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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

Next Big Mailing is out by Matt McGann '00

Choosing your email address, and more.

The first wave of the Next Big Mailing (NBM) has been sent out (several hundred of them late this week; more will be mailed next week, be patient). Formally known as the “A60” for historical reasons we can no longer remember, the NBM represents the transition of the newly admitted class from the Admissions Office to the Academic Resource Center (ARC): they’re the firstyear and Orientation folks.

What does the NBM include?

  • A cover letter from Marilee, formally transitioning you to the ARC.
  • The Final School Report. This report tells the Admissions Office your final coursework and grades.
  • Information from the ARC.
  • A letter about the Communication Requirement and Freshman Essay Evaluation (FEE).
  • The Medical Report from MIT Medical.
  • Instructions for obtaining your MIT computing (Athena/Kerberos) account, including your email address.

The last item is the one that generates the most excitement. For many students, it doesn’t really set in that they’re an MIT student until they send their first email from their MIT account. This day is almost here!

Because I care about you, here are some tips for choosing an email address:

  • You must choose a username that is between 3 and 8 characters.
  • Choose a username that you won’t be embarrassed sharing with your professors.
  • In some circles on campus, you may become known by your username, so choose wisely.
  • Feel free to choose something with some personality, if you like!
  • A couple ways to check if your username is already taken: 1) put the username into the people search; 2) point your web browser to Neither of these methods are foolproof, but they are good first checks.
  • Good default usernames are your last name (if it is fairly unique and 8 letters or fewer); your first name (if it is fairly unique and 8 letters or fewer); your first and last names concatenated (good for people whose first & last names are short).
  • Characteristics I don’t recommend: underscores (david_h), numbers (david789), unpronounceable terminations of long last names (hasselho).
  • Note: you can, through Moira, request an email list, which, if you set your username as the only subscriber, can function as a second email address for you; this list name can be longer than 8 characters.
  • Signing up for your account will give you storage space (an online “locker”) and a website at
  • And, of course, once you have your MIT email address, you can sign up for Facebook.

MIT students/alums — what advice would you give?

43 responses to “Next Big Mailing is out”

  1. Caroline says:

    I get to keep my email I got at WTP! (Meaning I already have an MIT facebook too, it’s awesome).

    I was pretty boring though, I used my first initial and my last name.

  2. errhode says:

    Ah the username… back when I matriculated, you picked it when you got to campus. This gave the upperclassman an opportunity to pass out orientation handbooks that included tips on what to pick or what not to pick. Since freshman have started picking their names before they got to campus, I’ve noted an increasing number of what I would consider bad usernames. The number one rule to remember: YOU CANNOT CHANGE YOUR USERNAME.

    That being said, here are some tips I’d recommend…

    In my circle of friends, as Matt mentioned, we all called everyone by their usernames (except me — I got shortened down to Rhode (pronounced Roadie) for whatever reason). So take care to pick a user name that won’t embarass you. This is also a good opportunity to pick your own nickname. I have a really good friend who wanted to be known as Breath. He made it his username — to this day, I have to think twice to remember that his name is actually Ryan. So if you want to be called fishboy, then go ahead and pick it.

    I’d like to reemphasize the no numbers or underscores thing. People (at least if you meet my friends) will mock you. Also, the underscore is the only valid username character that requires the shift key to be typed — and that can get tedious. Remember that your senior year, you’re likely going to be using this e-mail address to send out resumes for job applications. Do you really want a future employer to know you as smrty_88?

    Also, just to emphasis the possibly permanency of this username, because you’ll likely be well known as this name, there will be a lot of pressure to use the same username as your alum account. When I want to e-mail another alum that I don’t regularly keep in touch with, by default I always assume that their e-mail is [email protected]. If it bounces, then I’ll bother to check the alum directory.

    If you can do something clever that is actually related to your name, then I recommend doing that. To this day, I mildly regret not being rhodeer — Rho Deer — just for the humor. I know a guy whose name anagrams to “Manus” (as in Mens Et Manus), so that’s his username.

    Most people just wind up being something bland, like jsmith or smithja. That’s okay. Really. There’s no shame in having a professional username that’s easy to remember.

  3. Adnan Esmail says:

    Can we get our email address before we recieve the letter? Is there a way to get the instructions earlier?

  4. thekeri says:

    I just got my mailing! Squee!

  5. Adi says:

    i just wanna ask about the VISA forms for international students, are those found with all the other forms in the package that we’re gonna recieve?

    Thanks for everything MATT :D

  6. Nur says:

    Hi Matt,

    Do you know who we should contact with regard to transfer credit or should we just go through ARC?

    Thank you

  7. Anthony says:

    Numbers are really lame, as Matt said smile

    Keep in mind that the account name you choose will stay with you as long as you are at MIT. This will be the name you give to faculty, future employers, everyone, all the way through your senior year and beyond. It does not (automatically) become your alumni address, but besides that… you cannot change it. Do you really want to answer to “hotdog88” in three years when you’re in a suit and tie before a recruiter? smile

  8. JKim says:

    To answer Anthony’s question: Yes.

    [email protected], here I come!

  9. Curtis says:

    Yay for NBM!

    Is there anything in there about pre-orientation?

  10. Aziz says:

    Cool =D Great news, Matt!! Do you know if this is relevant for internationals as well? Or does our VISA information take longer to process?

    Can’t wait!!!


  11. richard says:


    I already have my MIT username!

    Thus, I have an MIT facebook account!

  12. nehalita says:

    (hey matt, note the new e-mail address!)

    whoo i got my mail. jeez there’s enough stuff in here to keep me occupied the whole summer. that’s awesome =D

  13. Jason Scott says:

    I just had a quick question about e-mails..

    Because I got an MIT Emailing account last summer with a program I did there..

    And I know you arent generally allowed to change your email account..

    So since they never canceled our accounts from the summer.. I’m probably stuck with the one I have?…

  14. Hey Matt,

    I have a question. I already finished classes because the government in Puerto Rico is partially closed for some political reasons. The thing is that my school is no longer open. How may I send the Final School Report?

  15. gm says:

    Is housing information sent along with the packet?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Anything in there about housing and the freshman lottery?

  17. Anonymous says:

    I got my account, and it said I have an email address, but how exactly do I check my email? This isn’t obvious to me.

  18. How do I transition my account that I received at RSI to a permanent one for MIT? Sorry if this is in the NBM; I haven’t gotten mine yet.



  19. Fernando says:

    I got the NBM, but trying to decide on a name.

    Don’t know if I should go for my web-alias or something from my real name.

  20. Anonymous says:

    speaking of bad usernames, i have a friend who chose “pgu” as his school username. for those of you who aren’t chinese, that’s chinese for butt!

  21. Sam says:

    I have always regretted not being [email protected]. Also, you can change your username if you get married while at MIT. So, see you all on facebook soon, I guess.

  22. Shan says:

    You can check you email at :D

  23. Nur says:

    Just got my mailing ^_^

    I’ll most likely be one of few freshmen picking the fairly tame username(my [email protected])

  24. Anonymous says:


    I know this question may sound stupid to many of you, but since I am an international student, I really don’t know what a facebook is or does. Would someone mind throwing some light on this??


  25. Anonymous says:

    According to… “Facebook is an online directory that connects people through social networks.”

  26. Phillip says:

    google “wikipedia facebook” =]

  27. I just got my MIT email! My question is: how can I edit with different color, similes (you know, smile, wink, :0, and so on), font sizes, hyperlinks, and more. In my Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo ones, all these convenient-edit functions exist; does MIT webmail haave this feature?

  28. Eli says:

    if we’re deferring our matriculation a year, do we still get an email address now?

  29. grad says:

    The reason you can’t use styled text on webmail? Because styled text email makes recipients want to stab you. Seriously, do not become Unreadable Lime Green Cursive Font Chick.

  30. Easy way to check for an e-mail address that I think is foolproof: connect to MIT’s SMTP servers manually and give the RCPT TO: and see if it says mailbox not found.

    I would give better instructions, but I am speaking to MIT’s freshman class. If you haven’t connected to SMTP manually before (try it, it’s fun!), I’m sure you can find instructions on the web.

  31. Rahil says:

    Hi Matt,

    I have a question regarding extracurriculars. I have observed that many people who get accepted at MIT and other colleges have an unending list of extracurriculars. Yet, I hear that it is better to have one or two activities that you pour your heart and soul into. What is your verdict on this?

  32. Nicole says:

    Although I’ve never looked for them, I’m pretty sure that MIT webmaail doesn’t have all those fun features you’re used to using in gmail/hotmail/yahoo/mailthatisn’tascoolasMIT’s ^_^ Once you get to campus, you’ll probably end up checking your mail from a text-based program like pine, where having all of those extra features would feel kind of silly.

    Somebody, correct me if I’m wrong, please. I’m not a real MIT student (well… yet. not until the NBM shows up in my mailbox tomorrow), I’m just posing as one. tehehee

  33. Anthony says:

    Quentin, shoot an email to [email protected] — they should be able to transfer it for you. smile

  34. David Chen says:

    Oof… guess I should’ve read this before I off and made my e-mail…

    an underscore and a number isn’t *that* annoying, is it?

  35. Sarah says:

    I REALLY like how the name you used as an example for what not to do was david hasselhoff.

  36. Colin says:

    Ooh, frustration . . . Is anyone else having trouble with the Athena registration server? It keeps saying that the server unexpectedly stopped communicating. Argh!

  37. Justin says:

    It’s happening to me too. I hope they resolve the problem soon.

  38. Adam says:

    MATT!!!! I can’t find out how to login to my MIT.EDU address!!!! Where do I go?

  39. Courtney says:

    haven’t gotten it and I live 20 minutes away from MIT =(

  40. John says:

    Haven’t gotten the NBM yet here in Richmond…

    We wants it, we wants it, precious…

  41. Anh says:

    Hi, do you think it’s matter if I take the name of a novel character I like for my email? Will there be some kinda copyright trouble?

    Haven’t gotten the NBM yet here in Las Vegas either…

    Adam from Richmond and I want it, we want it, precious…

  42. Geoffrey,

    While SMTP will check if the name can be routed by the mail server, it is not a complete check of such things as lockers and other non-mailing moira entries.

    For example, I checked last year that “msg” was not taken by checking with manual SMTP. It claimed to be available, but I couldn’t register it because it was the name of a locker. So, watch out for that

    I’ll also note to the freshman class that you can access Athena from home through the athena dialup servers using any SSH client:

  43. Anonymous says:

    As an ‘A’ Level candidate, I will not receive my final grades before August.

    In this case, would it suffice to send my grades from my school’s ‘mock’ A level examinations?