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MIT student blogger Paul B. '11

Questions about Blogging by Paul B. '11

Some friendly advice.

Yesterday, a prefrosh friend of mine sent me this Facebook message:

I hate to bug you with a blog-related question, but you seem to be the best person to ask. I’m considering applying to be a blogger, but I’m concerned about the time commitment. My on-campus job is 6-10 hours per week, and I plan on continuing studio art, photo, and dance. I got into F/ASIP and entered the lottery for advising seminars (and may apply for one of the learning communities). I’m hoping to do a spring UROP, too. I’m pretty organized with academic work, but I still can’t gauge how much time everything will consume.

Do you think that, even if I got the position, being a blogger would be kind of overkill? I really love the whole concept of the blogs, but I don’t want to ruin someone else’s chances if my applying isn’t appropriate.

Many thanks, and hope you’re enjoying the rest of your summer!

After a little consideration, I sent back this response:

During my first semester at MIT, on the academic side of things, I took four science classes, a six-unit advising seminar, and F/ASIP. As far as extracurriculars go, I was involved in student government, MURJ, Assassins’ Guild, Medlinks training (which was basically my Friday evenings), and other smaller commitments – in addition to blogging. Not to mention I had just joined a fraternity, so I spent a lot of time at our house, getting to know my brothers, learning my fraternity’s history, and that sort of thing.

If you check my blog archive, you’ll notice that I blogged a lot more during the spring semester than in the fall. And it’s not because I was less involved in student activities, or spent less time with friends, in the spring. It’s because I spent a lot of time during the fall just trying to find my feet, establish my place, and figure out what I really wanted to get out of this crazy, amazing Institute. And to some extent, I’m still working on figuring that out. But I certainly knew a lot more in the spring than I did in the fall.

My point is, your first semester is pretty much the designated time for you to explore MIT to its fullest, to test the boundaries of what you can do and be involved in. As you go through MIT, you’re going to gain a better and better understanding of how to prepare for your classes and your tests and your p-sets, how much time everything is going to take, and generally how to balance work and play.

As I said once before, the transition from high school to MIT is not a straight line – it’s a step function. Everyone has their own limits, their own preferred balance between sleeping, studying, and socializing (pick two); and you’ll figure out what works best for you as you go. Sometimes you end up dropping a club or activity because you turn out to not be quite as interested in it as you thought you were (I’ve done this) or that simply takes too much time (I’ve done this too). And that’s okay. You can’t do everything – but you definitely can do enough.

So, basically, don’t worry about the time commitment for blogging, because while it’s significant, it’s not that much and it’s very flexible based on when you have time to blog. The reason why you’re asked to put a list of extracurriculars on your blogger application is because, in my opinion and experience, the Admissions Office is looking for diverse people who represent a broad range of MIT’s multi-faceted culture. One of the “secrets” about blogging is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be your first priority. After all, the idea is that you’re going to be blogging about your life at MIT – and for that to happen, you need to have a life worth blogging.

Ultimately, blogging is part of my “play.” It’s a joy and, quite simply, a privilege for me to share my life with all of you on these blogs, to answer your questions – to try and make the admissions process just a little less mysterious, a little more human.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In addition to this direct question, I’ve seen quite a few prefrosh discussing the blogging application and related topics with their friends. While most of you seem to have everything under control, I have noticed a few common questions, so hopefully I can help clear those concerns up. If you have any questions of your own, feel free to ask in the comments (anonymously is fine) and I’ll update this entry accordingly.

How did you feel when you were applying to be a blogger?
In a word, terrified. I know that’s a weird reaction, but it’s true – and the reason was because that’s how much the blogs meant to me. During my senior year of high school, after I had visited MIT for the first time, the blogs became my lifeline back to Boston. Reading the blogs enabled me to feel like I was still connected to campus – like I was already a part of MIT. I applied to be a blogger because I wanted nothing more than to be able to give back to the blogs, to help other students fall in love with MIT in the same way I did.

Hopefully I’ve done an okay job. :)

Who picks the new bloggers?
As has become tradition, the blogger selection committee will include Matt and this year’s senior bloggers: Laura and Lulu. Others might be involved as well, but their identities are a tightly-held secret. ;)

So what role do you have in this process, Paul?
Absolutely none. I’ll continue to read the blogs of prefrosh that I’ve befriended over the past few months, but that’s it; I won’t be sending Matt my “recommendations” or anything like that. And while I won’t read your application for you, I’m more than happy to answer any questions you might have about being a blogger or about the process itself.

I’ve just started the blog that I plan on submitting. Do I still have a chance?
Yes! I started Emergent – the personal blog that I ended up submitting as my “portfolio” – a mere two weeks before the blogging application came out. So don’t worry about it. And while I would encourage you guys to all be as prolific as you can, quality is much more important than quantity.

Where have all the aardvarks gone?
Good question, I wish I knew.

44 responses to “Questions about Blogging”

  1. Snively says:

    First First First First!!!1!

  2. Alex says:

    Wow, thanks… I am thinking about applying next year and well I like a bit to blog even though I don’t have one…. Thanks.

  3. cristen says:

    good post, even though it doesn’t apply as much to me, the older bloggerly type. =P

  4. Mgccl says:

    hehe, I blog so I can remember things I did.

    “It’s a step function. Everyone has their own limits.”
    I hope you are not saying everyone have their own limit on a step function.
    Step function don’t have limits.

    “The 2009 freshman application will be available online and in a downloadable PDF format by the end of July. “
    It’s July 30th and it’s still not out.
    Only 2 days before I can tell the world “MIT lied to me.”

  5. Sam says:

    wait, no, Laura cannot possibly be a senior already. shenanigans!

  6. Alex says:

    @Mgccl: You’re right, I’m getting depressed and pulling my hairs… WHEN OH WHEN WILL IT BE UP!!!??

  7. Bethan says:

    Nice post, Paul! If I make it to MIT I’ll be using this advice to apply to be a blogger. ^^


    Gah, while I’m at work tomorrow I think I’m going to be constantly refreshing MyMIT to see if the application is up yet.

    And if it does come up I’ll be squeeing and scaring all the engineers around me.

  8. Omar says:

    Snively – A little too passionate are we? (I’m inclined to believe someone posted as you though.)

    Paul – When did you start your UROP then? Btw, I’ve been meaning to ask someone: how many credits is a credit UROP first semester?

  9. Anonymous says:

    one imagines the possibility that Ben took the aardvarks and any and all chartreuse men with him (of course, the banana was at Oberlin all along) :-( *sigh* .. we miss you Ben

    — Someone who doesn’t usually post anonymously

  10. Paul says:

    Omar: I started my UROP towards the end of my first semester, but I did a lot more work during IAP. Unfortunately, you cannot take a UROP for a grade during your first semester. (This is mainly because of the freshman credit limit, and the rule applies even if you’re taking 48 units rather than 54 your first semester.)

    So, I did my UROP as a volunteer for the fall. Although it’s probably sometimes possible to get paid for your first UROP, generally the advantage of being in a lab (“getting your foot in the door,” so to speak) far outweighs any monetary compensation.

    Anon: :(

  11. Karen says:

    Hey, so I have NO CLUE what activities I want to do at MIT and was planning on picking out some things to try at the Activities Fair…is it okay to write this on my blogger application or should I try to find some things online to be interested in?

  12. Paul says:

    Honesty is the best policy. Though talking about your general interests might still be a good idea. Up to you.

  13. Snively says:

    Nope, that was all me.

    @Whoever asked about the app (too lazy to scroll up):
    My year it came out on July 31st. Evening. MIT stretches that end of July to its fullest extent.

  14. Tamara says:

    I remember reading your blog when you first started it, Paul. And knowing you’d be a great admissions blogger, even before you finished applying grin Can’t believe it’s been a whole year since then!

  15. donaldGuy says:

    So, I am taking heart in your second to last question and trying to cramblog (I patent that word now!)

    I also am coming to the disheartening revelation that many of the aspiring bloggers are EC-temped: Karen, Melissa, Chris M., and I .. for example. BC’s time as blogger central may be limited. There could be a high correlation in likelihood of finding a blogger vs. dorm acronym-able as XC in the future.

    also.. everything is chrome in the future.
    That is all.


  16. Jeremy says:

    @Tamara: I’ll be sure to watch out for you… stalker! (It’s okay, I love stalking too!)

    And I totally know who that prefrosh is, and have read and heard about her uncertainty about applying. Honestly, if you’re reading this, JUST DO IT! You’d be awesome!

  17. Tamara says:

    Oh, it’s on! Now, so that we stop hijacking Paul’s post, let’s continue this on facebook.

  18. Tamara says:

    Jeremy, of course I’m a stalker, and the best one out there. You best watch out.

  19. Alex says:

    I should have guessed that when MIT says the end of July it probably means 11:59:59 PM.

  20. Jeremy says:

    Oh, it’s on! STALK WAAAAAARRR!!!

    Sorry Paul, I know this is totally irrelevant and unrelated to the post, but I’ve been provoked!

  21. Chris '12 says:


    Oh but there is a Chris M. in west campus too, we had to balance each other out.

  22. wisdom says:

    Seems like you enjoy blogging quite a bit, good luck to future bloggers getting the jobs.

  23. Ahana says:

    Ooohh….My BP’s oscillating as I wait for the app to come out!..I’m going to have the part 1(Biographical Info) ready in exactly 2.7 hours!!

  24. Vivi '12 says:

    You think the wait for the app is bad? Any ’12ers remember the late housing results ordeal merely a week ago?

    5:00pm EST, the stated time of release: nothing. 5 minutes later: “eh, we can forgive them for being a little late.”
    10 minutes later: “okay, MIT, this isn’t funny”
    25 minutes past the hour: “MIT you have failed us..! “
    Seventeen-oh-hundred-thirty: “Housing results delayed until SIX?!?!”
    5:35pm: “OH $*** THEY’RE UP.”

  25. Mgccl says:

    so MIT uses EST…
    nice… 6 more hours to go before MIT fail me… or not

    I bet someone wrote a script to release at the last nanosecond of July.

  26. Alex says:


    Either that or they paid someone to push the Enter button at 11:59:59. This just shows you that MIT takes it’s statements seriously. It’s not the end of July til theres a nanosecond left for August.

  27. Piper says:

    If blogspot can have a function that allows you to schedule posts, MIT can do it too =D.

  28. Still not out….and in the part of the world wherein I sit/wait/reside/whatever it is The 1st of August 9:11 AM.

    Ill wait smile

  29. Well this is their answer to my queries :
    Freshman Online Application & Tracking
    The application for admission for entry year 2009 will be available in late summer.

    Or have I looked in the wrong section ……*scurries fast to check*
    *comes back*, No Sir!!!

  30. Alex says:

    AHHHHHH!!! THEY LIED TO ME… *cries* If you check where it says Freshman Application on number 5 it says the end of June and it’s august… *cries**cries*

  31. Oh yeah!!!!!!!!!!It is out, AT LAST!!!!!

  32. Seems like I was a bit hasty.They are probably uploading it.

  33. Alex says:

    Where is it? I don’t see it? Give me the link or something.

  34. Mgccl says:

    Link me plz
    I don’t see the application either…
    Maybe MIT already found an algorithm to reject some people before they even see the application… xD

  35. Ahana says:

    NO!!!! Its not up yet!!….This wait is excruciating!!(ok, enough drama)

  36. Paul says:

    I have heard that the application will be out sometime next week. Sincerest apologies for the delay! Spend the time reading a book or something instead. wink

  37. Ivan says:


    Hey Paul, sorry to be off topic but:
    1. When will you post about your cancer research?
    2. How did your computer language learning go?
    3. Have you learned how to use it in your research yet?


  38. It appeared for a trillionth of a second in the morning….
    It said Online application tracking in an orange tab at My Mit….so if you find any application form please link it.

  39. Kasey says:

    As disappointed as I am that the application isn’t up yet…
    Paul, you are a lifesaver! I’m glad someone’s able to inform us. Now maybe I’ll be able to sit back and stop checking every 30 minutes.

  40. Mgccl says:

    Real MITer writes a script to test every few seconds and when the application is out, it sms their cell phone.

  41. Alex says:

    True… MIT should be superior to everything… I mean IT IS MIT, right?

  42. Omar says:

    If you prefrosh need something to do before the application comes out, check out my guide for applying to college smile

  43. Michelle says:

    Paul, check your postbox. Plzkthxbye. smile

  44. Dude! What an awesome job that would be!!! Could you use a blogger to cover the craziness that is Senior Haus? smile
    I already blog an unhealthily encompassing amount of information on Blogger.. This would be an upgrade, though…