.

  41. Tasha says:

    Hi Matt,

    Regarding mid-year grades: I’m a homeschooled student, but in my state (MN), there’s a program that allows high school juniors and seniors to enroll in college classes for high school and college credit. Basically, since the beginning of my junior year, I’ve been taking pretty much all of my classes at a local community college, and I’ll receive the grades for the classes I took this fall just before the new year. When I do, I’ll forward an official transcript from the college to MIT for my application, in addition to my full high school transcript.

    My question is this: If I make a note of this on part 2 of my application, will I also need a completed mid-year grades form with my application? It will contain no information that won’t already be in my application, and just means more paperwork for my parents and myself. (Admittedly, only a page, but…) On the other hand, if my application would be considered incomplete without it, I definitely want to make sure it’s in there.



  42. Hann says:

    Go RSI 05! =) And I can’t help but pity Huang. In order to “be the best” for a heartbeat he sacrificed his own happiness for years. Besides, the fact that he had to play the system to get to where he is partly devalues his achievement. Competition is a validation of one’s passion – up to a point. Beyond that it’s just ridiculous. But you all know that.

    I’m lucky to be in a school that doesn’t rank, I guess. We’ve a highly competitive class that pushes itself to the max anyway, so ranking is more or less unnecessary. Personally while I don’t mind having class ranks as one means of demonstrating one’s ability, I don’t see the point in emphasizing it the way the Texas education system does.

    I’ve a wrinkle of sorts to add to the discussion. I love Literature – it’s one of my core passions – and I happen to go to a school which offers a tremendous platter of senior year English courses outside of the AP. Consequently, I decided to take some “slacker” English courses – not because I didn’t feel up to the AP, but because I love Lit and wanted to go beyond a survey course and delve into something different. I’m taking Literature into Film right now. Naturally my GPA dropped as a result, and it probably looks on paper as if I’d “chickened out” and taken something easier, but in the end I’m happy with what I’ve done. =) GPA’s only one measure of life.

  43. Soooo.. sorry to disturb again!! Can I list any nominations for merit scholarships in the awards and honours section of the application?

  44. James Keene says:

    I can relate to the troubles with class rank. So many kids at our high school have nearly identical averages. all of the kids surrounding me have have averages of 92.8423XX, with the XX determining the rank. My friend, who is fifteen spots ahead of me, has had nearly identical grades throughout his high school career, with the exception of our research paper, where he scored five points higher than I did. I think its funny that something like this could happen.

    I wouldn’t feel so bad about it if I had completely enjoyed my high school career, but I feel much worse for those who concentrate totally on academics and don’t enjoy high school. I know plenty of people who I’ve never hung out with, but not for lack of trying. They have remained focused on academics to the point where I think that they have never really hung out with friends. I just hope it’s worth it to them. I would hate for it to be all for naught.

  45. Saad Zaheer says:

    Hey Matt,

    Happy New Year! have a fun filled holiday and have a great christmas. See you in IAP.

  46. Victoria says:

    Yeah, M.D., I know people that decide to take the weighted AP Stats classes instead of continuing Calc sequences. My school’s weird in that they weight AP Calc AB but not the college course that they say is equivalent. Or any other courses that they call equivalent, which does funny things to my weighted GPAs.

    Molls, that’s why my school scrapped ranks. The one which they show on their printouts but nowhere else and takes a great deal of begging and pleading to obtain doesn’t use weighted grades, which…is why I’m glad we don’t report it.

    April, an IB course is one which is affiliated with an international program known as International Baccalaureate. Since my school only considered offering it my freshman year, after which the sponsoring teacher was fired, …

    I don’t know that much about it. Apparently it’s a great deal like AP courses.

    Hope that helps.

  47. Anonymous says:

    So there are regional “I got into MIT” parties that show up on MyMIT… We should have a party in Cambridge! I’m an hour away, it’d be awesome. smile

  48. Carla says:

    hi Matt!

    I said I wouldn’t ask more questions this year, but since my chance of actually getting into MIT is quite small, being an international student and not having won any kind of prize, I have been looking at other colleges in USA, but all the colleges I’ve seen consider the need of financial aid when it comes to admitting international students, and since I’ll need it that really hurts my chances, do you know of other colleges with a good chemistry department that are need blind with international students? or should i ask Mr. Barkowitz? once more thanks for all the help… also congrats to all the admitted students, and to the deferred too!

  49. Dear Matt,

    My high school counsellor has just informed me that he has indicated my class strength as 68 and my class rank as 1. The class strength was actually 199: 130+ from the Science stream, and the other 60 odd from the Commerce stream. The entire class was divided into three sections (which, here, are referred to as

  50. Another thing. In the ‘Completely Optional’ essays no. 13 & 14, the online application does not accept images and special symbols such as the integral sign. Would you advise to send the essays throgh e-mail as an attachment to maintain the formatting, or should I just do away with the special symbols and images (doing which really takes out the flavour of the work)? Should I mention in the on-line application that I am sending the optional essays through e-mail?

    Thanx again!!!!

  51. Shikhar says:

    oh boy I am relieved now. Finally my school informed me that they sent out my Secondary School report along with mid year grades (whew). And my teachers are also posting everything this monday. Man keeping track of everything is one big job.

    I just wonder how you do it Matt.

    Anyways Happy Holidays to all. Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

    Also I am kinda hoping Matt you catch up with the omnibus.


  52. Shikhar says:

    one more thing matt, since it seems that you are into hindi movies and bollywood I think you must like the songs too. Have you tried out the music of the movie Kalyug???

    Or are you just the Shar Rukh Khan ,Amitabh Bacchan fan.

  53. soooooooooo…what is an IB course?!?!

    – a confused homeschooler

    oh, question

    if i send in extra letters of rec…do i have to use the forms or can they just be emailed in?

  54. Wenhao Sun says:


    MIT Blogs, just where I want to spend it tongue laugh (actually it’s still Christmas Eve here on the West Coast)

    In response to the confused homeschooler who asked what IB was, it’s basically a college prep program similar to AP but pretty different in a lot of places. IB stands for International Baccalaureate, and is a two-year (junior/senior) program. It’s a lot more strict in the respect that in order to do the Diploma Programme (silly British people), it is necessary to take six IB courses in the six parts of the ‘hexagon’, science, math, native language, foreign language, arts, and ‘man and society’ (econ/history/psych). Of these courses, there has to be 2-3 one-year ‘SL’ courses and 3-4 two-year ‘HL’ courses. Also required are 50 hours in each of the ‘CAS’, or creative (music/art), action (physical activity), and service (community service). THEN you have to write a 4000 word ‘Extended Essay’ on something of your choice. Finally is a required philosophy course titled Theory of Knowledge, and you consider the significance of all 6 course options. The IB focus is on writing, as most of the exams are almost completely written as opposed to the multiple choice AP tests. It almost begs the question which is better, AP or IB, and there’s a lot of debate over the internet that you can check out.