“You are capable of more than you know.” by Jeremy Weprich
Reflections from six MIT transfer students
Leading our transfer admissions program is one of the greatest joys of my work at MIT. Each year, we welcome a small group of transfer students to the Institute, and each year they surprise and inspire me. The real magic of the transfer process is that no two transfer students follow the same path to MIT. Colored by the patina of life experience, transfer students contour the MIT community in unexpected ways.
MIT transfer students hail from every corner of the globe: New Zealand to New York City; India to Indiana; Cambridge, UK to Cambridge, MA. Our transfer students are not only great students—they are distinguished researchers, small business owners, artists, parents, and more.
Many students transfer to MIT from community colleges, and others find their way to MIT from private, public, and international universities. Some took a so-called “non-traditional” route (for example, opting to put their education on pause to compete in the Olympic Games and earn medals, or to serve the nation in the U.S. Armed Forces). I am fortunate enough to know all of our current transfer students, and all of them are exceptional.
As a way to share a glimpse into our transfer community with the blogs, I asked Transfers who entered MIT in the 2022–2023 school year to reflect on their experience. I’m sharing the responses of six students to four survey questions, which have been minimally edited for clarity.
Here are the basic details for each of the six transfer students:
- Previous institution: Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN)
- MIT major: 6-2 (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)
- Previous institution: Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA)
- MIT major: 11 (Urban Studies and Planning)
- Previous institution: Pasadena City College (Pasadena, CA)
- MIT major: 10-ENG (Chemical Engineering)
- Previous institution: The University of Auckland (Auckland, New Zealand)
- MIT major: 6-4 (Artificial Intelligence and Decision Making)
- Previous institution: Northern Virginia Community College (Annandale, VA)
- MIT major: 6-4 (Artificial Intelligence and Decision Making)
- Previous institution: Union County College (Union County, NJ)
- MIT major: 2A-6 (Mechanical Engineering: Control, Instrumentation and Robotics)
I. The Before Times
Before you decided to transfer to MIT, who were you, and what were you up to?
I lived most of my life in India and spent a lot of time preparing for the JEEs, an Indian engineering exam. I thought I would go to a school in India for the longest time, but I ended up going to Purdue because my family moved to the US. I intended to do Computer Engineering at Purdue, and was involved in ML research, IEEE societies and the table tennis club.
In the jumble of my first year at Wellesley, COVID, and feeling just a little out of place, I remember trying to figure out who I was, what I wanted to do, and what fulfilled me academically, professionally, and personally. I was involved on campus, taking on roles in my dorm and in clubs, and found a strong interest in and love for economics.
Before I decided to transfer to MIT, I was a community college student pursuing chemical engineering. Outside of class, I devoted most of my time to scientific research, trying to get a clear picture of what I wanted career-wise. I was involved in clubs on campus and tutored at the STEM center.
Before MIT, I was studying Computer Science and Molecular Biology in an Honors Program at the University of Auckland halfway across the world in New Zealand. I was really excited to experience what life outside of America was like, and gain a new perspective on research and broaden academic journey; (It was awesome and dorm looked out onto the Auckland Bay, absolutely surreal). During COVID, while waiting for the New Zealand borders to open up, I was a group fitness instructor at a spin class-esque studio that used Concept2 Ergs called RowHouse back in my home town of Denver, Colorado. I got more into Formula 1 racing simulators and logged an obscene amount of hours on racing rig (Go McLaren—although they aren’t doing that well).
During my enlisted time in the U.S Army, I had a clear vision for my future: go to college and major in computer science. While this aspect was unquestionable, the intricacies of its academic demands remained mysterious, as I have had no exposure to this field. It was only after completing my military service that I fully grasped the challenges that lay ahead in life, and in order to be successful, I had to heighten the level of dedication and effort. And so I did.
Before transferring to MIT, I pursued a sophomore year in Mechanical Engineering at Union College, where I also engaged actively in sports. My athletic involvement included CrossFit, track and field, and cross-country. Simultaneously, I balanced a full-time position at a wine importer’s office and managed my own business.
II. Applying to MIT
Walk us briefly through your transfer application process to MIT. Why did you decide to apply? Were there any notable challenges or highlights?
I decided I wanted to apply during my Freshman Fall. However, I started liking Purdue more and more during the Spring which made me question why I wanted to transfer in the first place. I ended up deciding to apply because I had a feeling I would fit in well at MIT and wanted to challenge myself a bit more. A challenge I faced was applying in the midst of assignment deadlines and midterm seasons—college is definitely more hectic than high school for me.
I was greatly warned of the challenges with Wellesley and MIT’s dual-degree program in my sophomore year—class schedules would be intense, diligent planning would be necessary to complete requirements in five years, and MIT would be hard to get into (duh). But at some point, I decided to take a chance. After all, MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning offered such niche and interesting classes, and I believed a combination of liberal arts and technical training to be the best path for me to explore questions relating to sustainability, policy, and markets. The process forced me to really ask myself what I hoped to accomplish in the next few years and how MIT could be a stepping stone in that direction. And while I mulled over the application for weeks, it was the first time I truthfully reflected on what fulfilled me and why.
After my community college professor encouraged me, I figured, why not apply to MIT? Honestly, it never seemed like a real option before because I didn’t think I’d get accepted. But once I decided to apply, the real struggle was juggling my time to keep up with both the transfer application and my regular schoolwork.
At the time I applied, I had completed most of the notable computer science coursework available at the University of Auckland. While in New Zealand, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with the Centre for Computational Evolution (CCE), who published seminal work in computational phylogenetics, and with the Sabeti Lab, an infectious disease lab at the Broad Institute, working on similar problems on outbreak reconstruction. I want to mention a huge thank you to all of my Advisors at The University of Auckland, Yun Sing Koh, Damir Azhar, and David Welch who supported me throughout my time there and paved opportunities that didn’t previously exist. and my advisors at the Broad suggested that I apply to MIT for transfer to get more opportunities in research and have the ability to take more specialized classes in math and computer science—and be closer to my new lab at the Broad. So I opened my application around mid-summer, which is the start of first semester in New Zealand.
During my first year at Northern Virginia Community College (NVCC), I was gathering a list of schools I wanted to submit the applications to. Through talking to my friends, mentors, and academic advisors, I was inspired to aim high, despite the uncertainties of the outcome. The most challenging part was crafting the personal essays. Meticulously refining the “perfect” message that I wanted to communicate through the given prompts.
In November 2021, I began the process of applying to MIT. This early start provided me with sufficient time to deeply explore my interests at MIT and carefully refine my application responses. As part of a larger exploration of the U.S. college landscape, I applied to ten institutions in total, a period marked by significant introspection. The MIT application, which was the first one I began and completed, led me to an unexpected journey of self-discovery. Over the three months, I realized my profound desire for success and recognized the extensive efforts I had put forth to reach my current position.
During this time, Mrs. Diana, my athletic supervisor and a dear friend who is an avid reader, played a pivotal role. She meticulously reviewed all my essays, helping me improve any English mistakes. Her reaction to my acceptance on March 14th was emotional; she shed tears of joy. Interestingly, she noted that my technical essay discussing my academic and career goals had few grammar errors, while essays about my persona, where I shared my thoughts and feelings, required more corrections. This observation highlighted a disconnection: it seemed I hadn’t devoted as much time to understanding my own emotions as I had to outline my academic ambitions. This completely changed after MIT.
III: You’re an MIT Student Now
Now that you’re at MIT, who are you, and what are you up to?
I am a brother at Phi Kappa Theta, and have been on the teaching staff as an LA for some Course 6 classes. In my free time, I love playing table tennis at Simmons, psetting with friends and staring at the Dome.
In my short 1.5 years at MIT, I am happy to reflect on all the memories I’ve made, from joining the lightweight women’s crew team to TAing classes to helping with transfer orientation. Most of my days now revolve around practice, class, work in the Admissions Office, and meals with friends I’ve made in clubs and in my sorority. 4pm sunsets in Boston are never fun, but they are made richer knowing that community can form in a short amount of time, it’s just a matter of seeking it out.
At MIT, I am majoring in Chemical Engineering with a concentration in computing. I am involved in the department through UROPs and as a student lead/representative. Outside of school, I love going on food adventures in Boston/Cambridge.
MIT lives up to its reputation of drinking from the fire hose, and I definitely got inundated with all the awesome (and stressful) parts of MIT. I live in New Vassar (best dorm), and this semester I’m taking a classes like statistical learning theory at MIT and small molecule biophysics (via cross-registration at Harvard). I still work at the Broad Institute in the Sabeti Lab, now working on more deep learning ideas, and joined the Student Events Board (SEB) which runs our annual concert SpringFest!
I’ve managed to strike a reasonably balanced lifestyle between my academic pursuits and personal life. It is continuously amazing to find out new areas for improvements for both aspects. Generally, I find most days enjoyable, with the exception of those few nights when homework deadlines lurk around the corner.
I recently wrapped up my third semester at MIT. Opting for more privacy and space, I moved to Tang Hall, leaving Maseeh Hall after two semesters. My previous semester involved engaging in a UROP, where I honed my skills in CAD and mechatronics. In addition to my academic pursuits, I hold the position of treasurer in the Transfer Students Association.
Recognizing the intensity of my course load in the past two terms and after speaking with my thermo-fluids professor and the MechE academic administrator, I’ve decided to adjust my schedule. Moving forward, I plan to enroll in just two technical courses along with a HASS or elective each semester. This decision stems from my desire to gain a deeper understanding of the subjects, rather than just managing problem sets one after another. Additionally, this approach will support my commitment to maintaining physical health through regular exercise.
IV. Looking Back
Think back to the person you were before you began the transfer process. What do you wish that version of you knew that you know now?
It’s been a crazy sequence of events since before I began the transfer process—I would have never expected to be where I am. I wish the younger me worried less about the far-off future and focused more on the present, because time moves so fast in college. I’ve definitely grown, not only academically, but also as a person in an overall sense, and I feel more like an adult now. My interests haven’t changed a lot—I still love computers!
(1) You are capable of more than you know and (2) being your true self and embracing genuine passions will allow you to fully blossom. I am still interested in the questions and fields I came in exploring, but my mindset has shifted slightly.
I’ve learned to drop some perfectionist tendencies (although admittedly, this is a work in progress); work with high expectations but understand when something is good enough; and be present in the moment, there won’t be another time like this.
Looking back, I really wish I had more faith in myself and believed that things would work out okay. After spending over a year at MIT, my academic focus has shifted more towards computing, though I’m still in the process of pinning down exactly what my career goals are.
I think the best advice I could have given New Zealand Krithik was to really enjoy the time you spend in undergrad wherever you are—whether that was in Auckland, or if you were lucky enough to get into MIT. I think I’ve grown a lot most notably in learning how to think about problems from my peers, approaching problems with evidence, engineering, and most importantly, empathy. People at MIT are super friendly and spontaneous and always willing to lend a hand.
I think my goals have shifted more broadly to learning more foundational ideas in mathematics as it relates to machine learning, asking questions like, “Can we move past transformers as a method of representing the world in AI models and find more expressive, efficient solutions?”
Not much has changed; there are areas where I’m shining with exceptional skills, and there are many others where I see room for improvement and growth. I am happy to tackle those challenges head-on.
Initially, the prospect of attending MIT was daunting and almost surreal. Yet, as I navigated through, I realized there was little to fear. The supportive network of professors, counselors, and friends has been invaluable in clarifying my path. This journey has bolstered my confidence, especially in embracing new and intimidating ventures. Unexpectedly, coding, once a distant concept as a Mechanical Engineering student, has sparked a newfound passion.
This shift occurred after an internship at Boeing, where I engaged in coding for an automation inspection project. Consequently, I transitioned from course 2 to 2A-6, a decision that has brought immense satisfaction and excitement for the plethora of opportunities now within my reach.
My goals have evolved remarkably. With my newfound coding prowess, I am now contemplating innovative ventures, possibly even launching a product with some talented friends I’ve met here at MIT. It’s a testament to how much one can grow and discover new passions in such a dynamic environment.
I want to thank Gaurab, Amanda, Janet, Krithik, Subin, and Luana for willingness to share your stories with me and the blogs. You—and all transfer students—are an integral part of making MIT the special place that it is.
- Transfers who entered MIT in the 2022–2023 school year back to text ↑
- I want to mention a huge thank you to all of my Advisors at The University of Auckland, Yun Sing Koh, Damir Azhar, and David Welch who supported me throughout my time there and paved opportunities that didn’t previously exist. back to text ↑